Former Europol office building to be transformed into a healthy residential care complex (design proposal).

Polluted air in the city. It is now clear that there exists a link between living near busy roads and lung and respiratory diseases. Air pollution is among the top three causes of disease and death in the Netherlands, along with smoking and obesity. Children and the elderly are particularly susceptible.

Atelier PRO completed the second ‘research by design’ project that focused on the question: can architects contribute to clean air in and around a building? The recently completed study showed that this ambition is possible using the Clean Air Toolbox, which can also be applied to existing buildings.

In 2013 atelier PRO designed a school located on Antwerp’s busy ring road. This unique design for a new school was entitled Clean Air School. This design also resulted in a toolbox with measures that provided insight into spatial solutions for improving both indoor and outdoor air quality.

In 2014 we undertook a bigger challenge: could we also apply the toolbox to existing buildings? Together with a group of experts we investigated which tools were needed and to what extent they affected a specific building in the Hague. Located at a prominent site in the city, a bottleneck of roads on the busy Raamweg, is the characteristic former Europol building. Now still an office building, it will be one of the government buildings designated for redevelopment. Our research case proposes a design that repurposes this building for the elderly and those in need of care. Precisely the target group that, alongside children, suffers the most from polluted air. From every Clean Air Tool, we made an analysis and took a site-specific approach. To what extent is this feasible for Raamweg? On the basis of a design scenario we discussed the proposed approach with experts, leading to the fine-tuning and expansion of the toolbox. Moreover, we now have better insight into the extent in which to approach existing buildings in a 'Clean Air' way.

The result of the Clean Air Refit research is published on atelier PRO’s website.

Traffic is the major source of air pollution in the Hague. We could wait until everybody drives electric cars, but our investigation actually shows that action can already be taken now. Also the existing built environment can be smartly transformed to reduce the concentration of air pollutants. The result is a healthy living environment – also on polluted parts of the city.