Can Skyscrapers Fight Pollution?

Two Hong Kong architects believe that as we pollute the air, our skyscrapers can help clean up the mess. Frederick Givens and Benny Chow‘s “Indigo Tower” features a “nano-coating of titanium dioxide,” designed to neutralize pollution when it hits the building. The tower would even work at night: “Photovoltaic panels would capture enough energy from the sun to allow the production of indigo light (near the UV portion of the spectrum) during evening hours.” The purple glow would be visible for miles. [%comments]

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

Cosider Oppurtunity Cost. A 500 million dollar shiny glass skyscraper with a small shopping mall at the base and parking spaces for 300 cars. IT has a titanium dioxide coating( really white paint) that reportedly can glom up smog dust; maybe 5 lbs per day for the entire structure.

OR Plant ONE MILLION TREES in the City in parks, streets and greenbelts. Each tree grows its wood by extracting smog causing CO2. In the life of one tree, it would amount to up to 5 tons. Trees would cool cities, provide respite for relaxing, provide shady walks, provide a windbreak, shade your car from summer sun, lowering home air conditioning costs,increase the value of homes and neighborhoods, provide a classic natural scuplture, inspire art, provide millions of tons of rich soil mulch and admendments, provide warmth for toasty fires in winter, help cook our food, boil our tea, provide nuts for squirrels and habitats for millions and millions of birds.

No architect can build a structure so lovely as a tall, 100 year old , heritage tree.



An excellent idea. I imagine the coating will have to be replaced after sufficient use (build up of nitrates, etc).

A further idea for all city skyscrapers, not just those in smog-filled cities, would be coatings that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We'll get 'free' artificial trees, in locally high concentrations of carbon dioxide.


what would the purple light do?


The purple light would look cool and attract The Artist Formerly Known as Prince and Using That Name Again. Which would also be cool.

Eric M. Jones

A much better way is to avoid having children (oops... there I said it), since a first-world child adds a million kilograms of CO2 to the atmosphere.

But we can't discuss it......


>>No architect can build a structure so lovely as a tall, 100 year old , heritage tree.

Drill-baby-drill makes a good comparison but I think the comment misses the point.

A comparison between the anti-pollution effect of one million trees versus one skyscraper is meaningless.
The utility of one cannot be a substitute for the other (unless someone invents tree offices and tree-malls and tree-home that serve as reasonable alternativea to conventional homes, offices, shopping malls etc.)

The real question is whether the new skyscrapers are a superior alternative to current skyscrapers and this is where comparisons will make sense.


Planting trees is always a good idea, but it is not quite a perfect substitute. Much as I love treehouses, I doubt few businesses would care to set up shop in one. A skyscraper is a building first, and with this technology, perhaps also a giant air purifier as well. The opportunity cost that we should then compare is that of the additional cost of the TiO2 paint and indigo lights. But we must also consider the geography of the situation. In major cities, it is simply impossible to plant a million trees, and even if the land existed, the shadows of existing skyscrapers could prevent them from getting the sun they need to work.


Mates, CO2 is not even a pollutant.
It is physically impossible for carbon dioxide to contribute meaningfully to any global warming.
Just do a google on spectral analysis of the gas, and see what % of infrared it can absorb.

Dont be fooled by Al Gore, people.


Maybe if skyscrapers were built like the Planeta Building in Barcelona, it might help a little.

Frederick (Ted) Givens

The tower design is an integrated solution more than just the coating. We are quite aware of the simultaneous liberating and enslaving attributes of technological progress. The tower uses passive solar techniques married with the latest technology. No one will argue that the tree is perfect (although pound for pound bamboo is the clear favorite in regards to carbon). Our focus is on examining what cities and urban spaces have become and dealing with the present cards directly.

Our main focus is based on the idea that mere neutrality is not enough. New buildings need to be acts of supererogation that go beyond neutrality to help make up for the mass of existing polluters etc.

For a little bit more information on the Indigo Tower visit:

(there is one mistake in the text...the product in not oxidation- the coating neutralizes pollution through oxidation)



I like the trees idea! However, I live in Hong Kong and unfortunately, there's no room to plant 1 million trees here.

Archi Alternative

After the Strata Building, London (a leader in high-rise environmental design) gets a Carbuncle Cup 2010 for being the ugliest building in UK I am very suspicious to all of such sustainable "innovations". That "purple glow" sounds a bit weird... if not to say scary...


In answer to wle (#3), I think the purpose of the purple light is to gather data (such as what you are thinking) and send them to the mother ship.


Won't the additional light be light pollution?

EcoActive Surfaces, Inc..

We are manufacturers of an advanced photocatalyst coating, OxiTitan, that functions the same as the one mentioned in this article. OxiTitan does not require the UV light to oxidize organics or decompose VOCs, but is functional in both natural sunlight and visible artificial light.
More details on

Robert Lynn

A simpler way for the skyscraper to combat pollution will be to install Windation's small-wind energy wind farms on the roof. An entire wind farm can be installed, and each permit-ready unit can produce up to 5 KW of power. See for more details.