Apartment on super busy street/highway: issues, thoughts, solutions?
September 13, 2019 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Trying to move to a big city and found a great apartment except that it's right by an area that has heavy exhaust and constant traffic. There aren't a lot of trees etc. Can the poor air quality be effectively mitigated by filters, plants, etc.?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
The higher up the floor, the better it will be in terms of soot and most particulate.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:42 PM on September 13, 2019


A good air cleaner (see WireCutter's reviews) can do some amazing work at getting particulates out, but only if you keep the windows closed. If that's practical, then sure, you can absolutely freshen up the indoor air with plants too.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:33 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


so we lived on the 4th floor above a very busy philadelphia road for 9 years. it was not amazing for many reasons. i'll try to focus on your question tho! 4 bus routes stopped across the street from our building (a one way 2.5 lane street).

the dust/grime was BAD. it was thick, and a little greasy, and harder to clean than just normal "dust."

the NOISE is very hard to get past. honking constantly, trucks backing up, emergency vehicles, the fucking motorcycles. even if you can kinda tune out city noise, you will hear it always when you're in your apartment, and it will be draining eventually. if you are on a real highway, the high speed noise of cars and semis is also a common complaint.

now, when we lived on the 28th floor for about a year, the noise was not tooo bad except for the emergency vehicles which echoed in the "steel and glass canyon" and there was much less "city dust."
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:50 PM on September 13, 2019 [5 favorites]


How is it oriented? Do the prevailing winds blow over the highway toward the apartment? If not, what's behind the building? Can't speak from experience, but those were the first things (beside the already-mentioned height) I thought of that might have an impact.
posted by kate4914 at 2:11 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


I lived on the third floor above a busy road, in a new building with good windows and HVAC. The dust was black and greasy, and accumulated some even with windows closed. I bought good quality air filters and changed them frequently. Keeping up with that made a noticeable difference. If I left a filter in too long I would get congested. It was easy to tell when to change it - it got very dark in a month. I used a plug-in air purifier which picked up a lot, and I assume my plants helped.

The noise was loud enough that I couldn't have a conversation with the windows open, or sleep well, so I kept them closed. That helped a lot with keeping things clean, but it was a bummer on nice days.

On the other hand, it felt lively and my cats loved to watch the traffic.
posted by a moisturizing whip at 7:59 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


Plants won't help much with this.
In cities, tree coverage absolutely improves air quality. That's because trees have a huge amount of surface area and act as physical filters, with particulate matter (a big issue on a busy road) settling into their surface area. I don't think you'd be able to get enough plants into your apartment to have a similar effect.

There are several pollutants of concern. My understanding is that air purifiers work pretty well for particulate matter but I don't know if they do anything for other vehicle emissions like NOx.

I live on a busy street with truck traffic (albeit with low/slow volume, and with windows facing a side street) and often my air purifier shows slightly bad air when I turn it in, and clean air after a short while of being on.
posted by entropone at 5:25 AM on September 14, 2019


When you say "highway," do you actually mean highway or just a very busy street? I do think that living near a highway is probably quite a bit worse for health. I live on a busy street, although my apartment is set far back from the street and there are a lot of large plants (and a couple of trees) in between, which I think helps. I happen to have a high-quality air pollution sensor that measures PM2.5 and other pollutants, and the air inside my apartment is almost perfectly clean even with the windows open. I've tried walking around with the sensor outside, and my street is more polluted than neighboring blocks with less traffic. When I had a car parked on the street it would get coated in black soot almost immediately after washing it.
posted by pinochiette at 7:02 AM on September 14, 2019


Highway, where it exits into a busy street. Thanks much for convincing me not to take the apartment!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:56 AM on September 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


I grew up on a very busy street and hardly noticed the noise, but I eventually developed severe, unbearable allergies that immediately got much, much better when I moved away. I can't really suggest good filters, etc., but if you do decide to go for this property I'd say put a LOT of energy into figuring out how to filter the air and don't plan on staying there long-term. Auto exhaust is poison.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:26 PM on September 14, 2019


You can also think about noise-level on a heavily-trafficked street, especially if you're on a lower floor. My first-floor apartment overlooks a 5-way intersection with no signals at all. I'd definitely consider the honking, loud engines, and late-night traffic-noise that might be there.
posted by bendy at 5:04 PM on September 15, 2019


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