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How efficient design can improve air quality within our cities

June 2018

Last Thursday (21st) was National Clean Air Day, which gave us an opportunity to reflect on ways in which efficient design of the built environment can help reduce the air pollution in our cities and diminish our exposure to the negative externalities it causes. Within this blog piece, we have focused on the impact of buildings and how through efficient design and operation we can improve the quality of the air we breathe. The tables below outline 5 measures from a Macro, Micro and Operational perspective.


Masterplan Layout – Design of building layout to allow wind flow through the masterplan to prevent the buildup of pollution, whilst also helping to provide cooling benefits to aid with abating overheating risk. Electrification of buildings – Electrical infrastructure in place to allow for space heating and hot water to be provided by electric systems, negating any localised pollutant exhalation within urban areas


District Heating – Centralisation of heat generation source to improve efficiency and isolate pollutants to an easily dispersed area. Further improvement via utilising heat pump as the heat generation source.   Green Infrastructure – Green corridors, green walls and green roofs to help remove pollutants from the air and create healthier commuting routes.
Electric transport infrastructure – Provision of car charging points and ancillary infrastructure to promote electric urban transportation


Efficient building fabric – Improvement to building fabric to limit the space conditioning demand of buildings, using passivhaus principles in ideal scenarios Intelligent system controls – Smart controls to help reduce unnecessary fuel consumption by ensuring systems are switched off when not in use
Indoor Green Plants – Incorporation of green plants throughout indoor areas to regulate and improve indoor air quality Future Technology – Fuel cell and Hydrogen as future zero emission fuels to power buildings


Pollutant Filtration – Mechanical ventilation systems fitted with filters to remove pollutants from the intake air  





Close Windows – Simple measures such as closing windows during the day (particularly during rush hour periods) can significantly help to reduce the amount pollutants entering rooms, whilst also helping to reduce overheating risk.


Handover Period & Education – Allocation of an adequate handover period to ensure that facilities managers and building users are informed of how to efficiently operate the building.



Air Quality Monitoring – Incorporation of air quality monitoring equipment to notify occupiers when levels of pollutants become too high

Set Point Reduction – Reducing set points in the winter months to reduce the amount of gas usage and NOx entering the immediate atmosphere.


Flexible working locations – Reducing the requirement to travel into the inner city for work via the option to work from home or flexible working hours



XCO2 can help to provide advice and solutions for alleviating a variety of Air Quality issues, please email Sam Luker at saml@xco2.com or contact the office on 0207 700 1000 for further info.