Welcome to the Village Green Project, an EPA exploration into new ways of measuring air pollution.
We are Gayle Hagler and Ronald Williams, researchers on the Village Green Project team. We and others on the team will blog periodically to share the goals and challenges of the project and invite you to learn more about the work.
Check out the video clips with this blog and meet us. We are excited to be sharing our discovery process for this research project with you.
The goal of the pilot project is to design and build a low-cost, solar-powered air monitoring system that will take continuous readings of several air pollutants and weather conditions and provide data to the public every five minutes. The project is breaking ground on many fronts and is a challenging and fun puzzle, requiring a mix of tinkering skills, strategic shopping know-how, and an eye for design.
The Village Green Project got its name from history when village greens were the heart of a town where citizens came together. We borrowed the concept because our research provides the science and technology to assess air quality and support sustainable communities.
There are some important conditions that the Village Green prototype must meet: the design has to be low maintenance, energy efficient, low cost and provide real-time data. And, of course, we need to prove the system works and provides reliable data.
We are also exploring several designs that will fit into a community setting, such as a park bench with solar panels providing shade over the bench, or a play structure. After development, we plan to install and test the first prototype in the Research Triangle area this year.
There are many technical challenges to the project. Some of the goals and questions the team has been grappling with include:
- Low cost to install and run – Can we run the entire system on solar or wind power? Can we make measurements without needing extra laboratory work or frequent visits to maintain instruments?
- Real-time data – How can we provide air quality measurements in minutes or hours rather than days? This will enable researchers and community members to study changes in air pollution over time.
- Public engagement – Can we design the structure to be suitable for a public park, playground or other outdoor environment? How can we engage someone visiting the station to learn about air-quality science?
- Sharing the data – How can we send the measurements and process the data? How can we engage citizens in this project and make it interesting for them to learn about the science behind air quality monitoring?
Members of our research team will continue to post updates here on It All Starts with Science as we work through these challenges! Stay tuned to learn more about the technology we are exploring, the science behind the measurements and how the prototype development process goes!
About the Authors: Ronald Williams is an exposure science researcher who is studying how people are exposed to air pollutants and methods to measure personal exposure. Gayle Hagler is an environmental engineer who studies air pollutant emissions and measurement technologies.