Spearheaded by Southside Business Improvement District (BID), Atkins and Staffordshire University and part funded by The Gooch Estate, the green wall scheme was installed in May 2015 along the A38 Bristol Street central reservation. Around 140 metres of vertical green vegetation was installed alongside one of the city’s busiest gateways in the hope of removing a significant quantity of airborne particles caused by motor vehicles, which can lead to serious health problems.
Following installation, Staffordshire University monitored how much particulate matter was trapped by the greenery. Researchers found that the quantity of particulates intercepted by the green screens was likely to exceed 145 million particles per square metre every day, with each leaf removing perhaps three-quarters of a million particles per day.
Chris Rance, principal landscape architect at Atkins’ Birmingham office, said: “Since installation, researchers at Staffordshire University have been monitoring the amount of particulate matter intercepted by the green screens. Using samples collected from foliage they examined them using an environmental scanning electron microscope. The results are unambiguous and demonstrate that the green screens are intercepting a significant quantity of highly polluting airborne particulates. They also look much more attractive than the bare metal guardrails they are fitted to. We hope that the installation can be extended to the full length of Bristol Street, past Bristol Street Motors to the Belgrave Middleway, and that a funder will step forward to enable this to happen.”
Julia Chance, Southside BID manager, added: “In a time when Birmingham is achieving record visitor numbers there is very little being done to improve the ‘livability’ in the city in the way of pollution reduction.
“Air pollution can have severe health impacts including increased mortality from a range of diseases such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease. We’re delighted at the results from the pilot scheme. With this being the first time a green screen has been created using an existing pedestrian guardrail, the results have far exceeded our expectations.
Over the past five years, Southside has seen a wealth of new businesses move in to the district which has resulted in increased visitor numbers. It is for this reason that we invested in the green wall screen to ensure Southside is both greener and cleaner for all those who reside here.”
Since compiling results Southside BID, Atkins and Staffordshire University have initiated conversations with Birmingham City Council about extending the green wall screen
Cllr Lisa Trickett, Cabinet Member for Sustainability at Birmingham City Council, said: “The city faces some well-publicised challenges over the issue of air quality, so we are keen to embrace any initiatives that make a positive difference to the lives of our citizens. This is one such example and is exactly the kind of thing we could look at rolling out in other areas of the city in future.”