Sean Koopmans grew up in the fresh air of Edmonton, in Alberta, Canada. He came to Beijing in 2002 in search of adventure, and found love. He and his wife have two daughters, Lucia aged 10, and Basilia who is 4, and like many Beijing parents he worries about the effect of air pollution. Koopmans though took things to a whole new level: he designed and built his own air purification system, the Airmazing!
“I’m an inventor,” he told us. “As with most inventors, we were born to create and innovate. From bicycle parts to automotive devices, I am driven to solve problems. In Canada, I used to own antique cars (my favorite hobby) and I developed modern conveniences for them such as using a 12 volt modern stereo in a six volt vehicle system. I also had worked on an innovation on an existing drip irrigation system. (I would still someday like to get into organic permaculture in Beijing using my system).”
We asked him where the idea for Airmazing came from.
“As an ESL teacher in the first few years that I was in China,” he said, “I always noticed how poor everyone’s performance was in a classroom (including my own), or other room which had several students when the windows were closed and the air conditioning was on (or no circulation for that matter). This is because in most buildings even today in China, the air is simply recirculated in each room with no fresh air intake. My rule at the time was to open all the windows so there was not too much CO2, which of course makes us sleepy. As soon as there was outside air, the classrooms transformed. Learning was taking place again. It made my job so much easier; the CO2 levels were lowered to acceptable levels and the students and I had energy and focus!
“It was during my time teaching that my wife became pregnant with our first daughter. I really started to become health conscious. I got into better nutrition, for my wife as she was carrying our baby, and myself. It started to bother me though that that the air we were breathing was not optimal.
“I have years of experience working on HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditiong] systems in Canada. I knew that simply recirculating air in a room would become quite stale and is not healthy. This is why I did not purchase one of these units like many foreigners did here at the time. Instead, I bought a special fan, made a housing for it, and purchased a suitable filter. It can make the pm2.5 in my 127sqm apartment from 200 micrograms per cubic meter to zero within 50 minutes. To maintain the pm2.5 at zero, Airmazing Model III only requires 50 watts of power for my space of 127sqm!”
What is it, we asked, that makes the Airmazing more effective than other air purification systems?
“It’s certainly much more rugged,” he said, “and the filter is very much more long-lasting. And the good thing about my machine is that it can overcome the range hood extraction fan.
“If you’re cooking, and you have the range hood extraction fans running, they’re sucking out 800 to 1000 cubic meters of air every hour. That means you’re sucking in polluted air from outside, because there’s a vacuum, and it has to be filled. Running a conventional machine is totally useless.
“The Airmazing puts out 1100 cubic meters per hour, so it can overcome the air flow and still maintain positive air pressure. Polluted air won’t leak in, as happens with other machines.”
Airmazing is not the only thing Koopmans has built for his family.
“I built my daughters a bunk bed and playhouse in one. I first drew the design on a napkin, and then went out to get the wood from the market in the east 4th ring (the market is no longer there). I enjoyed the process of building it. It is so satisfying seeing your imagination come to life. And the smell of the spruce while being cut is so wonderful!”
We asked what other precautions he takes to protect his family from pollution.
“We drive them in our car to and from school. I think it’s important to care about the 12 hours or so a day that the kids spend at home. Except for wearing a mask, there is little one can do to breathe fresh air out of our own environment. We still have to live. You can compare it to Canada in winter, when it’s literally minus 40 outside. People still have to get groceries, visit friends – they still have to live. They just have to be better prepared, and wear suitable clothes.”
Healthy eating and lifestyle are as important to him as clean air, he told us.
“We eat organically as much a possible, such as free-range eggs and vegetables grown by a family in Shenyang. My wife and I prepare everything we can from scratch. We order natural body products from the US such as aloe vera gel. We try to keep our home environment peaceful as well, playing classical music. Meditation is very essential. Getting lots of sleep.”
But despite the challenges of staying healthy in Beijing, Koopmans is here to stay.
“Beijing has heart and soul,” he said. “This city is very powerful and exciting, and it also has a huge arts and culture and food scene. I don’t envision myself ever living anywhere else. It is fast paced, yet people know how to dial it back by practicing meditation and exercise. Every day I can find something to do, no two days are the same. I love the country I came from, but it isn’t home anymore for me. China is established and refined. It has so much to teach.”
For more information about Airmazing Model III or to buy this air purification system for your own family, visit their website: www.airmazing.co
Photos: Kipp Whittaker