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Improving the Smart Control of Air Pollution in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - iSCAPE (Improving the Smart Control of Air Pollution in Europe)

Reporting period: 2018-03-01 to 2019-11-30

iSCAPE was a three-year research and innovation project funded under the European Union’s H2020 programme (“Improving the Air Quality and Reducing the Carbon Footprint of European Cities”, SC5-04-2015), involving an interdisciplinary team of experienced researchers, public authorities, business professionals, committed NGOs, members of regulatory authorities, citizens in Living Lab cities.
The overall objective of iSCAPE was to develop an integrated strategy for air pollution control in European cities that is grounded on evidence-based analysis. The project aimed to reduce urban air pollution and the negative impacts of climate change by leveraging sustainable passive control systems, behavioural change initiatives and the Living Lab approach. Passive Control Systems are physical passive methods, such as low-boundary walls and hedges, which can provide a long-term solution to urban air pollution challenges. As most of the physical passive structures are components in the built environment, implementing or relocating these structures, which iSCAPE examined in the different European cities, provides a potentially low-cost option compared to other methods.
To achieve iSCAPE’s objectives, Living Labs in six European cities were established (Bologna, Bottrop, Dublin, Hasselt, Guildford, and Vantaa) with the aim to connect a great variety of stakeholders, facilitate collaboration and sharing of multidisciplinary knowledge and experience to advance air pollution remediation strategies and solutions. This included the engagement of citizens that is fundamental in Living Lab activities to create value and increase public awareness of air pollution control. By integrating research and innovation processes, iSCAPE Living Labs enabled value co-creation, experimentation and evaluation of project interventions in real-world environments.
iSCAPE Research
To develop guidelines for sustainable air pollution control, a rigorous assessment of the existing passive control systems, behavioural interventions and sensing technologies was carried out first. Interlinks between air quality and climatic variables were studied to design such emission abatement strategies that also account for current and future climate scenarios in the iSCAPE cities. This was followed by a variety of field campaigns to evaluate the effectiveness of each project intervention: Bologna (green infrastructure with focus on trees and photocatalytic coating), Bottrop (urban design and planning), Dublin (low-boundary walls), Guildford (green infrastructure with focus on hedges), Hasselt (behavioural interventions), and Vantaa (green infrastructure with focus on green roofs and walls). The studies conducted in real-life environments were enhanced by extensive simulations to comprehensively evaluate the performance of the proposed interventions at three different scales: the street, the neighbourhood and the urban scale.
Some key scientific findings are listed below, but all results tailored to different target groups are available on the iSCAPE website (https://www.iscapeproject.eu/results/):
• Green barriers can produce a reduction of concentration of Black Carbon up to 52%, PM1 up to 31%, PM2.5 up to 17%, PM10 up to 15%
• Low Boundary Walls can protect pedestrians from nearby traffic pollution by reducing air pollution at certain sections of the footpath by 16-19%
• Road trees can reduce pollutant concentration up to 40% and reduce local air temperature by 20C
• Photocatalytic coating can generate a reduction of pollutant concentration up to 40% near the wall in the lower part of the canyon, and an average reduction of NOx concentration of 10-20% in the street canyon
iSCAPE Living Labs
Established early in the project, iSCAPE Living Labs brought together a great variety of urban stakeholders and citizens, to solve such complex city challenges as air pollution and climate change by facilitating value co-creation and enabling multi-stakeholder collaboration in a real-life setting. During the course of the project, iSCAPE Living Labs delivered more than 30 citizen engagement activities, increasing citizen awareness and knowledge of air pollution and its impact for healthier cities. These included co-creation workshops, ideation and prototyping events, as well as feedback sessions.
iSCAPE Technology
During the course of the project, two types of low-cost sensors (Smart Citizen Kits and more advanced monitoring stations) were developed, following an agile approach with multiple development cycles and incremental performance improvements. Throughout the project duration, these sensors were continuously tested and their performance improved to meet the expectations and requirements of their end-users, including citizens, researchers, and public authorities. Smart Citizen Kits were used as part of the citizen science workshops conducted in each iSCAPE city to increase the awareness of personal exposure to air pollution in addition to developing citizen science communities and are now commercially available. The more advanced monitoring stations were tested at different stages of the project to validate the sensor performance in co-location with reference equipment, collect data for calibration purposes or to assess the effectiveness of passive control systems. All developed technologies are documented at: http://docs.smartcitizen.me/
iSCAPE pioneered the assessment of passive control systems in real-life conditions of six fully operating European cities. with its integrated approach. Advancements of the state-of-the-art significantly contributed to the development of the scientific knowledge base pertaining to the effectiveness of passive control systems and behavioral change interventions, validated with more than 40 peer-reviewed scientific publications. In addition, project activities and results were featured in more than 100 online and broadcasting channels, significantly increasing project visibility and impact.
The produced recommendations and actionable guidelines for city stakeholders and decision makers proved to hold a great potential for facilitating evidence-based decision making and policy change. The iSCAPE technology was made commercially available and new citizen science initiatives were developed to increase collective awareness and knowledge of air pollution and its impact.
The iSCAPE work with local communities and stakeholders in the six Living Labs also produced a number of socio-economic impacts, including impacts on participant knowledge improvement and behavioural change, in addition to aspects pertaining policy-making. Citizens engaged in the living labs activities gained a better understanding of air quality-related issues, including the level of air pollution in their neighbourhoods and their individual exposure. Participants also gained new knowledge around the existing interlinkages between air pollution and human health. Based on an increased awareness and new information acquired, participants were able to consider their individual contribution to air pollution and assess how their everyday actions degrade air quality. It was found that the proposed interventions provided participants with inputs for changing their behaviour to reduce both individual exposure and their contribution to air pollution. Finally, the iSCAPE activities also provided policy-makers with a better understanding of the opportunities for including PCSs into existing air quality policies.