Chicago, First U.S. City to Line Streets with Smog-Eating Cement

  • 14 Apr 2013
  • by
  • Architecture News mini
lines Blue Island Avenue with the new cement. Via Design Build Source

There are many sustainable technologies designers can utilize these days to make a project more Earth- and people-friendly, but smog-eating cement isn’t the most talked-about – until now. The City of Chicago is pioneering the use of a revolutionary type of cement that is capable of eradicating the air around it of pollution, potentially reducing the levels of certain common pollutants by 20 – 70% depending on local conditions and the amount of exposed surface area.

isn’t exactly news – it was developed by the leading Italian cement maker Italcementi for the Vatican in honor of the 2,000th anniversary of the Christian faith. The Seat of the Catholic Church commissioned the construction of a new church to commemorate the event and wanted surface material that would retain its new appearance despite Rome‘s high levels of air pollution.

The cement that Italcementi developed uses titanium oxide that, when exposed to natural sunlight, triggers a chemical reaction that catalyses the decomposition of dirt or grime on the cement’s surface; thus, it is self-cleaning. What further research in Europe uncovered, however, was that this cement possessed pollution reduction properties that not even Italcementi could have foreseen, capable of cleaning up smog in adjacent air – up to 2.5 meters away – by breaking down the nitrogen oxides which are the result of burning fossil fuels.

Naturally, this makes the photocatalytic cement a perfect paving material as it successfully reduces the amount of toxins expelled by vehicles and inhaled by pedestrians. Italy and other areas of Europe have already paved many of their roads with the revolutionary material, but Chicago is reportedly the first city in America to adopt it, laying down a thin, permeable pavement for the bicycle and parking lanes on Blue Island Avenue and Cermak Road.

The cement could eventually become an integral part of the urban environment in this country, especially since the United States is notorious for its car culture. Whether or not the cement is cost-effective remains to be seen, but it is certainly a technological step forward towards a cleaner and healthier urban environment.

Reference: Design Build Source

Cite: Porada, Barbara. "Chicago, First U.S. City to Line Streets with Smog-Eating Cement" 14 Apr 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>
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  • Christopher Wilson

    CONCRETE = aggregate, cement, and water.

    CEMENT = glue (“a substance that sets and hardens independently, and can bind other materials together.”)

    They are NOT the same . . . Please do not confuse them like a layperson . . .

  • mike k

    the production of cement is responsible for 5-6% of man-made co2 emissions, so why not just use less cement/concrete in the first place! not to mention more efficient vehicles like those SUV’s…..

    • Salim Riley

      Concrete is going to be produced no matter what. We can’t use less because there is no alternative with similar physical characteristics, not yet anyway. Why not make a vice a little better?

  • David O’Flynn

    Due the albedo effect the use of concrete when compared to asphalt or other dark pavement surfaces will reduce the heat island effect and global warming by reflecting more of the suns energy as light as opposed to heat. At night the improved reflectivity reduces the intensity of street lighting required, with significant energy savings and brighter safer streets.

  • Joe

    not the first city in America. Mexico city was first.