School seeks help to install pioneering ‘green’ pollution barrier designed by University of Sheffield researchers

A school is appealing for help to install a pioneering barrier of plants and shrubs, designed by researchers from the University of Sheffield, that will filter pollution from passing traffic and improve air quality of inner-city schools.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 24 April, 2019, 08:41
Staff at Hunters Bar Infants with the BREATHE researchers

Hunters Bar Infant School, situated at the busy intersection of Sharrow Vale and Junction Road, are looking for businesses who can help provide essential equipment, surveys and ground-works ahead of the installation of an innovative screen which will wrap around their playground.

The screen is being designed by academics from the University of Sheffield's BREATHE project and will see the planting of a 60m barrier – made from a custom mix of plants designed to reflect and absorb pollution – take place in the late summer following air quality monitoring tests.

Catherine Carr, Headteacher of Hunters Bar Infants alongside PhD researcher Maria del Carmen Redondo Bermúdez

The hope is that the work will raise awareness of the challenges faced by inner-city schools and that the BREATHE barrier could provide a solution for other schools looking to counter air pollution.

Catherine Carr, Headteacher of Hunters Bar Infant School, said: “Air quality around schools is still a relatively young topic, although increasingly we find it making headlines, particularly in London, as school communities are becoming more vocal about its effects.

“While air pollution levels at Hunter’s Bar Infant School are not any worse than other schools in the city, we don’t want to be complacent.

Hunters Bar Infants pupils showing their support for the barrier

“We believe that by partnering with the University of Sheffield’s BREATHE project in this research, we can help other schools find workable solutions and be part of real change for children locally, nationally and even internationally.”

She added: “Our school has a long history of being proactive when it comes to environmental initiatives and advocating the health and well-being benefits of green spaces.

“We have an active eco team in the school and fantastic support from parents who are championing the vision to green our school playground.”

The one-of-a-kind barrier is being designed by PhD researcher Maria del Carmen Redondo Bermúdez, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape Architecture and the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures.

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By trialling different combinations of plants, Maria will design the green barrier that acts as a sophisticated filtration system for air pollution.

She said: “Different plants have different capacities to reduce air pollution, depending on the characteristics of their leaves and bark. By using a mix of plant types – trees, shrubs, climbers and herbaceous perennials – we will try to cover all the mechanisms for pollution mitigation.

“Planted together they will form a barrier against the wind that brings contaminants to the playground.”

She also aims to assess the wider well-being benefits the plant screen will have on the Hunter’s Bar pupils and will work with some of them to find out how the transformed playground affects them.

Parents and staff have raised £10,000 to help buy plants, seedlings and equipment – with pupils already looking forward to ‘planting parties’ to help transform their playground.

The plants will be grown naturally, in a narrow strip around the perimeter of the playground, reducing costs involved in both installation and maintenance.

The BREATHE project is funded by the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures and involves academics from the University of Sheffield and the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

Head of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape Architecture, Professor Anna Jorgensen, said: “If we can show that our green barrier makes a positive difference to air quality and children's health and wellbeing, there's great potential to involve other schools locally, nationally and internationally.”

To help donate services or equipment to Hunter’s Bar Infant School as part of the #GoGoGreen campaign, contact enquiries@huntersbar-inf.sheffield.sch.uk