Introducing the Green Infrastructure for Roadside Air Quality (GI4RAQ) Platform: Estimating Site-Specific Changes in the Dispersion of Vehicular Pollution Close to Source

Helen Pearce, James G. Levine, Xiaoming Cai, A. Rob Mackenzie

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The benefits of ‘green infrastructure’ are multi-faceted and well-documented, but estimating those of individual street-scale planting schemes at planning can be challenging. This is crucial to avoid undervaluing proposed schemes in cost–benefit analyses, and ensure they are resilient to ‘value engineering’ between planning and implementation. Here, we introduce prototype software enabling urban practitioners to estimate the site-specific air quality impacts of roadside vegetation barriers: highly localised changes in pollutant concentrations due to changes in the dispersion of vehicular emissions close to source. We summarise the recent shift in understanding regarding the impacts of vegetation on urban air pollution towards changes in pollutant dispersion (cf. deposition) and describe our prototype software, offering rapid estimates thereof. First tests of the underlying model’s performance are promising, reproducing: annual mean NO2 and PM2.5 concentrations in a street canyon (Marylebone Road, London, UK) to within 10% and 25%, respectively; and changes in pollutant concentrations of the right order of magnitude behind roadside barriers in a wind tunnel simulation of a street canyon and a real open-road environment. However, the model underestimates the benefits of a barrier in a simulated street canyon under perpendicular wind conditions. The prototype software is a first step towards informing practitioners of the site-specific impacts of vegetation barriers, which should always be additional to (i.e., no substitute for) essential emission reductions. The code is open-source to engage further researchers in its continued development.
Original languageEnglish
Article number769
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, grant numbers NE/S00940X/1, NE/S013814/1, NE/S00582X/1, and NE/S003487/1; HP’s contribution was further supported by studentship grant, NE/R011265/1. The APC was funded by the University of Birmingham.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • nitrogen dioxide
  • particulate matter
  • air quality
  • road transport
  • exposure
  • public health
  • dispersion modelling
  • planning
  • natural capital
  • nature-based solutions


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