Urban Algae Canopy Produces a Forest’s Worth of Oxygen Daily


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urban algae prototype system

Generating as much oxygen per day as 400,000 square feet of natural woodland, the Urban Algae Canopy combines architecture, biology and digital technology to create a structure that responds to and enhances its environment.

urban algae exterior shelter

Created by EcoLogics Studio, this “world’s first bio-digital canopy integrates micro-algal cultures and real time digital cultivation protocols on a unique architectural system,” with flows of water and energy regulated by weather patterns and visitor usage. Sun increases photosynthesis, for example, causing the structure to generate organic shade in realtime. The canopy as a whole can produce over 300 pounds of biomass daily.

urban algae water system

A hybrid of architectural and ecosystem design, the canopy is made to adapt its features based on manual as well as environmental inputs, letting users exert control (via a digital interface) within a larger dynamic system. “This process is driven by the biology of mico-algae is inherently responsive and adaptive; visitors will benefit from this natural shading property while being able to influence it in real-time.”

urban canopy

For EcoLogics, this is just the beginning of a larger vision – organic systems tied to high-tech ones in current and future buildings and infrastructure, as well as a breakdown of the differentiation between urban and rural, cities and nature. Integrating organic and artificial systems opens up sustainable possibilities for everything from temperature control to power generation.

urban algae canopy project

More from its creators: “In ecoLogicStudio we believe that it is now time to overcome the segregation between technology and nature typical of the mechanical age, to embrace a systemic understanding of architecture. In this prototype the boundaries between the material, spatial and technological dimensions have been carefully articulated to achieve efficiency, resilience and beauty.”

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Boxed Water is Better: Paper Packaging Beats Plastic Bottles


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boxed water image

The brand tells you what it is in bold minimalist script: better, but more specifically, its packaging is better than the dominant plastic bottle alternative – a square peg for what product designers have long assumed was a round hole.

boxed water versus bottles

Aside from the (cardboard carton) material itself being more sustainable, the trick is in the shipping: a single truck packed with pallets of flat-pack water boxes means 25 fewer trucks than shipping plastic bottles to a bottling plant.

boxed water is better

Plastic bottles not only take up more space when filled (thanks to their rounded shape), but far more space when empty in the first place. They are also being banned in some cities, which means more market opportunity for companies like Boxed Water Is Better.

boxed water on shelves

The recyclable packages also stand out on the shelves – white cartons and black type stacked alongside complex logos and variegated shapes of their plastic relatives.

boxed water better

Some will still question the need for conveniently-packaged water altogether, and in a perfect world (perhaps someday) we would all use reusable containers, but for now this seems like a solid (or liquid) step in the right direction. Meanwhile, the company helps customers go green indirectly as well, planting two trees for each picture of their product posted – not bad marketing, either.

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Mushroom Materials: DIY Kit Grows Custom Compostable Products


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mushroom lamp

Turning agricultural waste and fungal mycelium into construction materials, this do-it-yourself kit lets you grow your own compostable bio-plastic objects, from packaging furniture to surf boards and architectural building blocks.

mushroom award winning architecture

Providing a natural alternative to synthetic options, Ecovative’s Mushroom Materials line competes on cost with petroleum-based equivalents and can be shaped in all kinds of ways using custom and reusable molds.

bag of mushrooms

mushroom in a mold

Their latest creation is this home Grow It Yourself kit – they will ship you the organic components (a mixture of crop waste, like corn husks and stalks, and the vegetative part of mushroom fungus). Upon receipt, you can wait and leave things in a dry dormant state, or add water and fit the mixture into a mold to build whatever you want – nature and time take care of the rest.

mushroom as product pacakging

surfboard surf organics

So far, Mushroom Materials have been used to make everything from award-winning architectural creations (using blocks made out of organic matter) to biodegradable surf boards, flower pots, lamps and other everyday objects.

plant pot mushroom

pendant lamp mush lume

From Evocative: “We grow materials made from agricultural byproducts and mushroom mycelium. Mycelium is a natural, self-assembling glue, digesting crop waste to produce cost-competitive and environmentally responsible materials that perform. Our large-scale grow factories are truly revolutionary. We harness the power of nature – the cleanest technology on Earth, eliminating the pollution generated across the petroleum-based plastics supply chain.”

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The Dryline: BIG Plan Fights NYC Floods with Waterfront Park


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dryline manhattan park view

A huge infrastructure project designed to prevent future Hurricane Sandy-style devastation, the Dryline is a perfectly-named solution for a city already sporting a successful High Line and an underground Low Line currently under construction. In the wake of that devastating super-storm, over 300,000 homes were left damaged or destroyed and nearly 20 billion dollars of destruction was caused in total – the first section of the Dryline is slated to cost a few hundred million, which in contrast does not seem like so much money.



Developed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), the scheme continuous to evolve with each iteration. This latest video illustrates many of the mechanisms of action through easy-to-understand sketches and diagrams. It also features interviews with New Yorkers about their vision for a greener southern tip for Manhattan.


Designed to be deployed incrementally, the grand plan involves many discrete steps, each intended to shore up the lower portion of the city – the place that takes the brunt of incoming tides. The individual interventions vary, from berms that double as parks to sliding barriers that move into position during unusually high tides. Ultimately, “the Dryline imagines a landscaped buffer stretching all the way from West 57th Street, looping down to the Battery and back up to East 42nd Street, bestowing Manhattan with a protective green cushion.”

community active space

community bike space

At the same time, the design follows classic principles of urban landscape pioneers like Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs, taking this environmental challenge as an opportunity to create more park and civic space. Per The Guardian, “With a sprinkling of fairy-dust, the shoreline becomes furnished with undulating berms and protective planting, flip-down baffles and defensive kiosks, promenades and bike paths, bringing pedestrian life worthy of Lisbon or Barcelona to the gritty banks of Manhattan.”

dryline berm section

dryline green space fall

BIG is a firm known for thinking large and this project is no exception. Then again, lessons learned from the other ambitious urban projects (like NYC’s High Line) can be applied here: built it piece by piece to reduce one-time costs and provide room for adjustment, and take citizen input into account. In the end, anyone who has walked the south edge of Manhattan knows it is a disjointed and, in many places, unwelcoming space – there is a huge opportunity for a new kind of part to provide connectivity and green space from this disparate set of urban landscapes.

dryline coastal glass sections

nyc manhattan dry line

green park plan

“The Dryline consists of multiple but linked design opportunities; each on different scales of time, size and investment; each local neighborhood tailoring its own set of programs, functions, and opportunities. Small, relatively simple projects maintain the resiliency investment momentum post-Sandy, while setting in motion the longer-term solutions that will be necessary in the future.”

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Megablock Microclimate: Huge Urban Treehouse Apartment Complex


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urban treehouse forest plants

Shrouded in 150 trees that absorb 200,000 liters of carbon dioxide per hour, this massive five-story, block-spanning residential building occupies its own protected inner-city ecosystem.

urban forest planters microclimate

urban treehouse steel beams

Located in Torino, Italy, 25 Verde was designed by Luciano Pia (images by Beppe Giardino) to serve both the residents of the complex as well as the surrounding urban environment. Its living facade forms light, sight and sound barrier on all sides but also regulates pollution and temperatures in and around the structure.

urban forest facade design

urban garden trellice supports

urban treehouse street view

Rich foliage provides shade during the summer and lets more sunlight in during the winter. Situated on the ground and in planters above, each species was carefully selected for its growth needs, colors and other attributes relative to the project’s goals. At ground level, a raised-earth effect provides privacy for residents and a sense that the entire complex is growing right out of the soil.

urban green walkway area

urban treehouse courtyard area

Steel tree-shaped supports reinforce the appearance of an urban forest while a series of wooden platforms, trellises and towers make the entire complex feel all the more like a treehouse in the heart of the city. Paths and courtyards provide residents and visitors a great series of moments that combine elements of nature and urban design.

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Recycled Skylines: 8 Green Urban Tower Typologies for 2050


[ By WebUrbanist in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

panoramic green city view

Exploring eco-friendly strategies for cities, this series of conceptual ‘Smart Tower’ skyscrapers and mid-rise structure incorporates design elements to reduce pollution and create renewable energy all while integrating with existing built environments.

green path smart towers

Designed by Vincent Callebaut Architectures, each of these typologies is set in Paris – many draw on local elements both all are conceived more broadly as having potential applications in urban contexts around the world.

green addition rooftop architecture

The proposals, named and detailed below, vary in their realism but are intended to provoke discussion, helping planners consider new ways to adapt existing buildings and infrastructure for cleaner and greener use in the near future.

green mountain tower additions

Mountain Towers: supported by the unused chimneys of existing buildings below, these power-generating additions draw solar energy and use a reversible hydroelectrical pumped storage system to pull up and send down hot water.

green antismog bike path

Antismog Towers: set along disused rail lines, this piece of the project combines cycling paths and urban gardens with cyclonic towers to clean the air and wind turbines to generate electricity.

green photosynthesis towers

Photosynthesis Towers: incorporating green algae bioreactors into existing tall buildings deemed visually unfit by city officials, this conversion project turns adjacent open space into a phyto-purification lagoon for graywater runoff.

green future bridge architecture

green bridge from above

Bridge Towers: connecting across urban waterways, these river-spanning structures provide a combination of water power, bridge infrastructure and living space.

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Power Grows on Trees: Wind Energy via Leafy Green Turbines


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urban wind farm designs

Addressing noise and visual pollution associated with wind energy generation in urban contexts, these trunk-style towers support suspended leaf-shaped turbine housings, hung from organic-looking branches.

energy generating tree design

Inspired by the movement of leaves in the wind, New Wind founder Jérôme Michaud-Larivière developed this project with technology and aesthetics equally in mind, conceiving of these as part public art and part civic infrastructure.

urban wind tree generator

Even the tiniest gusts of wind (starting at a few miles per hour) will turn the small blades secreted away within each individual leaf making them well-suited to all sorts of city environments. Each blade can rotate and generate power in both directions.

urban wind turbine tree

A prototype has already been deployed in Paris and the idea is to eventually roll out small pockets (or perhaps: forests) in various public spaces, from gardens and parks to squares and shopping centers.

urban wind tower prototype

Currently, the plan is to power street lamps or energize electric car charging stations. Eventually the hope is to add photovalics to the trunks and branches, adding energy-harvesting capacity in another form to the same structures.

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Casa Cargo: Containers Frame Photographer’s Sustainable Home


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green home exterior containers

Shaping both living spaces and modular work studios, a set of shipping containers were combined with a series of green building strategies to make this a place the ultimate home for a versatile creative with professional spatial needs.

green house living room

Eight used cargo containers provided a starting point for the design by architect Maria José Trejos in Costa Rica (photos by Sergio Pucci, enclosing rooms around the periphery of the plan and leaving a central day-lit void for photography, gatherings and natural cross-ventilation.

green house side slide

The staggered containers create porches, patios and decks on the upper levels while framing social spaces, including a kitchen and dining room, on the main floor.

green upper deck designs

green wood bamboo halls

As the architect describes it, “The house dresses and undresses according to what you want to use it for, be it a living room, an audiovisual space, a photographic or advertising studio.”

green house passive strategies

green enclosed tree interior

green recycling building systems

A reflective roof and rain harvesting techniques help keep the building cool and create graywater reserves, while the central open volume has raised windows for cross-ventilation purposes. Natural light and cooling help reduce energy consumption and associated costs.

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Form Follows Footprint: Forest Retreat Just Fits Local Codes


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forest pavillion for sweden

A creative response to a new legal loophole, this structure is designed specifically to test the limits of a Swedish planning law allowing buildings under a certain size to be constructed without prior structure-specific approval.

forest pavillion at night

forest retreat structure model

Jägnefält Milton of Stockholm worked with Arup engineers to work within the confines proposed by the legislation, which include dimensional limits of 25 square meters and 4 meters in height.

forest pavillion side view

forest pavillion covered view

The intent, though, is not to push the limits but to respect their intent and create a low-footprint, eco-friendly pavilion that respects its environment.

forest building materials natural

The design calls for using the timber cleared from the site to construct the structure and use a tension system of structural anchors to maximize views, minimize outside materials and take advantage of a large stone on the site.

forest pavillion simple interior

forest leaf site plan

Supported off the ground, the lower platform is mirrored by a roof of the same organic leaf-like shape and a fabric cover can be deployed around the entire building to provide some privacy as well.

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Fungi Farm Prototype Turns Waste Plastic into Edible Treats


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fungi muratium toxic waste

Breaking down one of the most difficult types of trash, this incredible working incubator turns sterilized plastic remnants into nutritional biomass humans can consume and digest, in short: food. Texture, taste and flavor depend upon the strain of fungus, but reportedly can be quite strong as well as quite sweet.

fungus growth system

fungi plastic utensil set

fungi eating good

Livin Studio, an Austrian design group known for innovative work on insect farms, has built a working model of this growth sphere (dubbed the Fungi Mutarium) that takes parts of mushrooms usually left uneaten and grows them into fresh snacks.

fungi eating growth sphere

From the creators: “We were working with fungi named Schizophyllum Commune and Pleurotus Ostreatus. They are found throughout the world and can be seen on a wide range of timbers and many other plant-based substrates virtually anywhere in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Australia. Next to the property of digesting toxic waste materials, they are also commonly eaten. As the fungi break down the plastic ingredients and don’t store them, like they do with metals, they are edible.”

fungi incubation chamber diagram

In terms of the process, “Fungi Mutarium is a prototype that grows edible fungal biomass, mainly the mycelium, as a novel food product. Fungi is cultivated on specifically designed agar shapes that the designers called FU.  Agar is a seaweed based gelatin substitute and acts, mixed with starch and sugar, as a nutrient base for the fungi. The FUs are filled with plastics. The fungi is then inserted, it digests the plastic and overgrows the whole substrate. The shape of the FU is designed so that it holds the plastic and to offer the fungi a lot of surface to grow on. “

fungus diagram design

For now, the digestion is a relatively slow process, taking up to a few months for a set of cultures to fully mature, but by the standards of plastic biodegrading in nature this is still an extraordinary feat. The team continues to work with university researchers to make the process faster and more efficient. “Scientific research has shown that fungi can degrade toxic and persistent waste materials such as plastics, converting them into edible fungal biomass.”

fungi edible grown creaiton

fungi plastic eating design

This novel application comes just a few years after a group of Yale students discovered a species of fungi on a trip to Ecuador as part of a Rainforest Expedition and Labratory led by a molecular biochemist. Even in the absence of light and air, the species they examined thrived in landfill environments, suggesting potential near-future and larger-scale solution for existing waste sites as well.

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