UCLA team finds that space between buildings helps with the clearing of air pollution

March 23, 2021

When buildings are aligned in rows with no gaps between them, pedestrians are usually exposed to higher concentrations of vehicle-related, ultrafine particles that harm human health, according to a study co-authored by UCLA air quality expert Suzanne Paulson.

Image Source: Tuxyso/Wikimedia Commons

“It turns out that the most important factor for determining how severe street level pollution will be is whether there is space between buildings,” said Paulson, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and a member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. It didn’t matter whether that empty space was green space or parking lots; just that the open space allows air to circulate and clear out the pollution.

The findings of the study could potentially help guide urban planners, building owners and other decision-makers — particularly in rapidly developing cities.

Read More in UCLA Newsroom.

Study authors:

Suzanne Paulson, professor, atmospheric and oceanic sciences, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Liye Zhu, postdoctoral scholar, atmospheric and oceanic sciences

Dilhara Ranasinghe, senior environmental scientist, California Department of Pesticide Regulation; former graduate student researcher, atmospheric and oceanic sciences

Marcelo Chamecki, professor, atmospheric and oceanic sciences

Michael J. Brown, Los Alamos National Laboratory