A Lean, Mean, Pollution-Eating … Building?

While the rest of the world is taking small steps to reduce energy consumption – changing to CFL light bulbs or Energy Star appliances, and installing a few solar panels – one Hong Kong-based architecture firm has taken it about 1,001 steps further. Arguing that zero-impact is just not enough, 10 Design created a concept for the Indigo Tower which actually interacts with its surrounding environment to purify urban air using passive solar and nanotechnology.

We’re not saying that all those little steps toward energy efficiency are not noble and very necessary, but why not aim beyond zero-impact to actually create positive impact? Buildings are huge energy and resource hogs – estimated by the Whole Building Design Guide to account for 39 percent of energy and 68 percent of electricity consumed in the United States. This also means they are responsible for a large amount of greenhouse gases and pollutants – 38 percent of the carbon dioxide, 49 percent of the sulfur dioxide and 25 percent of the nitrogen oxide found in our atmosphere. So if they’re making all this mess, why not find a way to design buildings that also clean up after themselves? Looking to nature for inspiration, architects are slowly implementing components like green roofs, passive solar techniques and graywater systems to help integrate buildings into their surroundings for a mutually beneficial result.

Indigo Tower

image via Design 10

Inspired by nature’s cleansing processes, 10 Design gave their high-rise Indigo Tower the power to pull dirt, grease and bacteria out of the air using a nano coating of titanium dioxide (TiO2) on the outer skin. TiO2 is a strong oxidation agent, so as sunlight hits the building, the chemical reaction neutralizes the toxins with only water and oxygen as byproducts. During the day, the reaction would be powered by sunlight, and at night a series of ultraviolet lights powered by solar PV panels would continue the reaction and create the building’s signature indigo glow.

Angeli Duffin is a Midwest transplant currently living in San Francisco, CA. Kicking off her career doing product design and development with Fair Trade artisans around the world, she then moved on to the editorial side, writing for eBay’s Green Team blog and working as a marketing consultant for social and environmentally minded companies