Orproject proposes huge sealed Bubble of clean air for Beijing


February 26, 2014

Bubbles is a huge sealed canopy filled with clean air proposed for Beijing

Bubbles is a huge sealed canopy filled with clean air proposed for Beijing

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According to a report by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, environmental conditions in China's capital are so bad as to be "almost unfavorable for human living." Officials have recently passed new laws and set aside billions of yuan to try and curb air pollution in Beijing, which has been recording some of its worst smog levels ever. Architecture firm Orproject has proposed the construction of a sealed canopy filled with clean air. Bubbles would cover a park and botanical garden, providing a healthy, temperature- and humidity-controlled oasis.

In addition to providing locals with a clean, green sanctuary, Orproject suggests that surrounding buildings could also be connected to Bubble's "controlled air system." Apartments, offices, retail spaces and, in particular, medical facilities could all benefit from the idea, were it created.

"The geometry of the light-weight structural system has been generated using an algorithm that simulates the development of veins in leaves or butterfly wings," says Orproject on its website. "The heating and cooling of the air is done through a ground source heat exchange system. Electricity for the project can be generated by solar cells integrated into the canopy surface."

Orproject says its project is made feasible by using ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) as a construction material. ETFE is a transparent, lightweight and strong material that can be made into panels. It is used in this way at the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK.

"The concept for bubbles was developed as a theoretical proposal," Orproject's Rajat Sodhi tells Gizmag. "Orproject has developed research in venation systems and the use of this geometry for large-span structures. Bubbles is a confluence of these ideas and the need for clean air in polluted cities across the developing world especially in countries like China and India."

Sources: Orproject, SSAP

About the Author
Stu Robarts Stu is a tech writer based in Liverpool, UK. He has previously worked on global digital estate management at Amaze and headed up digital strategy for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). He likes cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and RSS feeds. All articles by Stu Robarts

Its been done. See that Simpsons episode.


um shouldn't all the pictures have smog outside the bubble? I mean if it's blue skies outside the bubble why do you have the bubble?


It's the beginning of the Caves of Steel! Asimov, right again.

Tom Raguar

Maybe they should just clean up the crap coming out of their stacks and not try to bandaid the problem with a bubble. We all share the air that China is bent on destroying because the air circulates around the entire planet. What is wrong with those people anyway? They are killing off tigers, elephants, gorillas, and sharks like there is no end to these highly endangered creatures. Are they completely clueless and uncaring?


Depressing. We "intelligent" beings of this planet got together to create vast industries that were built without care, polluting everything, but creating some wealth for some. Next step: Use more of that industry to create zones that fix the pollution for some (those of us who happened to end up with some of the wealth) while screwing up the outside even more, creating more materials waste, energy waste and toxic waste from the filters for these spaces. Upside: The economy will grow. Those of us on the inside will hail that. And I'm sure we'll have some advanced lighting that can create the perfect blue sky appearance at the flick of a switch.


But China makes the best stuff! It's pretty much the defacto factory for the whole world, and everyone knows that factories make a mess.

And, for everyone who didn't read the article - this is about Beijing, which is in China - not all of China...


Sounds like Ecoban city idea for anime Wonderful Days (Sky Blue)

Hermanis Rezgals

Buellrider, China has enormous energy requirements to sustain a 1.3B population, but has a third world economy and air quality. China uses 77T BTU's energy per year extracted from coal, oil and wood products. The US uses 101T BTU's energy per year with a 317M population, but with the EPA requirements still has cleaner air than in the 60's & 70's! India has a population of 1.2B and some of the most densely populated cities yet is not as polluted as some districts in China. Why, I don't know! Westerly winds in the northern latitudes pushes China's air to the US.

Jeffrey Edwards

This is like giving somebody with a painful cavity morphine instead of a filling. China needs to install emission controls on their industry and cars.


Maybe they could just start canning fresh air and sell it. Seems like it would be the easier route.


Just saw a report today about Beijing air. U. S. standards put out by the AQMD say 20 on there scale was as dirty as we should put up with. On that same scale Beijing was 540 and it leaves a metallic taste in your mouth. Yeah. So they took a train south and after 45 min the rating was 620. eventually it slowely got better, In 450 miles it was all the way down to 80. There's a lot of people that want to close our EPA so corporations don't have to do what's right. I don't know if we would get to 540 but I would bet we would get to 80 and they still would try to justify it.


@christopher: I've been living in Suzhou for about 3 years now, and 3 years ago, the pollution here was far from what I'm seeing this year. It's not just Beijing, it includes Shanghai, Tianjin, and most of the major cities in China. If ever the bubble thing goes into production, hopefully the government woud be kind enough to have it built not only in the capital (but knowing them, it might not happen).


A far better approach would be to build one of these around each of their coal plants and then maybe the rest of China would become liveable. Of course the coal plants would then self extinguish which hints at what the real solution is.


When we, the developed nations, are prepared to export our 'dirty' manufacturing to China, we must be culpable to a greater or lesser extent for China's pollution that its manufacturing and supporting energy generation produces.

Climate change is now beginning to snap at our ankles and people are waking up to the realities of what our children and beyond are going to experience.. Once that realisation has a bearing on voting habits, which in turn will drive policy, or at least becomes a driver of the direction policy needs to take, perhaps we can have global solutions.

It will mean that those nations that are polluting the planet to feed the needs of the nations that have exported their pollution might have to charge more for their wares with all that that will do to the world economy. The issue is too big for that to be a cause for inaction.

What a pity that we have left it so late before waking up, perhaps too late if Professor Lovelock is to be believed. One thing that can be said, and said with conviction, is that sticking plaster remedies such as that proposed in this article that only delay the impetus for change are part of the problem, not the solution to it.

Mel Tisdale

I have been to China a few times. Now living in Bangkok. This is a totally MORONIC idea!


We in the west have the nerve to diss China for its pollution levels, like a child who hates his provider who literally has to bust its butt to try and keep the spoiled kid comfortable and happy.

We have a standard of living that is out of proportion to sustainability, but don't hesitate to criticize the "others" for their wanting to survive more comfortably and strive to be as lucky as we are. Forty years ago, China was mostly bicycles. Now the streets are jammed with mostly cars. With four times the population, it's no wonder that things have become what they are. They're taking many steps to alleviate their situation, but it's inevitably a process that will take time and an enormous effort. We have a standard of living that is LARGE thanks to their hard work, but love to COMPLAIN about how they steal our jobs and the filthiness of their air quality. Gimme a break people.

It's the West's big corporations! Monsters with insatiable appetites! They've sold us out, and are continuing to do so as we get indoctrinated to believe that only we and our selfish needs matter. As a human species, it is natural to have a survival instinct that borders on greed, and the big Corps know just how to manipulate this trait.


Pollution regulation will take many years to come about. This park may only take a year or two. So in the meantime this is a good Band Aid. After all wounds heal but Band Aids help. This will help. Would you prefer children play in the smog until someone does something about it or have someplace like this to go to in the meantime. I think people will get feed up with the smog when they realize what the air should look like. Image stepping out of this park and into the smog filled street. Seeing the immediate difference I believe will bring this issue to light, I know I would be livid and making my opinion heard immediately.

By the way: England had London looking like this in the 50's USA had the Steel/rust belt cities looking like this in the 70's USA had LA looking like this in the 80's China and India currently have cities looking like this today but like I said previously citizens of these areas will get feed up with this and demand a cleaner environment as was the case in England and the USA.

Matt Fletcher

Yes we all know corporations are bad and the root of all evil. So the electronic device you use to enter this drivel is built by garden gnomes and powered strictly ban solar cells created by magic?


how is this not a giant greenhouse going to 150F in summer?


Larry English

Why don't they just build towers modeled on home room air cleaners ( static charge plates system ) about 1,000 feet tall,and CLEAN THE AIR.Power needs for the system would be minimum,and they could shut down the system,like daily or weekly,to clean the plates with a liquid,and the liquid could be recycled into road pavement filler,etc.etc. Place the towers,one tower per square kilometer should do it. L.A.,and a few other cities here in the U.S.A. could use the same "treatment" .


Gotta love a solution to a social issue that only benefits the wealthy portion of the society. Perhaps if London had this in the 50's or the US in the 70's then "The people" would have accepted their fate.

Matthew Bailey

It's funny that the picture shows just a few white folks, when they're proposing a bubble for a city of more than 21 million people.

How big would the bubble have to be to provide breathable air for 21 million people, especially being at a single, ground level? Since much of the population lives in highrises, it would have to be bigger than Beijing itself by many factors.

And what level of energy would it take to keep it going--and how much extra pollution would it create--making the air outside it even worse.


I am SO glad to see China's government finally taking air cleanliness and the environment so seriously. If they keep on in the directions I've seen them heading in lately, they may become the dominant world power/world leader.

The U.S. has mainly held onto that title because it already held it, but with Republicans slowing down as much progress as possible and poo-pooing any and all proof of global warming, ozone damage, etc. etc. etc., the U.S. has practically stopped progressing. In many ways we've taken steps backward.

Funding for pure research and education have suffered more and more in recent decades as those with power have decided that military and empowering corporate giants has taken priority.

Universities, which used to exist to create our upper crust, to encourage creativity and to expand science and the arts have now largely become cookie cutter "worker factories;" assembly lines putting out cogs for our workforce.

Gone are the days when Americans understood the importance of encouraging creativity, of expanding our minds, of making us better people.

It shows right here in our schools. Walk into a college, especially in any technical or medical field, and it's common to find an Asian or Indian instructor teaching a class of largely Asian and Indian students.

China is stepping up where we're not. If they can fix their human rights issues (which are getting better), very soon we'll be looking to them for world leadership. If America doesn't straighten up and get its priorities right, we'll become a has-been.

Dave Andrews

I can just see gated communities in the future that have bubbles with clean for the wealthy while the poor get stuck breathing the bad air outside the bubbles. Go Anthropocene!

Nelson Chick

Now, on a less rant-like note, I wonder how they account for severe weather. Mainly wind. Could these hold up to powerful wind storms without taking damage? What about resistance to sun-damage, or for that matter, damage from being constantly exposed to the pollution? What about cleaning?

I lived in Burbank, CA. (a suburb of Los Angeles, for those who don't know). The air was so polluted that we'd have to regularly clean the yellowish, brownish gunk from the windows and window sills. When flying into L.A., you could see the brown haze over the city. That area's highest recorded 24-hour average PM2.5 is only 43. Beijing's is over 400. The canopies would get filthy in a matter of weeks, and if not tended to, solid colored, allowing no light in within a year or two. I wonder how they plan to combat that issue.

Dave Andrews

This scenario is quite dramatic. Akin to that of a movie or video game, where people can only breathe healthy air inside a man-made sphere, else they would risk suffering a slow and painful death outside. It's truly unexpected and saddening to see reality being so similar to what was once science-fiction. This measure does not tackle the root of the problem, and I'm afraid only works against political resolve for finding real solutions.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret

This is a ridiculous proposal, not worth the time to comment.

It's a systems problem, and needs a systems solution, not a Band-Aid.

Follow the money, publicize the issues that keep regulation from being effective, organize an economic boycott until changes are made and effective.


The cycle of corruption goes round and round, and gets bigger with apathy and smaller when citizens unite


I've lived around the globe from Somalia to England, Argentina to Indonesia and so on. Point is how to curb our corruption. As adventuremuffin says a united citizenry could fight the corruption but how do we keep those citizens from becoming corrupt as you give individuals your support to speak for you the citizens?

Curiously, in many countries the corruption is rampant at all levels whereas in the USA we seem to tolerate it only at the high levels of government? If a local cop was caught doing some of the things our miscreant congress men and women do he would be vilified, dragged through the courts and off to jail. Congress? Slap on the wrist and a promotion.

I live for the day when we the people take back control of a government ( nothing more than a certain class of people who once in power stop at nothing to remain) which has run amuck!

Bryan Haslett

See 1970s movie Logans Run about Domed City then. Chinese would have to place domes over sites &pump out smog alone to make work or use any winds heading west to Pacific to move smog layers into the sea or head smog North. Need huge pumps to evac smog. Notice cruise ship cigar lounges have huge air pumps to remove smoke, since lounges are housed deep inside hull vs near top deck spaces. FYI

Stephen Russell

pardon me if i'm wrong, but would it not be cheaper and easier to just stop polluting so much?


Get this; The filter will be powered by external mobile diesel generators - this will guarantee clean air to park dwellers even when there is a power shortage.

Marcus Kornmehl

The unworkable part of the Giant Bubble Solution is finding about TEN cubic KILOMETERS of suitable available AIR ! If it was available, you would not have an AIR pollution problem !

A breath of fresh air

I would like to know where they are going to get the clean air to fill it with, How they will get rid of the CO2 being breathed out by inhabitants and how they will cool the whole thing. Sounds like an interesting engineering job.

Ronald Chappell

The air was remarkably clean for the Olympics' because they banned 300,000 high-polluting vehicles, coal fires power plants and factories for some time before the games. The emission standards for the cars is less than what they were in L.A. in the 70's. Spent several weeks in Beijing a year before the games and you could hardly see a couple blocks. They build the high tech stuff we design but do not put it to use in their own country.

Dan Watt

Given the level of political ranting in earlier comments maybe this comment is worth making.

I live in South Africa. As you may know everyone hated South Africa for being an evil apartheid country before Nelson Mandela, because all the rich guys lived in nice affluent suburbs, and all the other people (including all those people who they needed to support their lives of comfort and wealth) were not allowed to, had to have passbooks to enter their suburbs, and had no vote in terms of the policies that governed their country

Everyone agrees that was wrong.

So look at it on a global scale. We have a single world economy, where all the rich guys live in nice affluent countries, and all the other people (including all those people who they need to support their lives of comfort and wealth) are not allowed to, have to have passports to enter their countries, and have no vote in terms of the policies that govern their world.

Um. What was the difference again??

So yes ... exporting the problems doesn't mean you aren't still responsible for them.


Maybe we should stop trying to treat the symptoms of massive pollution and STOP POLLUTING the damn planet.

Cynthia Gurin

A dystopian China, with the elite in domed cities and the rest outside, like in the short-lived TV series "Terra Nova."

Gill Avila
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