Bird Street, just off Oxford Street in London's West End, has undergone something of a transformation recently, going from an underused retail zone offshoot to the "world's first Smart Street." Designed to showcase the High Street of the future, it merges pollution-busting and sustainable technology with a traffic-free shopping and dining experience.
The hustle and bustle of Oxford Street can be a bit overwhelming. London's premium outdoor shopping zone is noisy, very busy and often cramped. By contrast, Bird Street has been designed to be an oasis of calm and relaxation. And shoppers cutting between Barret Street and Oxford Street can become walking power generators thanks to a 10 sq m (107 sq ft) Pavegen walkway.
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Each of the company's V3 panel has three 500 mm sides and is reported capable of turning footsteps into 5 W of continuous power, while also gathering pedestrian flow metrics. Kinetic energy harvested in Bird Street will be converted to electricity and used to power street lamps and background bird sounds, as well as Bluetooth transmitters.
Shoppers pounding down the street can see how much electricity their steps are producing via a smartphone and could even find themselves being rewarded for their efforts, with branded apps converting footfall into discounts and vouchers. Audio speakers along the route will enhance calm by throwing out bird sounds activated by shoppers walking on the Pavegen panels.
At one end of the street, a bespoke ClearAir bench from Airlabs has been installed. The bench sucks in air from behind, removes nasty gases such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter and then pumps cleaned air out of the sides and armrests.
Airlite paint has been used in the Bird Street zone, too. The water-based paints are claimed capable of stripping the air of nitrogen oxides, munching on bacteria and repelling dust, with the company saying that 100 sq m of Airlite-painted surface "has the same NOx absorbing qualities as 100 m2 of mature tree-covered forests." All without consuming any energy.
The Bird Street pilot project has been designed as a testbed for future retail, fashion and lifestyle hubs. And funky "origami-inspired" geometric retail units from by Harry Dobbs Design have been positioned down one side of the pedestrian-only street, featuring pop-up shops tempting passers-by with fresh food or vintage clothing.
"It's great to see innovative 'smart street' scheme delivered on Bird Street, the concepts and ideas of which could easily be adapted across London," said Transport for London's Alex Williams. "I hope we can see further examples of this innovative 21st century thinking in the future as we work to transform Oxford Street and the surrounding area to make it a world-class public space for all."
The timelapse video below shows the Pavegen walkway being installed.