Curved road barrier could protect children from air pollution

Researchers at Imperial College London have designed a new curved barrier which can protect people and especially children from air pollution. 

Children are both more vulnerable to and more readily exposed to air pollution simply due to their proximity to the ground. Based on this, Dr Tilly Collins, from Imperial’s Centre for Environmental Policy set out to find solutions. 

After conducting some research, Dr Collins found that along the pedestrian side of roadside walls, there are vortices where the air quality can actually be worse because the pollution gets trapped.

Initially building off simple models, Dr Collins explored the idea of an urban design that would mitigate these vortex effects and improve air quality for pedestrians and especially children. 

Inspired by airfield baffles and the curved sound-walls alongside motorways in Germany and the Netherlands, Dr Collins and her team found that curved structures would more effectively disperse and reflect pollutants back towards the roads and would very rapidly improve air quality for pedestrians in an inexpensive way. 

Although there are challenges in implementing this sort of urban furniture, such as road visibility, the researchers have said they are confident that the net gain in air quality and health is immediate and significant enough to warrant further exploration of these ideas.

Beyond air quality, these curved barriers would also mitigate noise pollution and would be able to act as scaffolds to increase green infrastructure throughout large cities.

Dr Collins said: ‘The different sciences, urban designers and architects should collaborate more to design these solutions achieve air quality improvements at local scales more effectively and quickly

Initially, it was difficult to convince others to get on board. The focus is very much on successfully reducing exhaust fumes, but there are these things we can do now to protect our children. The different sciences, urban designers and architects should collaborate more to design these solutions achieve air quality improvements at local scales more effectively and quickly.’

Photo Credit – Imperial College London

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