Growing cities and building resilience - air quality

As the issue of air quality in our cities becoming increasingly important to city dwellers and policy makers, ICE is asking the question: what can civil engineers do to help reduce air pollution?

Air pollution in London
Plane landing
Entering low emission zone in london
Air quality taskforce logo

As part of our work in answering this question, ICE London is leading the way through its Air Quality Taskforce.

The Air Quality Taskforce brings together a group of experts in a variety of fields, along with other key figures in the air quality debate, with the aim of examining the issue of air pollution in London and developing a civil engineering response to the problem.

Why air pollution?

High air pollution has been linked to a number of health problems, including bronchitis, asthma, stroke, cancer, diabetes and premature and low birth weight babies. The health costs of air pollution in the UK have been estimated at £15 billion a year – similar to the cost of obesity or alcohol abuse. The issue has led to serious health concern, with Kings College London estimating that in 2010, 52,630 life-years were lost (equivalent to 3,537 deaths at typical ages) due to poor air quality. The Clean Air in London Campaign claim that up to 9,400 Londoners died prematurely due to toxic air in 2010.

Pollutants come in two forms: particulate matter, which compromises small airborne solid and liquid particles (generally PM, specifically PM10 or the finer PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The primary producer of both substances is road transport, which in 2012 accounted for about 80% of particulate matter emissions and about half of the emissions of oxides of nitrogen in London. However, construction and energy generation do also contribute.

Particulate matter

  • Carbon emissions from engines
  • Small bits of metal and rubber from engine wear and braking
  • Dust from road surfaces
  • Material from building and construction
  • Wind-blown dust, sea salt, pollens and soil particles

Nitrogen oxides

  • Emissions from engines, particularly diesel
  • Gas boilers in buildings
  • Agriculture and sewerage.

What will the Taskforce do?

There are a number of causes of air pollution where the expertise of civil engineers is of use. Issues such as green infrastructure, city planning, transportation and methods of construction are all fields were civil engineers have scope to comment.

The Taskforce will work over an 18 month period, to provide a civil engineering solution to the issue of air pollution. The Taskforce will publish an interim report at the beginning of 2017 and a final report in September 2017 setting out a number of recommendations for the industry and policy makers.

Members

Name Position and employer
Peter Hansford Formce ICE President and Chief Construction Advisor
Simon Birkett Founder and Director, Clean Air in London
James Bulleid Group Work Winning Director, Costain
Tony Caccavone Programme Director, Heathrow
Nigel Earnshaw Asset Management Director, Black & Veatch
Ralph Goldney Manading Director, Railfreight Consulting
Paul Gregory Project Director, Sir Robert McAlpine
Prashant Kumar Reader, University of Surrey
Francesca Medda Director of Transport & Infrastructure Studies, UCL
Suzanne Moroney London Director, ICE
Heleni Pantelidou Associate Geotechnical Engineer, Arup
Ken Simmons Divisional Director, Regional Investment Programme, Highways England
Jean Venables Director, Venables Consultancy

Transport knowledge from ICE

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