Blog for PureLiving China

The PureLiving blog is where you’ll find the latest news about indoor environmental quality, upcoming health and wellness events in Shanghai or Beijing, and thoughts from the PureLiving team. We encourage you to ask your questions and comments and we'll monitor this regularly.

Cut through the haze: clean office air is a powerful tool that can help grow and protect your China business

Posted on by James Westwood

JLL presents a white paper on how to achieve good air quality in the workplace, in partnership with PureLiving China

BEIJING, December 10, 2015 – The latest front in China’s “war on pollution” is the quality of its indoor air, a “critical issue that deserves greater attention,” writes Eric Hirsch, Head of Markets for JLL Beijing in a white paper released today, which stresses commercial real estate’s indoor air quality impact on daily business operations and company growth. Titled Every breath we take – transforming the health of China’s office space, the publication published in partnership with indoor environmental quality consultancy PureLiving China lays out what it calls the “3 As strategy” – Assess, Act and Assure – in order to help stakeholders in the office market create spaces that employees will want to work in, giving them the edge needed in China to attract and retain top talent in the increasingly competitive marketplace.

As people in China spend more time indoors than outdoors, and become more aware of pollution, the need to address the issue of air quality in the office has been dramatically prioritized. “Given that retention is projected to pose even greater staffing challenges for employers in China going forward, [this] is not an issue to be taken lightly,” writes Steven McCord, Head of Research for JLL North China, one of the report’s primary authors.

The whitepaper aims to be a major analytical contribution to the subject of indoor air quality in China’s office. To maximize the breadth of their research, JLL collaborated with indoor air quality specialists at PureLiving China. Louie Cheng, President of PureLiving China said: “While China does not suffer the highest PM2.5 levels in the world. It is head and shoulders above in both awareness and policy, also making it best-positioned to act on indoor air quality in a global context so that other industrializing nations can follow.”

The new research analyses data from some 50 commercial buildings in China to determine relative impact of design and mechanical choices on indoor air quality. The findings demystify the process and indicate the most cost-effective ways to create clean air.Considering the fact that environmental reform in China will be a long-term endeavour, the white paper explores how “sound investments in indoor air quality today can improve office space for tomorrow and beyond.” The paper predicts indoor air quality to play a greater role in the future of risk management vis-à – vis employee safety: “Simply put,” Cheng said, “employers who provide clean air at work are sending a clear message to staff: They care about their well-being.”

Key takeaways include:

  • Good indoor air correlates with as much as twice the level of productivity compared to average air quality and is increasing in significance for talent attraction and retention in China.
  • Though technologically advanced buildings with filtered fresh-air systems tend to be higher-rent buildings, these properties typically only demand marginally higher rent than the market average. Therefore, a small premium in office rent could go a long way to reducing staff turnover, and thus ultimately staffing expenditures.
  • Good indoor air quality can be achieved by following the 3 As: (Assess, Act, and Assure).

o Assess your workplace situation: Test the current air quality levels in the office space toidentify problems before designing a solution to fix them.

o Act on that information: Install the necessary equipment to clean the air in your space.Statistical analysis conducted by JLL and its partners revealed that as a group, mechanical systems, specially the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) and filtration functions, make the most meaningful contributions to cleaner indoor air at offices in China.

o Assure that good air quality is maintained by continuously monitoring performance and automating systems in your accredited space. Maximize your return on investment by certifying your spaces using new industry certifications like RESET and WELL, recognized for measuring actual performance.

Smart indoor air quality upgrades further help office buildings differentiate themselves from competitors, better enabling them to retain value in any market. With a dedicated focus on how pollution is driving indoor air quality issues within the China office market, JLL and PureLiving China offer up realistic solutions to the current situation, concluding that more market movers need to act now and lead as an example. “While more landlords and employers in the office market are increasingly getting on board,” McCord writes, “the reality is [that they continue] to make up the minority, when in actuality, the pursuit of clean indoor air should really be a mainstream priority.”


​About PureLiving China

PureLiving is China’sleading environmental consulting company that has a simple mission: to help ourclients create healthy indoor homes and workplaces. We offer end-to-endservices, including pollutant remediation, design and implementation of provenfiltration systems, energy recovery, and professional air quality monitoring. 

About JLL

JLL (NYSE:JLL) is a professional services and investmentmanagement firm offering specialized real estate services to clients seekingincreased value by owning, occupying and investing in real estate. With annualrevenue of $4 billion, JLL operates in 75 countries worldwide. On behalf of itsclients, the firm provides management and real estate outsourcing services fora property portfolio of 3 billion square feet and completed $99 billion insales, acquisitions and finance transactions in 2013. Its investment management business, LaSalle Investment Management, has $47.6 billion of real estateassets under management. For further information, visit

JLL has over 50 years of experience in Asia Pacific, withover 27,500 employees operating in 80 offices in 15 countries across theregion. The firm was named ‘Best Property Consultancy’ in three Asia Pacificcountries at the International Property Awards Asia Pacific 2013, and won nineAsia Pacific awards in the Euromoney Real Estate Awards 2013. 

Download the full report here



Q. and A./ Louie Cheng on Chemical Contamination in Tianjin

Posted on by James Westwood


By Didi Kirsten Tatlow September 18, 2015 4:59 am

Louie Cheng is the founding president of PureLiving China, a company based in Shanghai that specializes in improving indoor-air and water quality in one of the most polluted countries in the world. Mr. Cheng, a California native, served in the United States Army as a chemical warfare engineer before going into business, and he draws on that experience to assess and manage health risks where people spend most of their lives. His philosophy: “You control what you can: your home, your office, your church.”

After the Aug. 12 explosions in a chemical storage depot in Tianjin that killed at least 173 people and injured nearly 800, several companies affected by the disaster asked PureLiving to help them clean up. In an interview, Mr. Cheng discussed what he saw in Tianjin, why the explosions were not entirely a surprise and how people can protect themselves.

Q. What went through your mind when you heard that a chemical depot had blown up in Tianjin?

A. I saw the near real-time footage and was shocked, like everyone else, by the sheer size of the blast. But I’m a little cynical now. I don’t wonder anymore why these industrial accidents happen.

Q.Why is that?

A. I trace it to a combined culture of inadequate enforcement of rules and a lack of professionalism: “It’s cheaper to deal with the aftermath.” “Let’s play the odds rather than paying up front for safety.”

Q. Which chemicals in the depot should people be concerned about, and why?

A. Most of the chemicals I heard about initially, like ammonium nitrate and calcium carbide, were explosive in nature but not persistent, and did not have a high corrosive or biocide action, which we normally associate with chemical weapons.

The sodium cyanide was more of a concern, because it can generate hydrogen cyanide gas, which acts as a blood agent to cause incapacitation and death through locking up the blood’s ability to utilize oxygen. [About 700 tons of sodium cyanide were stored at the site.]

Q. What have been your main concerns about the blast since then?

A. It is one thing to speculate without having been on site, but having been in Tianjin to help with testing and decontamination for some clients, I would say I am less concerned, because the levels of sodium cyanide we encountered were very controllable, and we were able to recover equipment from areas impacted by the blast relatively quickly and without too much pain.

There was a tremendous kinetic blast, but in terms of persistent chemicals, cyanide is the weakest of them. It doesn’t spread from person to person like biological weapons, and it’s not persistent like radiation is. It’s not a heavy metal that accumulates in the body, like lead. In terms of chemical weapons, cyanide isn’t a very good one.

Q. Tell us about your background and what you learned about chemical contamination and dangers.

A. Nearly two decades ago, I was a nuclear, biological and chemical defense specialist for the U.S. Army. I was trained to test for the different types of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, protect against them, decontaminate troops and equipment, and then train other troops in operating under these conditions. I have applied these skills to my work today as an indoor air quality consultant, and taught my staff to use the same principles of assessing, fixing and then monitoring.

Q. You run a company that offers clean air solutions in China. What should people who live in China know?

A. The main message we tell our clients, whether residential or commercial, is that it is “better to know.” Many people believe they’d rather not know what they’re breathing or drinking. To me, this is as silly as leaving China because of the fear of something unknown. If you know what’s in your living environment, you can then do something about it. Or if there’s nothing wrong, you can have peace of mind.

Q. Many people in China wear simple cloth or paper face masks when the air is very polluted. Are they of any use?

A. Mask effectiveness depends on two things: Is the mask material suitable for reducing the type of contaminant of concern in the air? For instance, in Tianjin, chemicals may have become valorised by heat, reaction with water or pressure, and formed poisonous gases. These gases would require an organic vapor canister respirator filter to remove, not the particulate N95 masks that many wear for day-to-day protection against PM2.5.

Assuming you are wearing the right type of mask, there has to be a tight seal, otherwise the pollutants can just follow the path of least resistance. This is usually a matter of finding the right size and fit for your face.

Q. Would you move to the Tianjin port area, or even Tianjin itself, now?

A. I would work in Tianjin because I have the tools for self-protection. But I would want to have a broad range of air quality testing and ongoing early- warning monitoring before I felt comfortable enough to send my family to live there.

Q. How do you assess the chemical contamination in different areas of the environment in China?

A. We work primarily in the indoor environment — home, school, office and factory — and mainly test the indoor air to first identify whether there are any known contaminants in high enough levels to cause health risks.

Then, if we find any odors or levels in the unhealthy range, we use hand- held electrochemical, optical or infrared sensing and experience of the built environment to “sniff” out sources. Once we have a sense of what the causes are, we can then advise on how to eliminate them.

In China, unlike in North America where I am from, pollution comes not only from indoors but also outdoors, causing a dilemma — how to remove the contaminants if the air outside is dirty too. We educate people in China to always think about balancing these two by filtering incoming air — instead of just shutting out the outdoors, while the indoor-generated chemical and microbial pollution builds up — and also by using monitors to track air after remediation, just as you might use a heart monitor to keep yourself healthy after a medical procedure.

Follow Didi Kirsten Tatlow on Twitter @dktatlow.

Read the original article here

IAQA’s Annual Conference, Texas, 2015 – the PureLiving team reports (Part 1)

Posted on by Jonaki Biswas

The PureLiving team – Louie Cheng, President, and our senior Environmental Consultants, Eric Sun and Graeme McLeish, attended the IAQA’s Annual Conference 2015 in Texas. The IAQA (Indoor Air Quality Association) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing practitioners together to prevent and solve indoor environmental problems for the benefit of customers and the public. A highlight on the IAQ industry calendar, Graeme says thatt teh Annual Conference is an invaluable experience and  ‘a must for anyone operating within the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) industry’.

Graeme reports on their experience at the Conference :

The IAQA Annual Conference is a unique opportunity, both educational and personal : a chance to learn about new research, real-life practical methods and best practices, and to interact with other organizations in the industry from all over the world in a personal, face-to-face manner.  What made it yet more special this year for us was that my colleague Eric and I had just successfully become American Council-Certified Indoor Environmental professionals (CIE), a first in China : a venture involving two years of blood, sweat and tears in the field, a necessary prerequisite before taking the closed-book exam.

We were filled with a new confidence and raring to go, despite which the pre-conference advanced workshops proved way more intense than we expected : a full day’s course condensed into just four hours demanding utilization and leverage of our existing experience and knowledge.  However draining, it turned out to be a fantastic learning experience, incorporating analytical techniques into real scenarios brought to life by the lecturers. One of the presenters, Dr. Spurgeon, a specialist in microbial contaminants and a published author, was able to deliver technically challenging content in a digestible manner to a wide range of practitioners and professionals.  (Did you know that there are millions of species of mold, with only 15,000 classified thus far!)

Sitting through Texas-size traffic jams marked the start to the first day of the Conference for us, which actually gave us a way to plan how to cover as much as possible of the three Conference tracks between Eric (Sun), Louie Cheng and me. Each fifty-minute session involved a technical briefing by an experienced professional – engineer, scientist, academic or seasoned practitioner; and included a closing Q&A allowing for interaction and sharing of experiences from among the audience. Subjects ranged from materials science, health risks related to mold and bacteria, built environment and HVAC systems as well as low energy filtration for homes, understanding ultra-fine particulate pollution as well as allergen exposures and pioneering ventilation research. Henry Slack of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) presented research from indoor air scientists on the relationship of effective ventilation and increased test scores among students, and greater staff productivity.

Besides the seminars, the Environment and Energy Exposition was the showcase area for organizations, and another great place to check out innovations, test the tools for ourselves and ask questions. Particles Plus, the producer of advanced handheld particle counters and future PureLiving partners, were displaying new devices and monitors, aiding our understanding of the science of particles and their physical properties, and we look forward to employing them in the field in China.

The Exposition gave us an invaluable opportunity to get up close and personal with the LEED specialists. With IAQ becoming an increasingly important subject and area of concern for people, companies and schools, the LEED certification for buildings has become much sought-after. PureLiving  is now involved in many more  LEED projects, because of which sourcing specific equipment and analytical services from the right laboratory becomes essential for an effective partnership. Obtaining a LEED certificate entails a stringent testing process involving very specific criteria and methods so this interaction provided for answers to our questions, first-hand insights and expert opinions on the standards.

(Continued in Part 2)

PL NEWS – PureLiving Shanghai moves to the coolest space in town, and PureLiving Suzhou is launched!

Posted on by Jonaki Biswas

Moving card

The Shanghai office of PureLiving China has moved – and to what is, without a doubt, one of the best commercial spaces in Shanghai! We talked about the landmark Glumac office, the first completely sustainable workspace in China and a showcase of “the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment” in this post. Well, who better to move in next door than the leading Indoor Environmental Consultancy in China?

Housed in a four-storey, 4,650m², 100-year-old building, the new office is in the 753 Jia Chun Park development, a modern, tranquil green oasis with a rich history – a stark contrast to its heavily urbanized surroundings on Yuyuan Road in Shanghai’s Changning District. The Park was built in 1912 as a vacation residence for the Rockefeller family, and later became famous in Shanghai as a private clubhouse for US investors. When Chinese warlord Sun Chuanfang took over Shanghai during the 1924 Jiangsu and Zhejiang war against the Japanese invasion, the Park became a military command center to support his efforts. The property changed hands several times thereafter, but details from that period are sketchy. From 1964 to 2010, the campus was used by the Chinese Military as a library and residence.

Jiachun Park, with a view of the PureLiving office (above), and the old Rockefeller mansion (below)

Jiachun Park, with a view of the PureLiving office (above), and the old Rockefeller mansion (below)

This move to a larger space not only accomodates our rapid growth and future plans, the choice of location, sustainable design and materials also support our core beliefs. The new space is fitted with PureLiving’s own Air Quality system designs, and the office also includes a living lab for better supporting research, development and testing.

The entire space has been envisioned to be a showcase of PureLiving’s technologies and philopsophies : a live example for our clients and partners of who we are and what we do.

Come walk through our new office to see for yourself the PureLiving people, technologies, testing and research at work!

Big thanks for PureLiving’ great new office is due to A00 Architecture, the ace sustainability design firm based in Shanghai. PureLiving’s longtime partners and friends, A00 have been instrumental in designing this sleek, green space, incorporating the best practices of sustainable design and carefully sourced, low/no emission material.

Additional thanks go to our friends and partners, and now neighbours, Glumac for their unabated help, support and input, for the sustainability benchmarks they constantly provide and for being such great, accommodating  neighbours!

Find us at :

Jiachun 753, Building C, 3rd FL

753 Yuyuan Road

Changning District, Shanghai China 200050

上海市长宁区愚园路753号嘉春753 C栋3层 200050 

Our central office lines are : +86 (0) 21 6236 5867/5869.                             

*We will do our best to make this move as efficient as possible, but we request all our clients, friends and partners to excuse any disruption in services and delay in responses in the next few days.

Next up : a look at the new office, what went into designing and creating it, and the technologies at work.

Continuing with the good news from PureLiving theme :

We are proud to announce our new Suzhou office!

We are really excited to be bringing PureLiving’s products and services to this flourishing city. Suzhou commercial and residential clients can expect testing and monitoring, solutions and remediation for pollution (particulates, chemicals, odor), all with the PureLiving brand’s trademark quality, efficiency, accuracy, insightful consultancy and good service.

PureLiving’s General Manager in Suzhou, Julian Pollmann adds that PureLiving Suzhou is working on a portfolio of manufacturing and industrial solutions to accommodate the particular needs of the market, with environmental protection laws being tightened and many factories facing the prospect of new regulations and limits on emissions.

PureLiving Suzhou is at :

Xinghai Building, 11th FL, Suite 6

198 Xinghai Street                  

SIP, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China 215021

江苏省苏州市苏州工业园区星海街198号星海大厦11楼 215021

General Enquiries: +86 (0) 512 6799 3558

For general and operational enquiries, please contact Iris Li, Operations Manager, Suzhou –  Julian can be contacted at

While on moves, we’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that PureLiving Beijing moved to a larger, more central space last year :

PureLiving Beijing is at :

Suite 701,703, 7/F
Jing Chao Building
5 Nong Zhan Guan South Road
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100125
北京市朝阳区农展馆南路5号京朝大厦701室 100125
General Enquiries : (010) 6500-8058

As PureLiving continues to grow, these moves and new locations support our central mission to bring clean indoor environments to as many companies, factories, schools, public spaces and homes as possible.

Get in touch with your question, concern or requirement :

PureLiving Horizontal colour high res

Watch this : ‘Smog Journeys’ by award-winning filmmaker Jia Zhangke

Posted on by Jonaki Biswas

We don’t need to tell you that China, and the world beyond, have been talking about  ‘Under the Dome’ (117 million views in the first 24 hours!), the hard-hitting, investigative documentary by Chai Jing that rocked China last month, and was called China’s ‘Silent Spring’. (It has since disappeared from Chinese media and websites, but that is another story)

We would, however, like to point you in the direction of another film with a similar subject matter – one that has been quietly winning hearts and opening eyes. Made by international award-winning Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke in collaboration with Greenpeace East Asia, ‘Smog Journeys’ is a short film that gives China’s air pollution problem a human face.

Smog Journeys

After the critically acclaimed ‘A Touch of Sin’, which examined the human toll of China’s economic expansion and was banned by Chinese censors (it was nominated for the Palme d’Or and won the Best Screenplay award at the 2013 Cannes festival), In ‘Smog Journeys’, Jia Zhangke takes another searing look at the other major side effect of China’s growth : its horrific air pollution. While most commentaries on the smog in China are crowded with scary statistical graphs, pictures of haze-enveloped cities, chimneys and vehicles spewing forth billowing clowds of death, gloomy people in masks and a general feeling of doom, Jia’s recent effort in collaboration with Greenpeace aims to give the air pollution problem a more moving, realistic human face.

Smog Journeys 3

Known as a ‘socially conscious’ filmmaker and for his gritty portrayals of contemporary Chinese society, Jia was inspired to take this subject up when as an adult, he came to the rude realization that the blue skies and clouds they had taken for granted as children were no more, and hadn’t been that way for years; he  just hadn’t stopped to register that. ‘Smog Journeys’ is a moving story of what happens when children see more days of smog-enveloped environs than clear blue skies.

Shot in Beijing and Hebei, the industrial, coal rich province that surrounds the Chinese capital, ‘Smog Journeys’ follows two different families in polluted Chinese cities – one a mining family in Hebei and the other a fashion designer in the capital.. “No one gets to be different when it comes to smog” he said. Pollution, he says, is the great equalizer : irrespective of wealth and social class, everyone breathes the same air.

A scene from the film

A scene from the film

Jia is from the coal-rich province Shanxi province and lives in Beijing, now two of the most polluted parts of China. His own father died of lung cancer in Shanxi. Jia points to the need for immediate action, concerned about the toll on both the quality of life and on public health. He refers to studies that have highlighted the horrific effects of the country’s pollution, like one that found coal pollution in northern China lowered life expectancy by five years, another that estimated that 670,000 people died from smog-related causes in 2012 alone, and yet another which suggested that air pollution negatively impacted the brain development of children born near a coal-burning power plant. According to new data from Greenpeace, the average levels of particulate matter were nearly double the country’s health standards in more than 90% of 190 Chinese cities tracked last year. Researchers from the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and China’s Academy for Environmental Planning estimated that up to 500,000 Chinese residents die prematurely every year because of air pollution. Replete with gloomy images, statistics and predictions, these stories on pollution and its effects rarely provide a real glimpse into how these conditions impact individual people. ‘Smog Journeys’ seeks to do just that.

“I wanted to make a film that enlightens people, not frightens them,” said Jia. “The issue of smog is something that all the citizens of the country need to face, understand, and solve in the upcoming few years.” Beyond the research and the data and the scary numbers, Jia hopes to show the “poetry of sadness, or anxiety” of the lives of the people who are most affected by polluted air. “I sensed something poetic in this — that the power of life remains in people even in horrible environments”

A screenwriter and leading figure of the ‘Sixth Generation’ of Chinese directors, Jia Zhangke of Shanxi is a latecomer to the ‘Sixth Generation’, yet his oeuvre has brought him to the forefront of this urban, mostly independent movement of explosively creative cinema verité.

Among Jia’s other widely-applauded films are Xiao Wu, The World, and Still Life. With work that often portrays realities quite different from the bromidic notions of the “Chinese Dream” or the “Harmonious Society”, Jia ’s cinema has not found many fans among Chinese authorities. Indiewire sums his work up succinctly as portraying the “dislocation, alienation, and social and economic inequality in the ‘new’ China.”

‘Smog Journeys’ didn’t go viral, yet it is equally heartfelt, touching and timely. Here’s hoping that this short film goes a long way in telling the world a story that needs to be told, of the almost poetic sadness of China’s air pollution.

“Clean air doesn’t come to those who wait”, says Jia Zhangke earnestly.

Jia ZhangkeJia Zhangke at CannesJia at Locarno Film Festival

Watch and share Smog Journeys (VPN required)

About Greenpeace’s mission in China : In the short-term, Greenpeace calls for stronger enforcement of national and local action plans including shutting down the dirtiest industries, reducing local coal use, encouraging solar and wind power uptake, as well as better policy to protect vulnerable populations during heavy pollution days.

Read Jia’s interview ‘I want to bring about change in China’

An excerpt from Jia Zhangke’s interview with Greenpeace:

Greenpeace: What inspired you to make this film?

Jia: I myself have lived my life mostly in two areas, one of which is Shanxi Province. Shanxi is an energy [industry intensive] area. I started noticing the smog issue in the 1990s, but back then there was no such a word as “smog.” I just felt that the air became really terrible. Dust was flying all over the place, making people’s everyday lives extremely inconvenient. Then I came to live in Beijing. Smog has became an important issue in people’s lives here, especially in the winter.

The characters are meant to show how no one gets to be different when it comes to smog, no matter what jobs we do, it is still a problem we all face. I wanted to raise the society’s environmental awareness through this, get people to pay attention to the issue of smog, and find ways to solve it.

GP : The film has several scenes that made me take pause. For example, the one where a boy is doing back flips or where a couple is kissing in front of of chimneys. What’s behind those scenes?

JZ : “One thing that fascinated and shocked me the most was the fact that even on smoggy days, people still lived their lives as usual.’” For example, when the Air Quality Index hit 200 or 300, and the air turned opaque or gray, I still saw people dancing, young people still hanging out. Everyone was doing what they would normally be doing.

On the other hand, it was also a pretty sentimental situation. In such bad air pollution where people should be wearing masks outdoors, there was still a woman eating youtiao [Chinese deep-fried dough strips] outside, another old lady dancing around, and a little kid playing football, rolling here and there. You realize that no matter what the circumstances or plight, the charm and fascination of life itself still exists. I was quite touched by that.

GP : The theme of the film is “the people under the smog.” How did you tell stories following this theme?

JZ : The two families bring out a collective image. In the film, there is this little boy. He obviously has some respiratory issues caused by the air pollution. This leads to the unveiling of the same situation happening to a lot of the children in his school. We saw lots of similar reports in our research. For example, in the surrounding area of Shijiazhuang, I was shocked by the photos in many of the village clinics. They were all little kids and they all had to receive treatment for respiratory infection when winter came. Meanwhile, in Beijing, kids wore masks to go to school and so did the parents when they went to pick up their kids after school.

GP : There a sense of fantasy or illusory beauty in the film.

JZ : When nature becomes like this, it is surreal. When we were kids, blue skies and white clouds were something we took for granted in our lives. When I was studying in Beijing, every afternoon I’d look toward the west from the sports ground of Beijing Film Academy and see the West Mountain and the fiery clouds across the sky above it. Later on, I became busier with work that I stopped paying attention to nature. As time went by, eventually, I noticed how the sky had often been opaque like this.

Sometimes we joke about how it is easy to fix everything except for the air when you want to shoot a film set in the 90s or the 1980s. We can make the actors wear costumes from the 1980s, and sing songs from the 1980s, but what do we do without the air from the 1980s?

GP : What was your biggest challenge while shooting?

JZ : Actually, the scouting part consumed a lot of our time. When visting the surrounding areas of Beijing, we went to Tianjin first, and then turned back to go to Baoding, Shijiazhuang and on to the Xingtai and Handan side. During the scouting trips, I felt what I was looking for was not only the smoggy environments, but also the poetry hiding behind the lives of people there, perhaps poetry of sadness, or anxiety.

At the same time, we needed to find the kind of spatial structure, for example one that links the power plants and the fields, and power plants and the mountains, with human beings, bringing out more aesthetic perception. I don’t want to make this film to threaten people or make them feel scared after they watch it. I hope I can move the audience emotionally, inspire a kind of consciousness and together push society as a whole to change this.

PureLiving Consultants now China’s first Certified Indoor Environmentalists!

Posted on by Jonaki Biswas

PureLiving’s very own Eric Sun and Graeme McLeish have just received the CIE designation. Not only is this international certification the most valued Indoor Air Quality certification, it also makes our Environmental Consultants the first Certified Indoor Environmentalists (CIE) in China.

Eric Sun, CIE

Eric Sun, CIE

Graeme McLeish, CIE

Graeme McLeish, CIE

Accredited by the Council for Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB), an independent, recognized accreditation body for engineering and scientific certification, the ACAC (American Council for Accredited Certification) certifications are the ONLY designations in the Indoor Air Quality field to earn CESB accreditation.
This Council-Certified Indoor Environmentalist award endorses the competence and knowledge of the environmental consultant in investigating Indoor Air Quality issues, in  using industry guidelines and best practices. Subjects included in this certification are multivariate and often inter-related, and span the whole range of IAQ problems to include building science, mold, asbestos, lead, industrial hygiene, ventilation and HVAC systems, chemicals and other pollutants such as particulate pollution (PM2.5).

The CIE designation is earned based on a rigorous examination, background and experience checks, unanimous approvals from the certification board and other closely-examined professional and ethical parameters.

What this effectively means is that the consultant possesses verified expert knowledge of IAQ issues and IAQ-related disciplines. Relevant and long field experience is considered an imperative both for this certification as well as in correctly applying current industry guidelines and standards of care.

What this means for you, our clients and partners, is that you get to work with the very best. But then, you already knew that.
What this means for us at PureLiving is celebration, pride and validation of the fact that we indeed have the best of the best on our team! Kudos, guys!

From surviving the Big Bang to a Happy New Year

Posted on by Jonaki Biswas


‘Tis the time for Chinese New Year, the time for Xīn Nián Hǎo Ya’ and jiǎozi and niangao, a time to celebrate life, hope, love and family, and a time to revel in the end of winter and the advent of spring. The celebrations, however, come with a price – and we don’t just mean the morning after one too many baijius.

_65804484_65804483Long, loud and colourful displays of fireworks are a long-standing tradition and an integral part of CNY celebrations. The loud noise and bright colours are supposed to ward off evil spirits and bad luck for the year to come, allowing families to start anew. While the colours may be dazzling and the noises scary enough for the evil spirits, the astounding and what seems interminable amount of fireworks leave more in their wake than good luck, ringing eardrums and environs inundated in red confetti and smoke. It’s the dreaded smog yet again, and miserable air quality. Fireworks over Shanghai Pudong SilhouetteDepending on the effect sought, fireworks produce smoke and dust that contain various heavy metals, sulphur-coal compounds and other noxious chemicals. Barium, for instance, is used to produce brilliant green colours in fireworks displays, despite being poisonous and radioactive. Copper compounds are used to produce blue colours, even though they contain dioxin, which has been linked to cancer. Cadmium, lithium, antimony, rubidium, strontium, lead and potassium nitrate are also commonly used to produce different effects, even though they can cause a host of respiratory and other health problems.

In addition to the more exotic pollutants common parameters measured via the air quality index are also exacerbated by fireworks, particulate matter PM2.5, PM10, Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), Carbon monoxide (CO), Sulphur dioxide (SO2) and Ozone (O3) are all expected to spike over the holiday.


We hate to be the party-poopers, but the facts are all out there. “For all their dazzling geometry and stirring booms and crackles, fireworks deliver a smorgasbord of grim chemicals into the skies above”, and are not doing our environment or our health any favours.

However, this isn’t an issue that the state is not aware of. According to state media, during the New Year’s celebration in 2012, PM2.5 levels surged to 1,486 per cubic meter, which is more than 40 times the standard of safe air in the U.S. As the awareness of air pollution has grown so has the government’s response.

On February 3rd, China’s environment watchdog demanded local governments take measures during the lunar New Year celebrations to lessen pollution caused by fireworks. “Local governments should limit fireworks displays, expand restricted areas and reinforce check-ups if weather conditions are not suitable for pollutants to disperse”, said the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Beijingers have shown displeasure at their city government’s urging a reduction in firecrackers over the coming holiday. “Just like how the Northern Chinese eat dumplings during festivals, setting off fireworks is a tradition,” said Xue Xichen, a Tianjin resident, according to Channel News Asia.

Red hazeThe infamous red mist descends on Shanghai after the fireworks

With rising humidity and weak winds forecast, the authority fears that firework displays will significantly worsen pollution if the public light up too many. The high humidity can suspend the pollutants in the air, couple that with low winds and the “mist” created by fireworks will not disperse quickly. It could well be a gray start to the Lunar New Year.


There are however steps that can be taken to limit exposure. Although difficult to resist venturing outside to witness the spectacle, one of the best preventive measures is to stay indoors with your air purifiers turned on high. Windows and balcony doors should remain closed throughout the evening to limit the infiltration of outdoor air.

If you are outside, a quality mask with a rating of at least N95 is essential. (N95 is a rating applied to masks which means they can prevent the inhalation of 95% of particulate matter sized 0.3 micron and above.) One crucial step better is the N99 rated Vogmask which can remove 99% of particulate sized over 0.3 microns. The N99 filter layer is combined with active carbon filter layer for protecting from odours and ozone. Paper ‘comfort’ or ‘dust’ masks are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the fine particles in smoke.

Typically, the fireworks reach their peak around 2a.m. By this hour, if not already asleep (unlikely, with the barrage of explosives outside your window!), keeping purifiers on high, limiting outdoor air infiltration and wearing a N95 or above rated mask when out will enable you to enjoy the displays whether indoors or out, and soak up some of the exuberant Chinese New Year spirit.

One of the cornerstones of the 3Fs of the Chinese New Year celebrations (Feasts, Fireworks and Family gatherings), the tradition of fireworks over China’s biggest holidayis not about to erode in the foreseeable future. What is key, as in most cases, is awareness. What we can do is stay safe, keep our indoors healthy so we and our families can breathe clean air, and if participating in the celebrations, do so responsibly.

Whatever your plans for this Chinese New Year, the PureLiving team sends your ou warmest wishes for the oliday. Stay safe and healthy, and see you in the Year of the Goat!

CNY 2015 - 2

*The PureLiving offices will be celebrating Chinese New Year from Feb 18-24. We look forward to welcoming you in the new year!

Shanghai’s multi-billion dollar shot in the arm in the ‘war against pollution’

Posted on by Jonaki Biswas

Polluted Shanghai

Photo : Shanghai Daily

The Shanghai authorities now have a real plan aimed at cutting the number of bad air days (and not just) in the city drastically by end-2017. And it is backed by big bucks.

The city has announced a spend of RMB100 billion (US$16.13 billion) in the next three years on 220 anti-pollution projects. This promisingly large budget will address eight  principal areas : water, air, soil, waste, industry, agriculture, ecology and circular economy, according to Zhang Quan, director of the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau. The major concerns the plan is targeting, Zhang said, are the high levels of PM2.5 pollutants in the air (the particulate pollutant most hazardous to human health), the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in water, vehicular emissions, chemicals and oil fumes from restaurants.

The authorities foresee being able to significantly reduce the heavy pollution days and bring PM2.5 particle concentrations down to 48 ug/m3 by the end of 2017. International standards of ‘safe’ levels of PM2.5 in the air are 25ug/m3 (WHO) and 35ug/m3 (US EPA). In water pollution control measures, the plan sets out 17 sewage treatment plans, including the renovation of the Bailonggang plant (the world’s fourth largest wastewater treatment plant) and the construction of new treatment plants.
By 2017, all big and medium restaurants will be installed with efficient oil smoke purifying mechanisms, and about 300,000 heavily polluting vehicles will be taken off the streets. Authorities have recorded a total of 171,600 heavily polluting vehicles taken off the city roads last year. Plans for 2015 forecast 90,000 more polluting vehicles to be meeting the same fate.
1,100 boilers at small and medium plants will be replaced in 2015.

Shanghai authorities point out that planning and the gradual implementation of control measures have already shown results : monitoring and statistics compiled by the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau indicate that overall air quality improved in 2014 from the year before (the average PM2.5 density was 52 last year, down 16.1 percent from 2013) thanks to more moderate weather conditions and the enforcing of some pollution-control measures like the use of cleaner energy sources.

Zhang Quan also says that over the past three years, the discharge of four major pollutants — chemical oxygen, ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N), sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide has dropped substantially owing to various initiatives : enterprises were fined more than RMB100 million last year for breaking the city’s air pollution regulations; over 3,180 hectares of green space have been added in three years, with the total forest coverage touching 14 percent at the end of last year; and about 2.8 million households have been brought into the garbage separation initiatives. This new and large RMB 100 billion fund, he concludes, will be a significant shot in the arm to the anti-pollution projects and initiatives.

Air pollution awareness Shanghai
Public awareness or the lack of it, successful implementation of initiatives, efficient enforcement of rules and laws, and combinations of several other factors will ensure that it is a long and bumpy road ahead. However, this initiative by the city of Shanghai is definitely a promising start to the 2015 chapter in China’s war against pollution.

Glumac Shanghai – Sustainability never looked this good!

Posted on by Jonaki Biswas

Glumac ShanghaiStep into Glumac’s new Shanghai office, to see just how cool true sustainability looks.

Glumac, leaders in sustainable design and long-standing members of the U.S. Green Building Council, the premier green building organization in the United States, had an open house and presentation last week at their new premises in Shanghai. This was an event worth attending, and Glumac’s is an office worth seeing. As the first LBC (Living Building Challenge) project in Asia, one of the world’s first RESET certified projects, the first LEED v4 Platinum in China, this is indeed no ordinary office. Glumac-Shanghai-Office-8 The Living Building Challenge™ is the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard. It calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture. The Living Building Challenge envisions buildings, modelled after nature, that go beyond existing green building practices to actually positively impact their society and environment, and give back to the community. Each LBC project produces as much energy as it consumes, relies only on the rainwater falling on its roof, is made from only from locally-sourced, non-toxic materials meeting rigorous standards, and even gives back the equivalent of the land it builds on as a habitat exchange for a minimum of 100 years. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy.

Quinnie Li, Glumac Sustainability Manager, explains the project

Quinnie Li, Glumac Sustainability Manager, explains the project

The event at the Glumac office saw a large turnout of industry colleagues, admirers, green building champions and friends, and ‘impressive!’ was definitely the word on everyone’s lips as they were taken on a tour of the office, and attended a presentation on what LBC signifies and entails. Glumac’s main collaborators on the project, design partner Gensler, and green materials advocacy group, GIGABASE, were also present to explain the many aspects of the project, guide the office tour and take questions.

Anjanette from Giga presenting on LBC









Anjanette Green of SOM presenting on the Living Building Challenge

As the Glumac leads behind the project explain : Glumac wanted to build in the same energy efficient and sustainable building technologies that we incorporate into our projects, such as radiant heating and cooling, daylight and rainwater harvesting, and photovoltaics.

Quinnie Li and Raefer Wallis

Glumac RESET

Glumac, Giga, SOM and Gensler managers as Giga presents the RESET certification


PureLiving China collaborated on this pioneering project by providing sustainable and innovative air  filtration solutions to meet standards stipulated by LBC and RESET certifications.  The RESET certification requires that the certified building achieve high air quality levels during working hours (below the 35 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 stipulated by the US EPA and below 0.5 milligrams per cubic meter of VOCs, or chemical emissions, established by the USGBC).  PureLiving designed and implemented a system that filters incoming fresh air for occupant health, uses bipolar ionization technology to eliminate odors and bacterial contaminants, and recirculating filtration that filters the air every 12 minutes. To validate system performance, PureLiving also embedded real-time indoor air quality monitoring, displayed on a screen at the office reception and accessible through smartphones.  PureLiving President Louie Cheng explains: The new AirAware monitoring system allows Glumac to demonstrate that their green building efforts have actually paid off with clean, healthy air.  Most importantly, the staff and visitors gain peace of mind and don’t have to wonder on bad air days whether or not they are working in a safe environment. AirAware real-time monitoring at Glumac MAR_8294AirAware on smartphones

AirAware monitoring system installed by PureLiving, with real-time data of the Glumac office displayed on-screen or accessible though smartphones


With the launch of the first net zero office in Shanghai, Glumac establishes its leadership and expertise in creating beautiful, sustainable green spaces. This beautiful office in the old Rockefeller compound in Shanghai is a also testament to their commitment to improving the built environment. This truly challenging project, as most pioneering efforts tend to be, has created a benchmark in sustainable design and green building in China that has not only raised the bar by miles, but may be a tough act to follow. Our hope is that these projects set a new precedent for other teams to pursue the Living Building Challenge, whatever the building type or location. We believe in a fully sustainable future across the globe and look forward to celebrating these industry milestones with the certification of both offices (Shanghai and LA) in 2015. – Nicole Isle, Chief Sustainability Strategist

Glumac Office Glumac Office

Glumac office, Shanghai


And here’s some great news for our friends, clients and associates :

PureLiving China is soon moving in as Glumac’s neighbours and collaboration partners!  As Louie Cheng enthused : As PureLiving and Glumac both focus on sustainability and excellence in workplace performance, we’re excited that we will be able to share not only best practices and expertise in our respective fields, but also research facilities and a great training environment.  PureLiving will be adding a purpose-built laboratory, cutting edge testing equipment, and a team of environmental experts to the space by April 2015.

Glumac Shanghai :
T. (86) 21-62881010 F. (86) 21-62881050
753 Yuyuan Rd., Building C, 3/F, Shanghai, 200050 China

Dispelling the ‘Mist’ : Shanghai’ers fear another Airpocalypse – what, why and how to protect yourselves

Posted on by Jonaki Biswas

Leaving a hotel lobby in the afternoon today, I asked the doormen if the forecast said more rain, and they said ‘the rain’s over, only mist now’. I stepped out and the air hung heavy and hazy, and something smelled so wrong. And I looked at the air quality numbers. Mist, indeed.

In a couple of hours, that is all everyone was talking and writing about.

WHAT? After the ‘off-the-charts’ days in Beijing a week ago, Shanghai has the dubious glory of having won in the Air Quality stakes this weekend, and it hasn’t been pretty. The numbers are startling, and the view of the famous skyline isn’t much.

Most of the season, levels of particulate pollution have been ‘Unhealthy’ and ‘Very Unhealthy’ – on the Air Now system which the US Consulate uses, that’s Level 4 and 5, 1 being best, and 6 the worst.  And today, it hit level 6, or ‘Hazardous’, as the red bands in all the Air Quality apps screamed.

Shanghai AQIShanghai AQI 2









WHY? Experts don’t agree on any single cause, and the most probable explanation is that the pollution now is a combination of a few factors :

- Industrial pollution from increased coal production because of higher energy demands for heating in winter. (Coal is still the major source of energy, constituting about 75% of all energy sources.)

- Urban pollution – rampant construction activity and vehicular emissions;

combined with

- low hanging fog (a layer of moist air traps the pollution in a sort of permeable atmospheric bubble);

- lack of wind dispersing the smog.


Don’t let talks of ‘mist’ and ‘getting used to it’ fool you. Air pollution has real, documented and quantifiable health effects, both immediate and long-term. And there is no getting used to it.

While infants, children, pregnant women and senior citizens are the population segments most at risk, the most common effects of pollution are less discriminatory, and we’ve all felt some of it : difficulty breathing, harshness in throat when swallowing, elevated blood pressure, increased chances of asthma attacks, and headaches.

The poor air quality, according to a leading Chinese public health expert, is worse than SARS because nobody can escape it.  We beg to disagree. While there isn’t a lot we can do at our level about what is reflected in the Air Quality numbers, the good news is that you can protect yourselves quite effectively : here’s PureLiving’s Bad Air Drill.

  • Arm yourself with information. Monitor the air quality outside, which varies by day and time. Online, AQICN.ORG provides data for 10 parameters in Beijing and Shanghai. iPhone users have the slick ‘China Air Quality’ app by FreshIdeas which aggregates data across 120 Chinese cities, showing trends for 24 hours to a month. For Android, there is ‘China Air Quality Index’ by Bood Qian, monitoring 8 different stations, both US and Chinese. The US Consulate stations provide hourly updates.
  • Don’t go by the AQI or API : while each country has its own system (AQI, API, etc), and these indices aggregate many pollutants, both national and international standards use only micrograms/m3 or mass concentration, so only this number can be accurately referenced. The PM2.5 ‘fine’ particles pose the greatest health risks, since because of their small size (approximately 1/30th the average width of a human hair), they can lodge deeply into the lungs. The magic number is 35 ug/m3 (the WHO standard is 25ug/m3, the EPA stipulates 35ug/m3. You could say that we are being more realistic.) – if the number is lower than this, the air is healthy. Here’s more on what these numbers mean
  • Stay inside as much as you can as long as levels are high (i.e., in the ‘unhealthy’ range of >150), or limit outdoor exposure to activities that don’t increase breathing rate.EPA AQI index
  • Close your windows.  While ventilating 2-3x per day is advised, as long as levels are high, minimize this.  Advise your co-workers to do this at work as well.
  • Turn your air purifiers on high.  Best practice is to run filters at maximum speed for about one hour, then you can turn them down to a medium.  Low speed is not effective regardless of brand.  Make sure the HEPA filters have been replaced according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Vacuum frequently with a HEPA-filter equipped vacuum and wet wiping or mopping.  This will capture and remove settled particulates, which will increase during this time.  Vacuuming with a regular vacuum cleaner will just suck them in and then spray them out of the back.
  • Remove your shoes at the door.  Studies indicate 70% higher particulate levels in homes where outdoor shoes are worn inside.
  • If you spend most of your day in a commercial building, the most effective solution is an HVAC (Heating  Ventilation and Air Conditioning) Fresh Air Filtration System built into the existing HVAC system. Contact us for more on this.
  • When you need to go out, wear an N-99 or N-95 rated mask which filters out 95-99% of all particulates down to 0.3 microns in size. Here is a very useful performance comparison carried out by PureLiving between the various anti-pollution masks available.
  • Check with your workplace and children’s schools for their air policy. Feel free to share this information links if they don’t have an air policy
  • If you haven’t yet, get your indoor environment tested for particulate, gaseous and chemical pollutants, to ensure that you breathe easy while indoors – the EPA estimates that we spend 90% of our time indoors, and while we can’t control what’s outside, we CAN control our indoor environment.

Call us for more information, or for products to help you stay safe and healthy, despite the startling numbers on that app!