Green living after lockdown

Green living after lockdown

During the UK-wide lockdown, pollution in London dropped to its lowest level since records began. Overall, the level of nitrogen dioxide in the capital’s atmosphere halved, a truly remarkable statistic in one of Europe’s busiest cities. This was a symptom of traffic falling by more than 40% – and although the trigger may have been undesirable, to say the least, the lockdown laid the ground for an important environmental experiment.

According to Simon Birkett, the director of Clean Air in London, there is no safe level of exposure to pollutants like nitrogen dioxide. Every year, it’s estimated that 40,000 deaths are associated with poor air quality. Considering that pollution has links to severe COVID-19 symptoms, the imperative to keep the capital’s air clean is greater than ever. But are lockdown-levels of pollution a reasonable aspiration? What innovative ways can we cut pollution in the capital?

Revolutionising rush hour

Usually, London’s nitrogen dioxide levels are double the World Health Organisation’s recommended limit. One of the worst affected areas is Euston Road, which on a normal day, has pollution levels 125% over the legal limit. During lockdown, these readings dropped from critical to safe in a matter of weeks. In response, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London said: “I am determined that clean, green and sustainable travel must be at the heart of London’s recovery from COVID-19.”

Leading the charge against pollution after lockdown is a £5bn cycling initiative. One of the most ambitious aspects of this new scheme is a ‘Bike Underground’, which proposes a network of bicycle lanes constructed above the tube network. Plus, the Department for Transport brought forward e-scooter trials forward from next year to August, further electrifying the capital’s transportation options.

The garden city

Perhaps as intriguing and futuristic as the Bike Underground are garden wall initiatives. These projects aim to maximise the amount of greenery in the city by creating huge planted building façades, which in turn, beautifies the built environment via a highly efficient use of space. One such project is the Citicape House by Sheppard Robson, which will feature Europe’s largest green wall.

Projected to be finished in 2024, this five-star hotel will feature a 40,000 square-foot green wall, as well as a public green space on the building’s 11th floor. The green wall itself will consist of an astonishing 400,000 plants, which envelope the structure in greenery. According to the designers, this green mass will absorb eight tons of CO2 every year, while generating 6 tons of oxygen. The project directors estimate this has the potential to lower the surrounding temperature by between three and five degrees celsius.

Getting behind a green economy

Many fear that coming out of the coronavirus crisis, these green achievements will be quickly forgotten, especially as concerns about the economy prevail. However, a green economic recovery is possible, as demonstrated by the scope and ambition of the projects mentioned here. Architects, construction and the MEP industry have an essential part to play, so it is crucial that the sector gets behind a green coronavirus recovery in the capital.