'Bubbles' biome in Beijing could let residents breathe clean air

Orproject
© Orproject

Beijing's notorious air pollution has reached beyond hazardous levels in recent years, with the city covered in thick, toxic smog for a good part of the year. While the Chinese government has implemented various pollution-battling policies like car bans and the planting of green roofs, others like London-based design firm Orproject have gone down the road of more extreme design measures -- suggesting the building of bubble-like biomes, sealed from outside pollution, that would allow residents to actually breathe clean air.

© Orproject

Dubbed Bubbles, Orproject is proposing a series of transparent domes that are made with ETFE plastic, the same kind of material used for Beijing's aquatic stadium during the 2008 Olympics. Not only is the material economical, flexible and durable, it also allows for a 30 percent reduction in energy costs in terms of heating and lighting (we've already seen ETFE used in greenhouses and other institutional applications).

© Orproject

Designed using a computer algorithm to mimic the veining of leaves and butterfly wings, the complex would be heated and cooled by a ground source heat exchange system and its air would be cleaned by solar-powered filters. Orproject co-founder and Beijing resident Christoph Klemmt explains on Co.Exist that Bubbles would be a kind of botanical garden around which people can live, shop and work in a healthy environment:

We suffer daily from smog. Our concept can happen on a very small scale, but we are hoping we can enclose a large area of the city, where we have a greenhouse with a botanical garden inside.

© Orproject

Klemmt envisions the complex to act as an enclosed public space or park. Though the concept has had some precedents, its future feasibility will depend largely on the interest of developers and the will of local bureaucracy, says Klemmt:

This construction system which we've developed could work on various scales. The big park is our dream, which depends on a lot of other people, including the government. If we were to realize this for a schoolyard, it'd be much easier for it to happen.

It's dubious that Beijing's "airpocalypse" would be solved by a single stopgap design measure such as this, but let's hope that unconventional designs like this will be complemented with sound policy in Beijing's battle for cleaner air. More over at Orproject and Co.Exist.

Tags: Air Pollution | Air Quality | Architecture | Beijing | Green Building

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