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Environment / Climate change

This moveable skyscraper could clean up China's air

People have come up with all sorts of solutions to deal with China’s air pollution. One architect proposed a giant sealed bubble filled with clean air for Beijing; while over the summer, the authorities bought some giant water cannons in an attempt to clear air in Chongqing and Zhangjiakou (they didn’t really work). There’s plans for kilometre-high towers in Wuhan, which would filter air and collect solar energy, too.

Now, architect Alexander Balchin has come up with a similar concept: a tower which would act as a giant filtration system. But there’s a twist: his Clean Air Tower would be moveable. The building would be made up of modules like the one below, which could be deconstructed and transported to different polluted cities in China, allowing it to clear around one square mile of air at a time.

One of the tower’s stackable modules. 

The tower would suck in air at its base, and the force of it moving up the tower would turn turbines and generate energy. This energy would then be used to ionise the air and filter out pollution particles. Using this method, the tower could clean 8,500,000 metres cubed of air per year.

The tower would also contain residential and office space, and the air inside would be cleaned in a separate filtration system by dramatically named “venturi scrubbers” (basically, filtered through water). If that wasn’t green enough, there’d also be “sky gardens” dotted throughout the building.

The skyscraper’s central stack, where air is filtered as it rises.

Balchin, who is a student at the University of Nottingham, came up with the idea after conducting research in Tianjin, China’s eleventh most polluted city (it’s estimated that in 2011, around 1,200 people died there  as a result of air pollution). The designs have been shortlisted for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s skyscraper design competition.

Sadly, there are no plans to build the thing quite yet. We’ll have to wait and see which extreme anti-pollution measure China decides to try out next.

All images: Alexander Balchin.
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