Engineering Cleaner Air

A report into civil engineering solutions to London’s air pollution.

Air quality continues to be a pressing concern for Londoners. It is only right, that as civil engineers, we offer our expertise.

Air quality has continued to rise up the list of top concerns for Londoners, and indeed for residents of cities across the UK and globally. In March 2016, only a few months before the London Mayoral election, 43% of Londoners listed air quality as their biggest health threat, more than drug use, stress or poor diet. When asking parents whether they were concerned for their children's health because of poor air quality, more than two thirds said they were.

Sadly, the fears of the health risks caused by air pollution are well founded. Every year, it takes only a few days for a number of central areas in London to breach the Nitrogen Dioxide hourly EU legal limit value for the calendar year. 52,000 life-years were lost due to man-made particulate matter in London in 2010 – a cost that is being felt by people across the capital.

Last year, the election of Sadiq Khan as Mayor provided a fresh opportunity for action. Mayor Khan has proposed a £10 emissions surcharge, bringing forward of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone to 2019 and expanding it. The Mayor's draft Transport Strategy, published in July 2017 provided a step change in how we think about transport, pollution and health in our city.

It is within this context, that we – the Institution of Civil Engineers – offer our expertise. If we are to tackle air pollution once and for all, we will need to consider the very layout of our cities. How can the projects we build and the infrastructure we provide best ensure that air pollution is reduced? And what can civil engineers do to ensure our work is not adding to the emissions?

This work has been undertaken by a group of committed civil engineers, environmental experts and air quality campaigners. We have considered carefully what we believe the best solutions are for London and have engaged with the 9,000 ICE members in the London region to build a consensus in the industry on what needs to be done. Whilst this report is focused on London, we believe that our recommendations are relevant to cities elsewhere in the UK and indeed across the world.

I hope this report spurs the action required by policy makers and the industry to make poor air quality an issue of the past.

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