BREATHE 2018-2022

This project started as a grassroots movement by Hunter’s Bar Infant School (HBIS) in Sheffield when they were seeking to actively help to protect children from air pollution.

School children with signs displaying green symbols

The project

HBIS led a fundraising campaign that, in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, provided the base to create a green barrier in their playground.

BREATHE provides the science behind the project, which involves the design of the green barrier, the assessment of its impacts and a feasibility evaluation for installing green barriers in other schools in Sheffield and in Buenos Aires.

The specific activities of each stage are outlined below:

  • Design
    • Literature review of green barriers and plants for air pollution mitigation
    • Plant selection and green barrier design; construction of the green barrier in the school playground
    • Lab experiments to assess the capacity of the green barrier plants to capture particulate matter pollution
  • Impacts
    • Measuring air pollution with different air quality monitors in the school playground and in the city of Sheffield (The measurements have been recorded with a mobile air quality monitor used by the researcher, a fixed device installed inside the playground, and a diffusion tube provided by the city council.)
    • School attendance records are also being reviewed to use as a proxy for pupils’ health.
    • Questionnaires are being administered concerning the co/dis-benefits of the green barrier and the environmental awareness of the school community
  • Feasibility
    • Literature review and interviews with stakeholders (school community members, local authorities, landscape practitioners, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Environmental Protection) to assess the feasibility and scalability of this type of project in schools in Sheffield and Buenos Aires

The green barrier at the HBIS playground comprises two key plant layers:

  1. A long Hedera helix fence around the playground
  2. An inner barrier comprising a mixed planting of Phyllostachys nigra and three types of conifer trees: Thuja occidentalis, Chaemacyparisus lawsonia and Juniperus scopulorum

Objectives and impact


  • Design and build a green barrier aimed at improving the air quality of a school playground in Sheffield, UK
  • Assess the impacts of the green barrier in terms of playground air quality, pupils’ health, and the co-benefits/dis-benefits perceived by the school community
  • Assess the feasibility of installing a green barrier in two schools in different contexts: Sheffield, UK and Buenos Aires, Argentina

Impact (actual or expected)

  • Design of an innovative green barrier to help mitigate air pollution and adapted for playground functionality
  • Air quality improvement in the school playground
  • Green infrastructure accepted by the school community and bringing additional benefits, such as nature connectivity, an outdoor learning platform, and pupils’ wellbeing.
  • Understanding of the feasibility and scalability of the project in Sheffield and in Buenos Aires