Poppy Pippin, one of Grand Designs' 2019 top five green heroes, is improving air quality in London with moss.
Pippen began the project when she was a product design student at Kingston University. She had spent her whole life in London and knew that she wanted her final project to improve the city’s air pollution.
“I looked at vertical wall gardens and saw that they were good for air pollution but that they used a lot of water,” said Pippen, “but I kept noticing that moss grew through cracks cement, concrete and bricks so I started to look into it.”
Pippen found that moss was really good at absorbing carbon dioxide and that it didn’t require as much water or maintenance as vertical gardens.
She used smooth terracotta clay to create tiles and started experimenting with patterns that would accommodate moss growth.
“First I was using completely random patterns, but once I started using the university’s CVC machine, I realised that if I made a curved pattern that used a quarter of the tile, I could use four tiles to create one circle,” said Pippen.
The tiles are square with refined ridges, the moss grows in each corner of the tile, creating a pretty green circle at the centre of a group of four.
“I ended up with a pattern that increases the tile’s surface area, has multiple indentations to encourage moss growth and could work well aesthetically outside,” said Pippin.
Grand Design’s Kevin McCloud selected Pippen as one of his top five green heroes for 2019 where she exhibited her tiles in London and Birmingham.
Lots of people, including a tile manufacturing company, have shown interest in her project but she feels like she has more work to do on them.
At university, she used smooth terracotta clay because that is what was available to her, but smooth terracotta clay has no grit.
Now she is trying to see if using terracotta clays with grit would help the tiles to invite moss growth more. The tiles growing moss better have become her main focus since Grand Designs.
“I have been experimenting with moss solutions, moss and water together, but I’ve found that the moss grows best when it’s been transplanted,” said Pippen.
The end game is to develop the tile with a manufacturer and sell them to people who want them in their homes and gardens.
But Pippen wants to be sure her tiles will make a difference before she does that.
“Ideally, I’d really like to run a test sight in a polluted area by creating a moss tile wall. Then I could test how much the tiles improve air quality and I could test how the moss reacts to the pollution,” said Pippen.
Since graduating she’s been working on making her tiles more effective and is in search of gardeners who know about moss that could help her improve its growth.
“The project addresses an environmental issue that affects the health and well-being of people living within the city,” said Pippin.