Who are architects? Of course, the dictionary says that an architect is a person who plans, designs, and oversees the construction of buildings. When we dive into a deeper meaning, we realize that architects are not just needed for beautifying the city or town but also to adhere to the culture and principles of the place, the climatic and socio-cultural aspects as well as make the least possible negative impact on the environment. Moving to the topic of cities pollution, it is defined as the introduction of harmful elements, called pollutants to the environment. Studies say that the construction industry contributes a major part in the production of waste, every year. And to pollution as well. 

Can architects stop this negative impact on the environment? Yes! 

How can architects solve cities' pollution issues? - Sheet1
Can architects reduce pollution problems_©www.architizer.com

What are the reasons? | Cities pollution

There are many sources identified as the sources of pollution, especially in cities. With increasing urban landscape and rocketing skyscrapers, the construction industry and the number of architects have witnessed a boom in all major cities across the world. This had led to a subsequent increase in the pollution levels, mainly led by air pollution. 

The world health organization says that air pollution kills an estimate of seven million people, per annum. A growing economy is majorly identified by the increasing standards and the quantity of infrastructure. Therefore, construction cannot be stopped overnight. 

Let us look at some of the major contributors from the construction process into pollution:

  • Dust produced at the construction site: Not only is this dust a distraction to the ongoing work, but it can also lead to serious health issues, especially to the workers on site.
How can architects solve cities' pollution issues? - Sheet2
Cities pollution, Construction Dust_©www.designbuildings.co.uk
  • Volatile Organic Compounds: They are emitted from building materials like paints, varnishes, polishes, wall and floor finishes, etc. VOCs can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and many skin problems. If constantly exposed to higher quantities, they may cause lung irritation, damage to the liver, kidney, or central nervous system.
  • Wastage: Wastage of construction material leads to dumping of the waste products and inefficient use of produced materials.
  • Unnecessary usage of heating and air conditioning systems.

What are the solutions?

There are plenty of solutions to minimize the pollution of the environment due to construction in cities. But everything lies in the hands of an architect. He/she must take the right steps and right decisions. 

Here are some of the possible and effective solutions that can be applied:

  • Using materials having the least negative environmental impact: Indoor materials used in a structure should not only be aesthetic and eye-pleasing but also improve the air quality. The content of VOC must be as little as possible. 

For example, Low VOC(5 to 200 grams per liter), Zero VOC(less than 5 grams per liter), and natural paints (manufactured using natural products such as essential oils, tree resins, water, etc). Artificial and synthetic flooring materials(laminates and vinyl) should be avoided. 

Natural options such as tiles, slates, Kota stones should be incorporated in the design by architects. Local materials should be the first priority, This way, the building maintains the same language as the culture of the city while also serving its functionality.

How can architects solve cities' pollution issues? - Sheet3
Slate tone_©www.stoneandtileshoppe.com
  • Integration of greens: Plants are the best pollution controllers ever. Green pockets must be introduced by architects in the building interiors to maintain the indoor air quality and to uplit the moods of the inhabitants. Certain plants also have the ability to eliminate harmful components mixed up with the air. 

For example, Aloe vera removes chemicals, chrysanthemums eliminate toxins as well as ammonia, peace lilies remove benzene, carbon monoxide, etc.

How can architects solve cities' pollution issues? - Sheet4
Integration of Greens_©www.architizer.com
  • Efficient city planning: Spaces can be designed by architects to create good and healthy living conditions for their occupants. Green spaces should be introduced all over the cityscape. They remove carbon emissions emitted from vehicles. Efficient green spaces, when integrated cleverly along with the footpath and cycling tracks, can encourage citizens to make utmost use of those systems.
  • Good planning of the city transport system: This is an important factor through which architects can reduce the possible levels of pollution during the early stages of city planning itself. A proper public transport system designed by architects, when functioning effectively, can encourage citizens to make the best use of them and in turn, leading to a reduction in private vehicle usage. This naturally doesn’t give scope for an increase in the pollution levels in the city. 
Cities pollution, City transport system_©www.smartcitiesworld.net
  • Avoid demolition and rebuilding: The practice of retrofitting existing buildings must be adopted by architects. It is also said that ‘the greenest building is one that is already built’. Old, existing buildings must be restored rather than demolishing them and building new ones. This would just lead to a huge carbon footprint that cannot be erased.

Sustainable architecture is the next big thing out there. With the increasing urban population, stress-induced lifestyles, work-pressures-everything leads to stress. On top of this, pollution is that e thing which would hit us hard and can cause serious issues in the long run. Therefore, architects must resolve to work towards making their designs sustainable and capable enough to control pollution in cities.


Sahana M Swamy is a third year architecture student at BMS College of Architecture, Bangalore. Besides art and architecture, Sahana loves history, movies, acting and photography. She believes that writing helps to de-stress and re-discover oneself.