Leslie Katzman looks at an anti-pollution building material
Even though air pollution poses a significant risk to human health and the environment, selecting appropriate materials in architecture and landscape architecture can reduce its negative effects. One new class of materials permits the treatment of pollutants close to their source, in the city and on the street. For the last four years, European and Japanese research centers have been investigating the pollution-reducing capability of photocatalytic* compounds. One such compound, titanium dioxide (TiO2), is widely used in consumer products. In the presence of sun or artificial light, photocatalytic TiO2 reacts with air pollutants, converting them into molecules that have a relatively benign impact on the environment.
Incorporating cutting-edge technologies such as these smart anti-pollution materials is an integral part of Sasaki's approach to sustainable design. However the major drawback of photocatalytic building materials is their premium cost and sparse commercial availability in the United States. At the time of this writing, Essroc (a North American subsidiary of Italcementi Group) and Green Millennium (based in California) are the best sources of TiO2 products specifically formulated to reduce air pollution. It has yet to be determined whether clients are willing to pay for such innovative products, but the long-term results may be well worth the initial costs.