Updated Mar 29, 2018

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Urban Atmosphere

Using photocatalytic titanium dioxide and living walls to augment existing structures and provide a framework for new buildings, as well as old, to breathe alongside us, cleansing the air of toxic particulates.

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Alex Gillis

Stage 3: Proof of Concept

Focus Areas:

Environment, Housing and Infrastructure and Social Development

Environment, Housing and Infrastructure and Social DevelopmentSEE LESS

Implemented In:



Country Implemented In


According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is now the largest environmental cause of death. Data from 2016 confirms that 6.5 million people died in 2012 as a result of polluted air. Millions of people are relocating to major city-centres in hopes of finding better work, better education, and an overall improved quality of life. The current degree to which countries are embracing urbanization is greater than 80% in both North and Latin Americas, and more than 70% in Europe.



Globally, societies are working to change the way they think about their urban centers. Our team’s solution is to rethink modern urban planning and architecture, merging both form and function through the use of photocatalytic titanium dioxide and living walls, augmenting existing structures and providing a framework for new buildings as well as old to breathe alongside us, cleansing the air of toxic particulates.

Mission and Vision

Urban Atmosphere is a conscious step towards more sustainable urban development in accordance with Global Goal #11, “Sustainable Cities and Communities”, and Goal #3, “Good Health & Well-Being.” It is our responsibility to motivate positive interactions with our planet, and our Urban Atmosphere breathing buildings have a direct and tremendous impact on urban air quality.

Innovation Description

By developing photocatalytic titanium dioxide coated facades for buildings, each structure will be able to offset more than one hundred cars worth of emissions each day. Photocatalytic titanium dioxide works through a chemical reaction with UV rays– meaning our buildings’ facades will react with sunlight to neutralise certain pollutants in the air, converting them into inert salts. These inert salts will wash away in the rain or simply disintegrate in the heat and wind of drier climates.

Our project is also dually pronged. We hope to reduce carbon emissions, but we also want to encourage cities to revitalize and renew their architecture, refitting old buildings with photocatalytic facades instead of traditional brick-and-mortar patch-ups. We will be targeting government buildings, such as metro stations, airports, and other lasting government institutions that are unlikely to be demolished. The facades also offer the added benefit of being self-cleaning and odour reducing: meaning buildings with Urban Atmosphere facades will require less upkeep over time. By focusing the technology in areas that are more populated, we will try to impact the most number of people, and also significantly minimize the carbon footprints of what will certainly become the most crowded urban areas in tomorrow’s megacities.

Competitive Advantage

We also plan to combine living walls with the revitalized facades, where there is an absence of windows: we also want to plant living walls inside the buildings to offer further air purification based on knowledge gained from the NASA Clean Air Study of the most effective air-purifying plants. Again, this technology is already commonly implemented on a smaller scale, though we hope to systematically introduce this dual Urban Atmosphere project. Integrating these living walls into the building’s air circulation, as well as the photocatalytic facades will provide a steady supply of fresh air to the buildings’ fans and ventilation systems. These interactive walls, open-air spaces surrounding the exteriors of the buildings, and large lobby areas will allow for the passive removal of pollutants, while also working to reduce noise, greatly improving quality of life in urban centers, and encouraging sustainable thinking within urban populations.


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