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NOVA News/Highlights

Posted on: October 4, 2019

Low Tech Innovations to Fight Climate Change

Green Bench

The warming of the earth via increased emissions of greenhouse gas emissions compel local governments around the region to take action. This is especially the case when mitigating the effects of urban heat islands and ozone-causing air pollutants. Northern Virginia is a non-attainment area for ozone pollution.

While exceptional progress has been made by localities across Northern Virginia to cool urban centers and to cut N02 concentrations, there is still much work ahead. The number of days in which the heat index is greater than 85 degrees Fahrenheit could increase from an average of 30 per year to 75 per year by 2080. Moreover, while ozone levels decreased for the period 2005 to 2016, the rise in population and commerce threatens to set back that progress.

In countries such as Germany, cities such as Bottrop and Esslingen are experimenting with some creative and transformational low-cost technical innovations that have helped to reduced extreme heat stress in urban centers and improve air quality. Elected officials, technical staff and researchers from the region recently visited Bottrop and Esslingen. There they observed Bottrop had installed in its central pedestrian zone concrete blocks composed of coal fly-ash and an additive “Photoment” to remove nitrogen oxides. Bottrop, as well as Esslingen and other Germany cities, were cooling their urban centers via a unique low-cost portable garden lounge — ”the Mobile Green Living Room.”

Bottrop PlazaPhotoment. In response to concerns about ambient air quality and negative public health effects from nitrogen oxides, the City of Bottrop chose to cover its central pedestrian and market area with a unique substitute for the normal concrete or cobblestone surfaces. The central business and pedestrian zone of Bottrop is lined with “Photoment” blocks — compacted fly-ash from coal-burning power plants that are mixed with a patented photocatalytic surface that through exposure to light convert nitrous oxides to harmless nitrates. It has been calculated that a surface of “Photoment” blocks spread out over an area of soccer field can remove approximately 17 g of NOX in an hour. (sources: https://www.steag-powerminerals.com/en/modalcontent/produkte/photoment/

Mobile Green Living Room. Since most German businesses and residences lack air conditioning there are serious concerns about lowering temperatures during ever hotter summer months — especially in the densely concretized areas of central markets. To promote short-term cooling and provide comfortable, “livable” spaces, Bottrop and several other German cities such as Esslingen, have turned to the deployment of “Mobile Green Living Rooms.” The Mobile Green Living rooms are freestanding green walls and shaded lounges built atop a 10-ton (6’x12’) platform. The 6’ high shaded canopy of native plants (often fruit trees) is irrigated via a solar-powered pump that is low-maintenance, low-cost cools public spaces up to 4–5 degrees Fahrenheit at a radius of approximately 150 feet. The Green Mobile Lounges also serve as ideal habitats and resting areas for bees and birds. (source: https://oppla.eu/casestudy/17555)

Author: Dr. Dale Medearis of NVRC Staff

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