These are the buildings of our not-too-distant future, according to Arconic, a US-based materials science and engineering company. And it all boils down to one proprietary, patent-pending process.
Arconic – a spin-off from aluminium manufacturer Alcoa – has developed a titanium dioxide coating called EcoClean. When applied to the pre-painted surface of Alcoa’s Reynobond aluminium composite material, EcoClean will help buildings clean themselves and the air around them.
When exposed to sunlight, the coating makes the aluminium façade cladding super hydrophilic (water-loving) so that rainwater and other moisture that hits the surface collapse flat, instead of beading up.
This allows the organic particles of dirt and grime to “slide right off”.
The coating’s titanium dioxide, a common compound used in a diversity of products from quick-setting concrete to tile grout, also acts as a catalyst to break down organic matter.
According to Arconic, electrons within the titanium dioxide EcoClean coating are “agitated” when exposed to UV light, creating a higher state of energy.
“That excess energy transfers to oxygen and water molecules in the air to form free radicals, which attack any organic material on or near the EcoClean surface,” the company explains.
This includes Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), or smog, which is broken down into a harmless nitrate when attacked by the generated free radicals.
"The functional coating provides aesthetics, it provides maintenance benefits, and it also provides a benefit to the surrounding environment by reducing the content of pollutants around it," Sherri McCleary, one of Arconic's chief materials scientists, tells Business Insider.
CASE STUDY: ICEBERG APARTMENTS
Photography by Mikkel Frost. Image courtesy of JDS Architects
Designed by JDS Architects, CEBRA, SeARCH and Louie Paillard, the $89.4-million Iceberg apartment tower in Aarhus, Denmark is part of a renovation and reuse project for a defunct container terminal at Aarhus Harbour.
The project contains 208 flats, a third of which have been designated as affordable rental housing in a bid to integrate a diversity of social profiles in the complex.
Photography by Mikkel Frost
A key challenge for the design team was to harmonise the density of the apartments with the limited height of the structure, without losing water views for all 208 units.
This was resolved by cutting the building in a criss-cross motion, which evokes the impression of floating icebergs.
The façades of the buildings were clad with shining white Reynolux Building aluminium sheets which in turn were coated with smog-eating EcoClean. Altogether, 10,000sqm of Reynolux with EcoClean panels were applied, which the company says equates to the cleansing power of 800 trees.
“That’s enough cleaning power to offset the smog created by the pollution output of four cars every day,” says Arconic.