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A new urban green infrastructure to actively reduce air pollution in urban hotspots

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MossTree (A new urban green infrastructure to actively reduce air pollution in urban hotspots)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2020-09-30

Air pollution is the world’s largest environmental health risk. Despite a rising public awareness and growing budgets allocated by governments to combat air pollution worldwide, the various sources of the problem still pose a huge challenge. There are no solutions which are easy-to-implement and many cities fail to meet their target thresholds.
With help of the H2020 grant Green City Solutions developed a regenerative biofilter with a measurable effect on the environment - thriving to offer a fast, elegant, and natural solution to combat the problem. The CityTree uses moss as the core element, thus it benefits from nature’s given patents for filtering particulate matter. In combination with Internet-of-Things technology and machine learning the CityTree reaches a filter efficiency of up to 82% .
From March until September 2020 a first network of CityTrees went on an urban roadshow. Installed in various locations in Berlin, the new product was presented to the public and encouraged a discourse about the issue of air quality. The scientific experts from TROPOS and ILK Dresden supported the project with the measurement and quantification of the CityTree’s effects and gaining the scientific proof for the CityTree’s impact on air quality.
While the first period of the MossTree project was dedicated to the technical development of the new CityTree model, the optimization of its functionality and biological components, the second project period, starting in January 2020, focused on the Urban Pilot project and the scientific validation of the product. We launched the CityTree to the market, we presented and tested the CityTree’s impact in the first field operations and concentrated on driving forward our first successful commercialisation and dissemination activities. The following tasks were conducted:
1) Technical optimization and start of production
We re-designed the sensor system to enable a more accurate monitoring of the plant health during field operation, we reached a CE certification for the European market and prepared our facilities and processes for the serial production of the CityTree.
2) Biotechnology optimization
We conducted research and applied measures to enable the plants to become resistant towards the stress factors exposed to during greenhouse production and field operation. Also, we conducted measurements for determining the filter performance and gained insights on the CityTree’s impact on air temperature, humidity and hygiene.
3) Urban Pilot project
We installed a network of units, measured and quantified their impact on an urban environment, and reached scientific proof for the product’s effect on air quality. Also, we used the insights from the first operating CityTrees to revise and optimize the product.
4) Commercialisation and Dissemination
We determined and implemented a marketing and communication strategy for deploying our solution. We got engaged with a broad audience through organizing exclusive personal and remote experiences around our first operating CityTrees, we reached comprehensive media coverage, and got successfully involved with first sales projects.
The CityTree is the world's first bio-tech filter for verifiable air quality improvement. We reach our USP through combining benefits of different worlds – we can compete with the performance of industrial filter products and with the aesthetics and emotional values of nature. Also, the developed “bio-algorithm” of the CityTree provides us with a unique position. It took us a long time to identify and verify the final combination of moss cultures, and design and adapt the IoT-system to make the product function in a real urban environment. This knowledge and experience can hardly be copied and provides us with a significant competitive advantage.
During the MossTree project we reached impact in various regards:

• A measureble effect on the participants of the Urban Pilot project
Through the installation of the CityTree networks in 2020, we had a positive impact on the affected end-users, on our location partners and clients, as well as on society in general.
Our end users benefited in several ways. Those entering the “clean air zone” experienced better air quality, since the moss species growing inside the CityTrees absorbed fine dust, produced oxygen and had a significant cooling and humidifying effect. During the urban roadshow from March to September 2020 we cleaned about 7 million cubic meters of air, which means with every operating hour we filtered the breathing volume of up to 42.000 people.
But we did not only offer physical effects, the pilot project also revealed a strong emotional impact of our product. We installed the CityTrees at locations with urban infrastructures and asphalt ground which did not allow trees or plants to grow. The CityTree brought nature back to these locations while offering a unique user-experience for people taking a healthy rest at breathing mosses. By organizing interactive events at the roadshow locations we invited a broad audience to take part at the experience and become more sensitive for the issue of urban air quality.

• Climate relevance
The scientific measurements proved that the CityTree has a surprising high filter effect with regard to black carbon. During the urban roadshow we observed a reduction of up to 60 % of these particles. Black carbon is an important contributor to global warming since it is very effective at absorbing light and heating its surroundings. It has a warming impact on climate that is many times stronger than CO2. This new result will help us in future to position the CityTree not only as a means of purifying the air, but also as a solution contributing to climate protection.

• Market impact and first sales activities
The CityTree is ready for commercialisation, as our first successful sales projects prove.
We are proud to report that the following clients (amongst others) have decided to either buy or rent our products: Deutsche Telekom, Vattenfall, DPD, City of Cork, London Hampstead School, City of London, LNER.

• Impact on GCS’ own product development strategy
It is a big achievement for Green City Solutions to have gained scientific proof for the new product while already receiving significant market interest. But even more valuable to us are the insights we gained during the MossTree project and the progress we made with regard to shaping our product development plans and the future path of our company. Through the insights we gained from the scientific and commercialization activities we got confronted with striking new business opportunities for our company.
The MossTree project inspired us to elaborate our upcoming product diversification strategy. The components developed within the MossTree project were recently adapted for first pilot projects within the façade sector, we have exciting plans for a near-term launch of an “Indoor CityTree”, and we started research cooperation with industry partners like Deutsche Telekom for augmenting the CityTree with further technologies and connected services.
Our vision is a world in which people in cities can live healthily. The new CityTree – as developed with help of the H2020 grant - can significantly contribute to improving living conditions and allow people around the world to breath cleaner air.
GCS Team at the opening event of the urban pilot roadshow
The CityTree 2020, developed with help of the H2020 grant