Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of America's energy use, and until we line the coast with wind turbines, a lot of that energy is going to come from coal plants and other dirty sources. So wouldn't it be nice if buildings themeselves could help clean the air?
Alcoa, a company that makes aluminum panels for the construction industry, recently announced a new coating with the overwrought brand name Reyobond with EcoClean. When applied to aluminum panels, the titanium dioxide coating interacts with sunlight to break down the smog-causing compound nitrogen oxide into an innocuous substance that washes off the building in a rain. Alcoa claims that 10,000 square feet of coated aluminum would have the air-cleaning effects of 80 trees.
As Nadav Malin, president of BuildingGreen.com, says, "you'd have to have a lot of this out there in the built environment to make any dent in air pollution." But panels with EcoClean will only cost 5 percent more than their regular counterparts, and every little bit helps. Besides, the general idea of developing buildings that clean the environment themselves has thrilling potential.