Articles | Volume 12, issue 11
Research article
07 Jun 2012
Research article |  | 07 Jun 2012

Vertical particle concentration profiles around urban office buildings

T. N. Quang, C. He, L. Morawska, L. D. Knibbs, and M. Falk

Abstract. Despite its role in determining both indoor and outdoor human exposure to anthropogenic particles, there is limited information describing vertical profiles of particle concentrations in urban environments, especially for ultrafine particles. Furthermore, the results of the few studies performed have been inconsistent. As such, this study aimed to assess the influence of vehicle emissions and nucleation formation on particle characteristics (particle number size distribution – PNSD and PM2.5 concentration) at different heights around three urban office buildings located next to busy roads in Brisbane, Australia, and place these results in the broader context of the existing literature. Two sets of instruments were used to simultaneously measure PNSD, particle number (PN) and PM2.5 concentrations, respectively, for up to three weeks at each building.

The results showed that both PNSD and PM2.5 concentration around building envelopes were influenced by vehicle emissions and new particle formation, and that they exhibited variability across the three different office buildings. During nucleation events, PN concentration in size range of <30 nm and total PN concentration increased (7–65% and 5–46%, respectively), while PM2.5 concentration decreased (36–52%) with height.

This study has shown an under acknowledged role for nucleation in producing particles that can affect large numbers of people, due to the high density and occupancy of urban office buildings and the fact that the vast majority of people's time is spent indoors. These findings highlight important new information related to the previously overlooked role of particle formation in the urban atmosphere and its potential effects on selection of air intake locations and appropriate filter types when designing or upgrading mechanical ventilation systems in urban office buildings. The results also serve to better define particle behaviour and variability around building envelopes, which has implications for studies of both human exposure and particle dynamics.

Final-revised paper