Measuring air quality around construction sites in Croydon

Croydon, in South London, is having a major makeover, a £5.25bn regeneration programme which will include 20 construction sites. To aide the smooth implementation of this huge programme, Central Government, Croydon Council, the Greater London Authority and Transport for London have partnered to finance and deliver a series of interventions, from transport links to energy, from smart city initiatives to social infrastructure facilities.

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One of the main concerns of Croydon Council is the effect of all this work on the air quality in the area.

With so many developments using construction machinery and generating increased construction vehicle traffic, one of our key priorities is to understand their impact on air quality in their surroundings to anticipate and control pollution peaks in a proactive way.

However with very little if any data available on construction site related air pollution, we needed to find a solution to collect quality data that would help us and our partners take preventative rather than remedy actions to reduce exposure to air pollution.

At the same time Digital Catapult was planning an innovation programme for local authorities to encourage them to use the LoRa network (a Low Power Wide Area Network, especially suited for IoT connectivity). Croydon Council became one of four Local Authorities involved in the programme and in spring 2018 an engagement exercise started with companies interested in providing monitoring services. In June, they all pitched at Digital Catapult HQ.

AirPublic was delighted to be chosen as the supplier of monitoring equipment. It was excellent timing; we had just completed the accelerator programme at Bethnal Green Ventures, and we were able to invest their seed funding into redesigning and manufacturing V0.4 of our SensorBox; more sensors inside and a slicker weather-proof case.

After a period of calibration we installed our devices on lamp posts and inside perimeter walls of construction sites. We added features to our dashboard, including a wind rose and soon an alert system.

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The Council writes:

We have now been collecting data for a few weeks, using LoRaWAN technology and so far:

  • the technology is proving efficient and reliable for this type of monitoring, we have not had dropped connectivity or data loss since we went live
  • a first iteration of a dashboard showing live data is being tested by our pollution and construction logistics teams, and an alerts system for when levels exceed acceptable levels of pollution is now being iterated.

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Once we get more data history, we will be able to analyse it, whilst taking into account more of the context of onsite activity. This will help us understand the impact of construction sites at different stages of development, from demolition to construction, with the aim to provide reliable evidence to support future planning negotiations and the development of sustainable construction practice.

We are still in the early stages of our pilot. There are already many lessons learnt and we will be capturing them and sharing more on them, and our progress and findings, as the pilot unfolds.

 

Our thanks to Marion Cugnet at Croydon.digital, Linda Johnson and Alex Polkington at Croydon Council for ensuring a successful launch of the project.

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