A Building That Eats Smog

Take that, air pollution

Palazzo Italia

In addition to buildings like Palazzo Italia, air-clearing concrete could pave sidewalks, highways, or other places with heavy pollution.George Mirecourt/Corbis

A new construction material could make the concrete jungle function a bit more like a natural one. Palazzo Italia, which debuted at the 2015 World’s Fair in Milan, is the first building made of concrete that’s designed to clear the air.

The facade, a mixture of cement and titanium dioxide, captures nitrogen-oxide pollution and converts it into a harmless salt that easily rinses off the walls when it rains.

Palazzo Italia also consumes 40 percent less energy than a conventional building of its size, and emits zero air pollution.

“We wanted the building to be an osmotic organism,” says lead architect Michele Molè—like a tree that breathes in carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen.

140: Energy, in kilowatts, generated by the building’s photovoltaic glass roof, enough to power nearly 11,000 CFL lightbulbs

This article was originally published in the January/February 2016 issue of Popular Science.