Can living walls reduce air pollution? BBC News investigates at Middlesex University

– [Female] So, the problem is
clear, too much pollution. What, then, is the solution? Well, putting
greenery on the outside of buildings is one way to clean the air. Anna O’Neill
reports now on London’s living buildings. – [Anna] Twenty one meters high and
containing thousands of plants, this living, breathing wall in Victoria is
the largest of its type in London. It’s one of a growing number of similar
projects in the capital put up to try to counter air pollution. A study being
carried out at Middlesex University is looking at how plants absorb
the pollutants in the air, and it’s showing some encouraging results. – [Dirk] Plants on living walls can
absorb the particulate matter and, therefore, reduce the amount of this
harmful pollutant in the air, and we’ve also seen some reduction
in local nitrogen dioxide levels. – It’s not just about living walls. London
is getting clever about where it can add more greenery. There are more than 200,000
square meters of green rooftops in central London, like this one here at
Eversheds Sutherland in the city, and more than a million across the city as
a whole, making London one of the green rooftop capitals of the world. Over in
Milan, they’ve taken the green concept even further. The Bosco Verticale,
or vertical forest skyscraper, won Best Tall Building Worldwide in 2015. – [Translator] We bought
it off-plan in 2014, and I remember that one day I was passing
by and it was the day that they were bringing the plants up to the terraces.
All the roads were blocked and I looked up at this incredible skyscraper
that was coming to life. – Its creator says it’s an
example of how architecture can help in the fight
against air pollution. – [Stefano] Its quite a strong
contribution in terms of reduction of CO2, production of oxygen, and what is also
more important is the contribution to absorb the dust, the micro-particle
which has the most poisons. If we increase the surface for
forest inside our city, we are, let me say, deciding to fight
in the field of the enemy. – Back in London, while living buildings
are breathing life into the city, the root of the problem
still needs tackling. – [David] If you want to sort air
pollution out in London, you focus on the sources rather than trying to take the bad
air out. So, if you want to sort air quality, sort the cars,
sort the gas boilers out. – [Dusty] Once we get rid of diesel and
you’ve got the residual air pollution, the green roofs, like the green walls,
like the trees, like the parks, will actually help ameliorate the residual
air pollution after diesel’s gone away. – As London grows, improving air
quality is becoming more urgent. Green roofs and walls have an
ever-growing part to play in improving the air we breathe.
Anna O’Neill, BBC London News.

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