Breathing Fresh Air: Outdoor Air Purification Tower

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      In a world where 99% of urban dwellers grapple with air quality that surpasses safe limits, the act of breathing itself has become a perilous endeavor. Whether you’re strolling through the park, waiting at a bus stop, or sipping coffee at a sidewalk café, you are unwittingly inhaling unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide. The stark reality is that indoor air purifiers are no longer a luxury but an essential household appliance, providing a refuge from the perils of environmental pollution. However, what about the times when you step outside? Enter Studio Symbiosis’ ingenious solution – VERTO, a 360-degree, multi-directional air purification system designed to cleanse the air we breathe in outdoor spaces.

      VERTO: An Architectural Outdoor Air Purification Tower

      VERTO’s creators assert that this towering air purifier has the capacity to clean a staggering 600,000 cubic meters of air daily, significantly reducing levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter. Yet, there’s a caveat, much like any air purification system, the effectiveness diminishes the farther you stray from VERTO’s purifying embrace.

      Woman sitting under and against a tree with VERTO air purifier tower in the background in a park setting, with three children running behind it as a blur.

      Studio Symbiosis christened their tessellated tower of purification “VERTO,” drawing inspiration from the Greek and Latin words for ‘to turn.’ The 5.5-meter tall structure was meticulously designed using computational fluid dynamics to optimize both purification surface area and the volume of clean air it can disperse. Serendipitously, this pursuit of clean air resulted in an aesthetically captivating lattice tower, enhancing its chances of gaining public acceptance.

      Graphics explaining how the VERTO's circular form allows for 360 degree intake of air to eventually flow the filtered air outward.

      One of the architects behind VERTO explains, “Simulation studies were conducted to attain minimum resistance and maximum surface area to achieve this optimum design. An elliptical geometry has been designed as the starting point, as this gave us the minimum resistance. The form was further developed by twisting the form, this twist in geometry channels the wind along the surface of the tower in the z direction, thereby exponentially increasing the surface area.”

      While outdoor air filters do exist, their application in wide-open spaces presents a distinct challenge compared to interior or partially outdoor systems. Achieving optimal filtration necessitates a consistent and robust air exchange through a filter membrane, a task made easier in sealed rooms with controlled airflow. Outdoors, even a gentle breeze can dramatically alter air quality.

      Photo simulating the VERTO stationed in a large public park setting, with numerous people lounging nearby in the grass and under trees.

      VERTO addresses this challenge with its 360-degree design, creating differences in temperatures and pressures that result in a continuous loop around the tower, drawing warm air towards it. Once inside VERTO, a high-efficiency filtering membrane removes fine airborne particulates, ranging from those with a diameter of 10 microns or less (PM10) down to particles as tiny as 2.5 microns or less in diameter (PM2.5), before exhaling purified air.

      For over a year now, VERTO has quietly been improving air quality for a fortunate few in New Delhi’s Sunder Nursery Park. Like a dependable home air purifier, VERTO is equipped with a variable fan, adjusting its speed and energy consumption according to pollution levels. The fine filter membrane is partially recyclable and requires replacement every six to nine months.

      Taking inspiration from IKEA’s playbook, VERTO’s glass fiber-reinforced concrete panels are designed for flat-pack shipping, facilitating modular assembly on-site.

      The audacious Aũra Hive tower concept by Studio Symbiosis, proposed in 2019, is essentially a scaled-up VERTO, soaring to a towering 60 meters in height. These colossal air filtration towers are engineered to purify a staggering 30 million cubic meters of air each day, potentially improving the air quality for half a million people within their vicinity.

      3D render of Studio Symbiosis Aũra Hive tower concept, a 60 meter tall air filtration tower rising above a foggy morning sky from a small group of trees with several other Aũra Hive towers visible in the distance.

      Studio Symbiosis is not alone in its quest to democratize outdoor air filtration, especially in countries like India, where poor air quality contributes to over a million deaths annually. China, for instance, has constructed the world’s largest air purifier to combat smog on a scale that dwarfs VERTO. Similarly, Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde designed the Smog Free Tower after experiencing life in both China and India.

      While the efforts to provide clean air in outdoor spaces are commendable, it remains prudent for corporations and countries alike to prioritize efforts to reduce pollution at its source. The adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true, making it imperative that we address the root causes of air pollution even as we embrace innovative solutions like VERTO.

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