VERTO: An Architectural Outdoor Air Purification Tower
The World Health Organization reports 99% of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed safe daily limits. That means me, you, and everyone we know are breathing unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide regularly when doing the most mundane of tasks. Indoor air purifiers are becoming an essential home health appliance, giving us the ability to counteract environmental pollution. But what about those times when you’re out and about? Studio Symbiosis’ solution takes a communal approach with VERTO, a 360-degree, multi-directional air purification system designed to improve air quality while breathing outdoors.
Studio Symbiosis named their tessellated patterned tower of cleaning power concept after the word for ‘to turn’ in Greek and Latin, and indeed the 5.5-meter tall tower was designed utilizing computational fluid dynamics to optimize the purification surface area and maximum the amount of clean air it outputs. By chance, computational models optimized to clean the air also resulted in a subjectively elegant latticed tower architecture, improving the chances of public acceptance.
“Simulation studies were conducted to attain minimum resistance and maximum surface area to achieve this optimum design. An elliptical geometry has been designed as the starting point, as this gave us the minimum resistance. The form was further developed by twisting the form, this twist in geometry channels the wind along the surface of the tower in the z direction, thereby exponentially increasing the surface area.”
Outdoor air filters already exist and serve in limited capacity to improve “outdoor” areas like underground subway stations. But filtering air in the wide open presents a challenging problem compared to that handled by an interior or partially outdoor air purification system. Optimal filtration requires a consistent and strong air exchange through a filtering membrane; inside a sealed room, that flow can be consistently controlled by air speed. But outdoors even a breeze outside can alter air quality dramatically.
VERTO tackles this problem with a 360-degree design to create a difference in temperatures and pressures between the air that comes in and the air coming out, resulting in a loop around the tower that pulls warm air toward the tower. Once pulled into the VERTO, a filtering membrane removes fine airborne particulate with a diameter of 10 microns or less (PM10), down to 2.5 microns or less in diameter (PM2.5) before exhaling the cleansed air.
Just like a decent home air purifier, the VERTO is equipped with a variable fan set to adjust speed and energy use according to air pollution levels. The fine filter membrane is partially recyclable, requiring a replacement every six to nine months.
Taking a page from the IKEA playbook, VERTO’s glass fiber reinforced concrete panels are designed to be shipped in flat pack form for eventual modular assembly on-site.
Studio Symbiosis is far from going it alone in their pursuit to bring outdoor air filtration to the masses, especially in countries like India where well over a million deaths every year are attributed to poor air quality. China constructed the world’s largest air purifier to help reduce smog levels at a scale that dwarfs VERTO. Similar to VERTO, Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde designed the Smog Free Tower [shown below] after living in both China and India.
While laudable, common sense dictates corporations and countries alike would be best advised to invest in reducing pollution sources before installing outdoor air filtration devices on every corner, noting an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.