In the heart of Mexico City, one of Latin America’s most polluted cities, a local hospital is doing its part to fight the ubiquitous smog that floats above the sprawling metropolis.
No, the employees of Manuel Gea Gonzales Hospital have not started conserving energy nor have the doctors started carpooling. It's the building itself that is actually fighting pollution.
With funding by Mexico’s Ministry of Health, the hospital has installed a 100-meter long, curved screen that looks like a giant piece of honeycomb suck along the building’s facade that faces a busy street.
Designed by the Berlin-based firm Elegant Embellishment and using Prosolve370e, a new type of tile whose special shape and chemical coating can help neutralize the chemicals that compose smog, the facade literally eats away the pollution produced by 8,750 cars driving by the building each day.
The choice for the structure, known as the Torre de Especialidades, is part of a three-year, $20 billion investment into health infrastructure in Mexico. Government officials said Prosolve was picked in part because of its anti-microbial, de-polluting effect as well as for its visual complexity and unforgettable form.
Looming over a major avenue in Mexico City’s southern Tlalpan neighborhood, the screen features white paint made of titanium dioxide, which is used in sunscreen and doubles as a catalyst in certain chemical reactions. In layman’s terms, the chemicals in the smog react with the titanium dioxide when hit by UV light, causing the smog to be broken down into small amounts of less noxious chemicals.
The titanium dioxide itself remains unaffected.
The artistic tiles themselves are not just for the visual effect. The pockmarked screen scatters more light and collects more pollutants than a flat surface.
“The shapes slow wind speeds and create turbulence, for better distribution of pollutants across the active surfaces,” Elegant Embellishments co-founder Allison Dring told Scientific American magazine. “The omni-directionality of the quasi crystalline geometry is especially suitable to catch things from all directions."
Elegant Embellishments has similar projects and installations in Australia, France, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, among other places.