Skip to content

London’s built environment can play a positive role in improving air quality, says City of London Corporation

24 September 2019

Experts came together to present their views on air quality in the UK capital.

London’s built environment can play a positive role in improving air quality, says City of London Corporation

Buildings in the city of London can have a significant impact on air quality with open space allowing heat and pollution to escape, according to research conducted by the City of London Corporation.

The findings were presented by Ruth Calderwood, Air Quality Manager, City of London Corporation, and Julie Futcher, Architect, Urban Generation, at ICE London’s latest lecture, Engineering Cleaner Air in association with the City of London Corporation. The lecture considered how engineers can tackle some of the key challenges associated with pollution levels in the capital.

The research also shows that areas in the square mile of the city can have vastly different readings on the quality of its air depending on the size, shape and surface structure of buildings. Elements such as scaffolding can help to prevent harmful particles from moving around, with pollution levels being measured through using NO2 diffusion tubes.

More than 200 people attended the event, which was held on 16 September 2019 at ICE’s Westminster headquarters. The lecture was chaired by Paul Gregory, Project Director at Sir Robert McAlpine, and followed by networking drinks and canapes in the ICE Water Exhibition space.

A time of crisis

Other speakers on the night included Catherine Westoby, Communications Specialist for Air Quality at Transport for London (TfL), who reaffirmed TfL’s commitment to expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the North and South circular roads from October 2021, covering an area 18 times larger than the existing zone.

Westoby highlighted that since the initiative was brought in, 75% of vehicles operating in that zone now meet or exceed the emission standard, with businesses taking measures to ensure that they're compliant with the new requirements.

Another speaker, Dr Heleni Pantelidou, Associate Director at Arup, underlined the role of civil engineers in tackling pollution at a time of crisis, pointing to the need for infrastructure projects to be efficient and low-carbon.

Dr Pantelidou also spoke about the need to "make space for nature", and referred to Arup’s City Re-Leaf scheme, which aims to increase greenery in Manchester city centre by planting over 1,000 trees over the next 10 years, in collaboration with City of Trees and Allied London.

Simon Birkett, Founder and Director at Clean Air in London, drew attention to the legislative aspects of air quality in his presentation and argued the need for a new Clean Air Act, praising the City of London for its work in bringing in the original Clean Air Act in 1954.

  • Edie Fairservice, External Relations Executive