Researchers propose new building guidelines to clean up city air

Nov 01, 2012
Research graph. Credit: Ted Stathopoulos

As urban populations expand, downtown buildings are going nowhere but up. The huge energy needs of these skyscrapers mean that these towers are not only office buildings, they're polluters with smokestacks billowing out toxins from the rooftop. Our cities are dirtier than we think. New research from Concordia University just might clean them up.

By examining the trajectory and amount of from a building to its downwind, Concordia researchers Ted Stathopoulos and Bodhisatta Hajra have come up with environmentally friendly building guidelines for our modern cities. This provides a much-needed update to the industry standards developed decades ago by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers – the international technical society that sets the rules for building ventilation.

Stathopoulos – a professor in Concordia's Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering – partnered with emerging researcher and recent Concordia graduate Hajra to pen the study, recently featured in the peer-reviewed journal, Building and Environment. To perform the research, they hunkered down in Concordia's cutting-edge laboratory, a huge underground research facility which allows engineers to test the atmospheric dispersion of pollution and toxins in any given setting.

"We created model configurations consisting of buildings of various sizes and shapes," says Stathopoulos, an inveterate researcher who was awarded the prestigious Davenport Medal by the International Association for Wind Engineering in September 2012.

Hajra, who received his doctorate during Concordia's fall convocation on October 30, goes on to explain: "we then placed our models downwind of a building that was emitting toxins to trace the path from polluter to polluted. That allowed us to see how much pollution was being absorbed by buildings downwind and where on those buildings that pollution was most concentrated."

Their findings show that the process by which air pollution spreads from one building's exhaust stack to another's intake is affected by the height and spacing between buildings, something that can be optimized by architects and engineers as new towers are constructed.

What does this mean for the future of downtown buildings? "We came up with three main guidelines for the placement of stack and intake in order to minimize the amount of air pollution that makes its way into downwind buildings," says Stathopoulos.

First, intake vents on buildings downwind of a polluter need to be placed upwind of that building's stack, and closer to its more sheltered wall. Second, air intakes should not be placed on rooftop locations downwind of a low stack and the protected wall of the emitting building. Lastly, increased spacing between buildings can reduce the possibility that pollutants from one will be re-ingested by another.

"While our research may not reduce the amount of outdoor pollution in our cities," explains Stathopoulos, "it can certainly help ensure that this same dirty air is not re-circulated indoors."

Explore further: Fukushima accepts 'temporary' radioactive waste storage

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Purdue studies office building power

Jan 18, 2006

Purdue University engineers say they've developed a method of "pre-cooling" small office buildings, cutting energy consumption during times of peak demand.

Another metric on energy efficiency

Mar 19, 2012

It's hardly a surprise that making energy efficiency improvements to buildings saves money and can benefit the environment in terms of reduced fossil fuel burning and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Recommended for you

Storing solar energy

18 hours ago

A research project conducted by Leclanché S.A., the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Romande Energie and with the financial support of the Canton of Vaud could bring a real added value in ...

Scientists get set for simulated nuclear inspection

22 hours ago

Some 40 scientists and technicians from around the world will descend on Jordan in November to take part in a simulated on-site inspection of a suspected nuclear test site on the banks of the Dead Sea.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

SDrapak
not rated yet Nov 01, 2012
Kind of a misleading story, there's no cleanup, it just dumps the pollution somewhere else