According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), air pollution is responsible for some 6.5 million deaths worldwide, mostly in and around major cities. And while steps are being taken to tackle the pollution at its source, “smog-eating” facades containing compounds that neutralise pollutants are one way in which the built environment can help mitigate the crisis.

Palazzo Italia (pictured left, click to enlarge), which debuted at the 2015 World’s Fair in Milan, is the first building made of concrete that’s designed to clear the air. The facade, a mixture of cement and titanium dioxide, captures nitrogen-oxide pollution and converts it into a harmless salt that easily rinses off the walls when it rains.

Palazzo Italia also consumes 40 percent less energy than a conventional building of its size, and emits zero air pollution. “We wanted the building to be an osmotic organism,” says lead architect Michele Molè—like a tree that breathes in carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen.


In addition to Italy, this has also been done in Mexico, The Netherlands, and in Britain. However, this approach can only be effective if it is widely adopted

In addition to buildings like Palazzo Italia, air-clearing concrete could pave sidewalks, highways, or other places with heavy pollution.

There are even proposals for “catalytic clothing,” in which nano-particles added to laundry detergent would turn people’s clothes into air cleaning surfaces.

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The “smog-eating” installation at Mexico City’s Manuel Gea González Hospital (right image courtesy of Elegant Embellishments).


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