In nearly every city, some of the most likeable neighborhoods are the ones with an abundance of trees. These areas, which more often than not make up the older parts of town, are highly desired for their livability and charm. In newer neighborhoods, trees have to be planted, taking anywhere between 10 and 30 years to reach their full size. That’s an awfully long time to have to wait for a new neighborhood to have the same charm as an older one.
Still, trees make our cities healthier places to live, which is why few people are ever against planting new ones. But despite the presence of trees and city parks, the air quality in some cities is so bad that millions of people still experience reduced health, including an increased risk of respiratory disease and stroke. When you consider that it can take about seven or eight trees to produce enough oxygen for one person, the value of adding even one tree to a city becomes unquestionable.
One company that’s been helping cities add more trees is the Berlin-based Green City Solutions. They are the makers of the world’s first intelligent biological air filter, something they call the “perfect combination of plants and Internet of Things technology.”
CityTree is a biotechnical unit that purifies the same amount of air as 275 urban trees but takes up far less space. Each unit is 13 feet high, 10 feet wide, and boasts a wall of 1,600 pollution-absorbing moss varieties, weather sensors, ventilation control systems, and environmental controls. A rainwater collection system feeds the moss water, while solar panels keeps the technology operational. Each CityTree, which sell for just over $25,000 USD, gathers data about the air quality in its area and relays that data to a cloud application called AirCare, helping the company maintain the overall effectiveness of each unit.
If the purifying abilities of the CityTree seem hard to believe, you are definitely not alone. Many people who come in contact with one do not believe the claim that it purifies as much air as 275 trees, nor do they like its box-like, non-organic form. This is why the company is constantly updating the CityTree and employing independent experts and researchers to verify its effectiveness in laboratory settings.
The location of each CityTree is decided by a combination of microclimate software and the environmental conditions and air pollutants in a particular area. From these factors, the precise placement and angle of each CityTree is determined. The results achieved by each unit are used to inform future placements.
With over 80 percent of the world’s urban population exposed to poor air quality, innovations like the CityTree are a much appreciated add-on to the parks and tree-lined streets that already exist in many places. That’s why CityTrees can be found in almost 20 cities across Europe — because officials recognize the need for better air quality in urban centers and are willing to try out new technologies (such as electric buses and healthier shopping areas). That’s also why CityTree is not a reinvention of the tree, but just another one of the many that are working to make our cities more sustainable.