Clearing the Air: How Beijing is building up to better air quality

Wednesday 15th May 2019

 

Air pollution in Beijing has long been a well documented environmental and health crisis. Here Mr Wang Qingqin, Vice Chair of China Green Building Council and Vice President of the China Academy of Building Research (CABR) details some of the improvements to ambient (outdoor) air quality in Beijing, and the impact of these improvements on indoor environmental quality.

With the acceleration of urbanisation and industrialisation, China's economy has developed rapidly and the quality of life for our citizens has greatly improved alongside this growth. However, at the same time, such advances have put extreme pressures on our environment. Air quality features highly among these pressures, with fine particulate matter (PM2.5) now the main pollutant of air in China - and it poses a serious threat to people's health.

In order to combat pollution and build a beautiful China, the state of Beijing has undertaken measures as follows:

  • Issued documents advising on strategies to fight air pollution
  • Taken measures to strengthen the comprehensive control of air pollution in industrial enterprises
  • Promoted the control of bulk coal and the reduction and replacement of coal consumption
  • Carried out special rectification of the emissions of diesel trucks exceeding the national standards
  • Strengthened land greening and dust control

Such measures have effectively tackled the levels of air pollution and subsequently our air quality has seen significant improvements year on year since 2014.

Figure 1 below shows how the annual outdoor PM2.5 concentration in Beijing have progressively decreased from 2014 to 2018.

In addition, the number of days where the annual outdoor average PM2.5 concentration reached the national standard has increased year by year, as shown in figure 2.

Outdoor air pollution also affects indoor air quality. To prove this, at CABR we carried out an experiment in an office space over a one-year period. The external windows of the building were plastic steel side-hung and facing east, and the tested room was a non-smoking room with one staff and one computer. The external windows of the building were closed during the testing period and there was no central air-conditioning and ventilation system, so the room did not have an internal pollution source. The staff inside the office worked from Monday to Friday as normal, with breaks during holidays.

In order to facilitate the analysis, the one-year monitoring data was divided into four groups based on four seasons: Spring from March to May, Summer from June to August, Autumn from September to November, and Winter from December to February. According to the grading method of China, the outdoor air quality is divided into 6 levels (excellent, good, light pollution, moderate pollution, heavy pollution and severe pollution).

During the four seasons, the percentage of days when the air quality was ‘excellent’, ‘good’ and ‘light pollution’ was higher for indoor air than for outdoor air. When the indoor air reached ‘moderate’, ‘heavy’ and ‘severe’ levels of pollution, it was still generally less polluted than the outdoor air, as shown in table 1. This trend demonstrates that outdoor air pollution is impacting indoor air quality, and the health of the occupants, although other indoor factors can affect or improve the internal environment.

Interestingly, our results showed that, whether outdoor or indoor, the air pollution in winter is the most serious.

Indoor PM2.5 pollution in buildings is characterized by easy control, long exposure time and significant health effects. Effective control of indoor PM2.5 pollution in buildings is an important way to reduce the risk of PM2.5 induced diseases. CABR has conducted a series of research works on indoor PM2.5 pollution control, including undertaking the "twelfth five-year plan" national science and technology research project "Study on the key technology of indoor particle pollution and its compound pollution control.”

Additionally, we have established the association standard "Technical specifications for the indoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution control” and we’ve published the book "Building Indoor PM2.5 Pollution Control" providing a reference for indoor PM2.5 pollution treatment.

However, there is still much work to be done to combat air pollution. We need to see effective indoor PM2.5 pollution control design and evaluation methods, innovative control technologies and products, operation and maintenance and management strategies - it will be a breath of fresh air when we do.

Mr Wang Qingqin is Vice Chair of China Green Building Council, and Vice President of the China Academy of Building Research (CABR). For more information, click here.

For more information about the link between air quality and the built environment, click here.

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Air pollution in Beijing has long been a well documented environmental and health crisis. Here Mr Wang Qingqin, Vice Chair of China Green Building Council and Vice President of the China Academy of Building Research (CABR) details some of the improvements to ambient (outdoor) air quality in Beijing, and the impact of these improvements on indoor environmental quality.

With the acceleration of urbanisation and industrialisation, China's economy has developed rapidly and the quality of life for our citizens has greatly improved alongside this growth. However, at the same time, such advances have put extreme pressures on our environment. Air quality features highly among these pressures, with fine particulate matter (PM2.5) now the main pollutant of air in China - and it poses a serious threat to people's health.

In order to combat pollution and build a beautiful China, the state of Beijing has undertaken measures as follows:

  • Issued documents advising on strategies to fight air pollution
  • Taken measures to strengthen the comprehensive control of air pollution in industrial enterprises
  • Promoted the control of bulk coal and the reduction and replacement of coal consumption
  • Carried out special rectification of the emissions of diesel trucks exceeding the national standards
  • Strengthened land greening and dust control

Such measures have effectively tackled the levels of air pollution and subsequently our air quality has seen significant improvements year on year since 2014.

Figure 1 below shows how the annual outdoor PM2.5 concentration in Beijing have progressively decreased from 2014 to 2018.

In addition, the number of days where the annual outdoor average PM2.5 concentration reached the national standard has increased year by year, as shown in figure 2.

Outdoor air pollution also affects indoor air quality. To prove this, at CABR we carried out an experiment in an office space over a one-year period. The external windows of the building were plastic steel side-hung and facing east, and the tested room was a non-smoking room with one staff and one computer. The external windows of the building were closed during the testing period and there was no central air-conditioning and ventilation system, so the room did not have an internal pollution source. The staff inside the office worked from Monday to Friday as normal, with breaks during holidays.

In order to facilitate the analysis, the one-year monitoring data was divided into four groups based on four seasons: Spring from March to May, Summer from June to August, Autumn from September to November, and Winter from December to February. According to the grading method of China, the outdoor air quality is divided into 6 levels (excellent, good, light pollution, moderate pollution, heavy pollution and severe pollution).

During the four seasons, the percentage of days when the air quality was ‘excellent’, ‘good’ and ‘light pollution’ was higher for indoor air than for outdoor air. When the indoor air reached ‘moderate’, ‘heavy’ and ‘severe’ levels of pollution, it was still generally less polluted than the outdoor air, as shown in table 1. This trend demonstrates that outdoor air pollution is impacting indoor air quality, and the health of the occupants, although other indoor factors can affect or improve the internal environment.

Interestingly, our results showed that, whether outdoor or indoor, the air pollution in winter is the most serious.

Indoor PM2.5 pollution in buildings is characterized by easy control, long exposure time and significant health effects. Effective control of indoor PM2.5 pollution in buildings is an important way to reduce the risk of PM2.5 induced diseases. CABR has conducted a series of research works on indoor PM2.5 pollution control, including undertaking the "twelfth five-year plan" national science and technology research project "Study on the key technology of indoor particle pollution and its compound pollution control.”

Additionally, we have established the association standard "Technical specifications for the indoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution control” and we’ve published the book "Building Indoor PM2.5 Pollution Control" providing a reference for indoor PM2.5 pollution treatment.

However, there is still much work to be done to combat air pollution. We need to see effective indoor PM2.5 pollution control design and evaluation methods, innovative control technologies and products, operation and maintenance and management strategies - it will be a breath of fresh air when we do.

Mr Wang Qingqin is Vice Chair of China Green Building Council, and Vice President of the China Academy of Building Research (CABR). For more information, click here.

For more information about the link between air quality and the built environment, click here.

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Air Pollution Impacts Click here for information on the impacts of air pollution in the built environment Read More
Air Pollution Solutions Click here for information on the solutions to air pollution in the built environment Read More
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