Courtesy Elegant Embellishments and Alejandro Cartagena

Berlin-based think-tank Elegant Embellishments, co-founded by architect Alison Dring and production expert Daniel Schwaag, has developed a biochar-based, carbon-negative building material made of 90 percent atmospheric carbon dioxide named Made of Air. The new material uses biomass, an organic waste, which absorbs and stores carbon dioxide. To produce Made of Air, the biomass is baked and stabilized through a pyrolysis (thermal decomposition) process in an oxygen-free oven. The baked carbon substance is then mixed with a biodegradable binder to create a carbon-negative material that can be molded and shaped into various forms, including façade panels. By the end of its life span, Made of Air can be shredded, and then sequestered in the soil. "Using or consuming products which have sequestered carbon reduces the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere," the company says on its website. "Inverting common assumptions of sustainability that consumption is bad for the environment." [Elegant Embellishments]

A group of researchers from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., has successfully 3D printed cement paste that gains strength under pressure. According to the research team, this technique could eventually be used to build resilient structural components, such as beams and columns, that can withstand destructive forces of natural disasters. The design behind the new material, which was inspired by versatile properties of anthropod exoskeletons—such as lobsters, shrimps, and beetles—could potentially be used "to control how damage spreads between the printed layers of a material," according to the team. The research team, the first to develop a bio-inspired material using 3D-printed cement, is planning to expand its research scope to examine other approaches with which cement-based materials could contribute to designing more resilient structures. [Purdue University]

Visual Vocal (VV), a Seattle-based software company incubated by architecture firm NBBJ, has announced a new partnership with Google to transform the tech giant's VR180 capture technology camera into a simplified, high-definition augmented reality/virtual reality tool. With the launch of VV's mobile authoring application (available for iOS and Android devices), users can easily create, edit, and share immersive AR/VR content from their smartphones, making it a perfect tool for jobsite communication. "Construction teams can now produce high-resolution experiences on-site in under two minutes ... to deliver actionable insights on jobsite progress," according to VV. By combining Google's VR180 and its proprietary annotation tools, VV has enabled users to annotate, comment, or edit spaces in real-time. "Previously, on-site AR/VR content authoring required extensive experience, expensive capture equipment, and a laptop computer for processing and authoring," according to VV. "[Our] Mobile Authoring tool will finally remove these barriers, allowing users with no AR or VR experience to create, document, share, and communicate visual content faster and with more clarity than ever before." The technology can connect up to 20 users into a virtual platform. [Virtual Vocal]


In collaboration with a multifaceted team of experts, UNStudio has designed a 15 million-square-foot, self-sufficient, energy-neutral urban district for Central Innovation District in the Hague, Netherlands. Titled "Socio-Technical City," the project will potentially support the high density of people who live and work in the area. [ARCHITECT]

Adam Bennett

The Royal Institute of British Architects has named the Lochside House as its House of the Year 2018 winner. Located in the Scottish Highlands, the 2,098-square-foot, off-grid house was designed by Cambridge, England–based architecture firm Haysom Ward Miller. Constructed with local timber and stone, and clad in charred Scottish larch, the Lochside House relies entirely on its own electrical system, water supply, and sewage treatment. [ARCHITECT]

Michael Grimm

The Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) has completed an ambitious effort to retrofit a 1924 home in Cambridge, Mass., into a living laboratory that will serve as the organization's headquarters. Dubbed HouseZero, the energy-positive prototype for ultra-efficient architecture was designed by Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta in collaboration with multinational construction company Skanska Teknikk's Oslo office to demonstrate how existing structures can be modified to consume less energy. [Builder]