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How Southampton is aiming to absorb pollution and boost people’s mood with an ultra-green urban roundabout

Living walls are appearing all over the place, especially in cities. They can be a positive addition, both indoors and outdoors, and they bring a number of benefits.

As well as the striking visual appearance of the greenery, the plants absorb sound, are thought to remove pollutants from the air, and can help to improve people’s mental health.

So hats off to Balfour Beatty Living Places, green infrastructure firm Biotecture and Southampton City Council, who are working on the first living wall on a major highway in the UK.

Following on from the complete reconstruction of the foundations of Millbrook roundabout, along with its resurfacing, the council has committed to putting back twice as many plants and trees as they had removed during the project.

And part of their approach to this has been to create a hydroponic living wall – a vertical installation where plants and foliage will grow without the need for soil.

One of the benefits of such a structure is that it will remove a proportion of air pollutants by absorbing carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, as well as hazardous particulate matter.

Balfour Beatty will take responsibility for installing the foundations and six-metre-high steel frame, while Biotecture will be responsible for design and positioning of the living wall.

Computer-generated images created ahead of the project show lush, green walls on the columns supporting the road above the roundabout. Balfour Beatty Living Places managing director, Steve Helliwell, described the flagship project as “A first in the UK” and one that “has the potential to transform the way we sustainably deliver highways schemes across the industry”.

Richard Sabin, managing director of Biotecture, added: “Yet to be seen on the UK road network, the Millbrook green columns are evocative of the Via Verde highway pillars in Mexico City, and they’ll help with air pollution reduction.”

The innovative project is due to be completed this autumn so, assuming it is on track, we would expect to see pictures of the completed living wall shortly.

In the meantime, if you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please do get in touch.

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