The idea to research on particulate matters started on our unit trip to India where we witnessed a true human catastrophe, a visible air pollution in Delhi. However the worst was yet to come. A thick toxic smog had descended across the city on Wednesday 8th of November where visibility severely reduced, trains were cancelled, Cars piled into each other, and planes delayed. That day is known as the great smog of Delhi and The chief minister of the mega-city of around 20 million people, called the capital a “gas chamber” and the situation as "public health emergency.”
THE [GOOD & BAD] PAST
In the last two centuries, us humans have created machines to enhance the quality of life. We invented a vast array of transportation system to liberate ourselves and travel with ease. We have developed factories and power plants to ease our lifestyle. With all those achievements, today these machines are striking back, attacking us, and killing us slowly by making air extremely polluted.
WHERE ARE WE HEADING?
2015 marked the first time in several million years that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 passed 400 parted per million. That means in one million pounds of air, there are 400 pounds of carbon dioxide. Scientist are getting a clear picture of where we are heading by introducing 3 unique trajectory systems called Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP). If we continue the way we are burning fossil fuels, CO2 concentration will reach 950 parts per million by 2100. Where the safe level is just under 350 ppm.
Few EU countries are heading in a right way by abandoning fossil fuel to renewable energy and agreements such as Paris Accord have helped. India continued to increase its CO2 emissions to 2.57 Million Kilo tonnes in 2016, which was 5.1% more than in 2014. India’s emission increase seems to be coupled with its GDP growth.
With that comes consequences. There are 7 million early deaths per year worldwide attributed to the effects of polluted air. However there were 1.5 million people dying prematurely in India alone due to diseases related to air pollution.
WHAT IS PM?
Particulate matters are the primary cause of Early deaths and disease caused by air pollution. There is a similarity between us humans and particulate matters. We see home as physical object or somewhere that we can seek refuge to in times of need. In contrast, Particulate Matters see our lungs as a home. Without noticing it, we are becoming a carrier and home to our invisible killer.
Airborne particulate matter represents a complex mixture of organic and inorganic substances. Mass and composition in urban environments tend to be divided into two principal groups: coarse particles and fine particles. Or pm 2.5 and pm10.
How small is 2.5 micrometers? Think about a single hair from your head. The average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter – making it 30 times larger than the largest fine particle.
So, for every cubic meter of air, if the fine particulate matter concentration is greater than 25 micrograms, It is considered unsafe. The day we left India back in November, air pollution spiked far beyond acceptable levels. It hit 893 μg/m3.
My architectural response is through three unique but yet interconnected scales, Human Scale, Module Scale and Urban Scale
For the human scale, I started working on designing a mask. First by scanning my face and then I generated an algorithm to design the mask to match my face proportionally. The parameters can be updated to match any face; I call the mask OLOiD.
For OLOiD, I took inspiration from the water absorption process in which trees absorb water from the soil through their roots to supply oxygen to their leaves. The same hypothesis applies to OLOiD where through electrovoltaic forces it absorbs Particulate matter in its removable n95 filter. OLOiD is not just a mask but a wearable to signal social status, jewellery and embrace fashion.
For the second scale, I developed Polyshell, which is a module system that work hand in hand with OLOiD mask when used stand alone. The user places the mask on dedicated PolyShells and The module extracts particles.
The hypothesis is that When multiple poly shells connected to each other, they work as a singular smog free module. The whole idea behind it is to be installed with the help of drones. Because of its modular system, it can be placed in areas where the the PM concentration is high on a particular day, and can be removed when it decreases.
Here’s how it works: “By charging the module with a small positive current, an electrode will send positive ions into the air. These ions will attach themselves to fine dust particles. A negatively charged surface—the counter electrode—will then draw the positive ions in, together with the fine dust particles. The fine dust that would normally harm us is collected together with the ions and stored inside of the module.” Same applies when the mask is placed on it.
For the urban Scale, I have looked at 4 sites in London that have the highest concentration of PM 2.5 on daily bases including Trafalgar square, Charterhouse street, Old Oak Lane and Tower Hamlets. And the architectural response is through pavilions.
The Pavilions are made with metal or cement with a bronze finish and coated with Titanium dioxide, a pigment that can act as a catalyst for chemical reactions when it’s activated by sunlight. When UV rays hit the surface, a reaction occurs, converting mono-nitrogen oxides (the substances that make smog smoggy) into less harmful substances such as calcium nitrate and water. They easily rinses off the surface when it rains. The titanium dioxide in the surface doesn’t change; it can keep on doing its process indefinitely. Those pavilions can be used in many way such transportation hub, bus stop any many more applications.