"Sustainability" comes in a range of scales, from the thoughtful planning of mega-urban infrastructure to home daylighting design and innovative material choices for commercial projects. But can a building's entire envelope sync with the environment? We've unearthed one of the most intriguing and uncanny trends of late: the smog-eating surface.

The treatment is a thin layer of titanium dioxide (TiO2), a powder or liquid that can be applied to glass, concrete, metal, or fabric; when sunlight hits the chemically treated surface, a process begins that oxidizes organic matter, turning pollutants into water vapor and CO2.

Image via planetatlalpan.mx.

The innovative technique has recently been used on the Manuel Gea GonzƔlez Hospital in Mexico City, one of the most polluted cities in the world. The faƧade was designed to use Prosolve 370e, a new system of thermoformed plastic shells are coated in TiO2 developed by Elegant Embellishments. The system blends sustainability with forward-thinking construction techniques and novel form: the developers used Rhino to fabricate five different modules, each shaped to maximize surface area, light reception, and wind resistance, and thus increase the benefits of the treatment.

Advertisement

Image via thelifestylejournal.it.

The visual complexity and ornamental qualities of the faƧadeā€”formally reminiscent of Reiser + Umemoto's stunning O-14 Tower, a recent A+ Awards finalistā€”are the result of the functional aspects. As opposed to the monolithic concrete solidity of the tower, though, the hospital's bone-like, perforated surfaces are lightweight and easily detachable.

Advertisement

Image via www.ecobuildingpulse.com.

This building is not the first to try cleaning the air. In 2012, New York-based architects HWKN won the MoMA/PS1 Young Architects Program competition with their own smog-eating construction. Theirs used fabric treated with a liquid Ti02 compound and assembled into a star-like character; dubbed "Wendy," the structure scrubbed the air for one summer, removing the smog of an estimated 260 cars from the New York City air supply.

Advertisement

Read more at Architizer.