Having shown the effectiveness of plants in removing pollutants from indoor air, UTS scientists are taking their work to the streets, collaborating with living infrastructure company Junglefy and Transport NSW on an outdoor "breathing wall" at Manly Vale on Sydney's northern beaches.
The world-first project will install more than 9000 plants on the external walls of a three-storey carpark being built as a component of the new B-Line bus rapid transit network on the northern beaches.
Far from being a simple green wall, the project will take "botanical biofilter" technology developed in a collaboration between the UTS Plants and Environmental Quality Research Group and industry leaders Junglefy from office building interiors to the outside world.
"Projected growth in total greenhouse gas emissions suggests that most air pollution will be derived from increasing road travel and vehicle use, and thus population exposure occurs at the street level," said air quality expert for the project, Dr Peter Irga.
"Botanical biofiltration technology has demonstrated potential for the sustainable, high-efficiency removal of most air pollutants in laboratory trials.
"A natural progression of this technology is its use across urban areas, in places where people are likely to experience high levels of air pollution, such as roadsides, car parks and traffic tunnels."
The system, which optimises the cleaning action of plants and soil microbes by moving air through the plant wall, offers other benefits, including acting as a sound barrier and cooling the surrounding air, resulting in improved energy efficiency.
"The technology is already utilised to filter the air in the built environment for private enterprise, however the greatest benefits to health will be seen if implemented in public spaces," said director of the research group, Dr Fraser Torpy.
"If living infrastructure is to contribute to developing healthy and sustainable urban futures, its true capacity for ecosystem service provision must be quantified, to determine its true capabilities in the cities of the future.
"The Manly Vale B-Line project will be the next step in a series of projects that have transferred this technology from the laboratory to the real world."
UTS will work with Transport NSW to monitor the performance of the breathing wall over the next two years. Construction of the car park is planned to start in mid-January and be completed by the end of March.