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GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE

Why do this?

 

As much as 60% of children’s daily pollution exposure comes from the playground and commute to school.

 

So tackling playground pollution - particularly if your playground fronts a busy road - is one of the ways schools can protect pupils from high levels of exposure.

 

How it can help
 

A green ivy screen or living wall positioned between the road and the school can help to reduce the amount of pollution that travels from the road - particularly in the area of the playground nearest the main road, which is usually the most polluted.

Only consider if…

 

Costs for green screens can be very high.

 

So we only recommend doing this if: 

  • Pollution at your school exceeds the legal limit (check with your local authority).

  • Or if your school boundary is within 50m of a busy road (say, + 3,000 vehicles / day).

  • The area of the school site nearest the road is well-used (if it’s not, for example if it’s only used as a car park, it may not be worth it).

  • You can get funding from the council or elsewhere.

STEP 1: FEASIBILITY

In this step you will

  • Consider whether green infrastructure is right for your school. 

  • Investigate costs from suppliers.

  • Find out if planning permission is required.

  • Look into case studies of other school green infrastructure projects.

Advantages

  • Sections of the school / playground next to main roads can be very polluted. Green infrastructure can help to significantly reduce pollution levels behind the screen (however it is uncertain how much it reduces pollution across the rest of the school site).

  • Some funding sources are available for this type of project, from time to time (see funding section below).

  • The whole community can be involved in fundraising and in the installation.

  • There are many other benefits to green infrastructure, such as: 

    • Noise reduction (as well as a barrier to pollution, it can also help to block out unpleasant traffic noise)

    • Aesthetic improvements

    • Biodiversity

    • Reduces urban heat island effect and smog.

Considerations:

  • You may need to apply for planning permission. Check with your local authority. 

  • Ivy is very effective at blocking and absorbing pollution, but it will usually take around 3 months for the screen to mature to a thickness that is effective.

  • Some believe that putting up green infrastructure is like sticking a plaster on the problem, rather than dealing with the source of pollution. 

  • Access to water must be considered, and ongoing maintenance. 

  • Research has shown screens can improve the pollution levels in the part of the school nearest the road, but research is still lacking as to whether it has an impact across the rest of the school site. Therefore only consider green screens if the area of the school nearest the road is well used.

In our Green Infrastructure Toolkit for schools, you will find resources that will help you at the feasibility and planning stage, including:

  • Guidance for schools which includes cost estimates, suppliers and case studies of other schools that have built green infrastructure and measured the impact.

  • Business case document for PTAs and schools which covers all the advantages and considerations.

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STEP 2: INSTALLTION

In order to understand what impact the screen has had on pollution, it is worth ensuring there are some monitoring tubes installed ASAP before the screen is put up. That way you will have a ‘baseline’ level of monitoring to compare to. 

 

The tubes are very low cost. We would suggest asking your local authority to ensure tubes are installed at these locations:

  • On the roadside so you can monitor how much pollution there is nearest the traffic.

  • Just on the inside boundary of the school, so you can see how much pollution drops off by, by the time it gets to your school.

  • About 10/20m back from the boundary, so you can monitor pollution levels as you get further away from the road.


See our guidance on monitoring here.

Installation

Pupils and parents enjoy getting stuck in with the installation, and a community event can be great way to raise awareness about pollution and get people excited about tackling air pollution at the school. It's also a way to involve and thank any sponsors who have helped to fundraise the project.

STEP 3: EVALUATION

Once the screen has matured (around 3 months after installation), you should see an increase in the difference between the roadside and the school boundary, as the plants should be absorbing and blocking some of the pollution from coming through. 

 

It’s important to note that pollution levels vary month by month, due to variable factors such as weather and wind direction. But by ensuring you are monitoring both sides of the wall, you will be able to see whether the installation of the green screen increases the % reduction in pollution from the road to the school inside boundary.

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