Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Ursula Bach

Clean Air Bubbles in Beijing

2nd April 2014

In recent years, the government in Beijing, China, has come under increasing pressure to put in place measures to reduce the effects of air pollution as a result of power plants, burning fossil fuels and transport emissions. Architects at London-based Orproject recently proposed the creation of gigantic bubbles filled with fresh air. These inflatable domes would contain parks and botanical gardens that would provide fresh air to residents.

Image courtesy of Orproject via

The design suggests housing a botanical garden under a bubble dome like structure, which could also cover office buildings, retail outlets and apartments. The bubbles, which cover the area on the ground, would be constructed from ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene), a polymer that is a stretchy type of plastic – the same kind of material used for Beijing’s aquatic stadium during the 2008 Olympics.

Designed using a computer algorithm to mimic the veining of leaves and butterfly wings, not only is the material economical, flexible and durable, it also allows a 30 percent reduction in energy costs in terms of heating and lighting. The bubble would also be heated and cooled by a ground source heat exchange system and air would be cleaned by solar-powered filters.

Orproject co-founder and Beijing resident Christoph Klemmt stated on Co.Exist that Bubbles would be a kind of botanical garden in which people can live, shop and work in a healthy environment:

”We suffer daily from smog. Our concept can happen on a very small scale, but we are hoping we can enclose a large area of the city, where we have a greenhouse with a botanical garden inside.”

It is hoped that unconventional designs like this will be complemented with sound policy in Beijing’s battle for cleaner air.

European Green Capital

Clean air is vital to our well-being. Economic activities, in particularly those related to road transport, power and heat production, industry and agriculture emit a variety of air pollutants. Today urban areas concentrate most of the environmental challenges facing our society, but also bring together commitment and innovation to resolve them. The European Green Capital Award has been conceived to promote and reward these efforts.