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The World Green Building Council’s Plant a Sensor campaign: what, why and how?

This week, the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), alongside its global network of member Green Building Councils and partners announce the official launch of the ‘Plant a Sensor’ air quality monitoring campaign. Plant a sensor is a global air quality campaign led by the WorldGBC, in collaboration with RESET and in partnership with the Wilson Centre and Earth Day Network. The initiative is a call to action within the WorldGBC’s 'Air Quality in the Built Environment' campaign, aspiring to increase access to reliable, vital air quality information centred on the buildings and construction industry and aimed at triggering action towards the development of a sustainable built environment.

Why, you may ask, is collecting this data so important for the WorldGBC global network? Since when has air pollution been such a concern for the built environment movement? And how could enthusiastic supporters help to further the ambition of this campaign?

How does Plant a Sensor work?

Participants from around the world are invited to install air quality monitor(s) inside and/or outside of building, following an expert-led and peer-reviewed methodology, and encouraged to disclose real-time air quality data on a public facing platform.

This platform will provide invaluable information to researchers and policy makers about pollution in our cities and buildings and lead to more informed decision making regarding with regards to the built environment. Through the Plant a Sensor data set and our wider work around air quality in the built environment, the campaign will clearly demonstrate the huge role green buildings presents.

Do buildings really matter when it comes to air pollution?

Yes. It’s at the very heart of our campaign.

Buildings, throughout their entire life cycle, are a significant and often under-acknowledged source of air pollution. This pollution is taking place within our buildings, in cities and surrounding areas, and contributing to the crisis on a global scale. Poor air quality is causing serious harm to human health, biodiversity and worsening global climate change, and we know that over 90% of us are exposed to high levels of pollution on a daily basis (Source: World Health Organisation).

Outdoor air pollution from the built environment range comes from the energy production required to construct and power our buildings (39% of global energy-related carbon emissions are attributed to buildings), the particulate matter created by heating and powering buildings, the complex compounds released by mechanisms used to cool our buildings (HFCs, CFCs, etc). Not to mention the emissions created from the construction process, transportation of building materials and end of life process.

But outdoor emissions are only half the story – for a population that spends 90% of its time indoors, the air we breathe within buildings can be considered even more important for improving human health. The relationships between in and outdoor air quality are not distinct (outdoor pollution is known to regularly contaminate indoor environments) but a body of research highlights the importance of healthy levels of chemical exposure, internal ventilation and building fabric quality that can help to manage our exposure to air-borne pollutants and compounds that negatively impact our health and wellbeing.

By addressing the way we design, build, operate and exist in our buildings, we can play a hugely substantial role in helping to combat our global air pollution crisis. When the scale of the built environment is considered to include transportation and urban design, the scope and opportunity for healthy, sustainable change further heightens in magnitude.

How can people get involved in the campaign?

Raising awareness and generating action are the two core facets of WorldGBC’s Air Quality in the Built Environment campaign, and through our global network we invite the industry to share this message and commit to working alongside us to reduce the contribution of our sector to the global pollution crisis.

WorldGBC welcomes individuals, organisations and regions to participate in the Plant a Sensor campaign. This week, the campaign platform has launched with pilot projects from around the world, and we are committed to working with our partners to increase the functionality of the platform to increase access and ease of participation for all interested parties across the world. Please see the Participant Manual and accompanying information on the WorldGBC website.


03/03/2020