The Design Building's mass-timber structure will serve as a teaching tool for the campus and greater AEC communities.
Alex Schreyer The Design Building's mass-timber structure will serve as a teaching tool for the campus and greater AEC communities.

On April 25, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst opened the doors to the new 87,000-square-foot, $52 million Design Building constructed entirely from cross-laminated timber—a special type of wood that is engineered to be durable and lightweight—which will save an estimated 2,300 metric tons of carbon from entering the environment. Designed by Boston–based firm Leers Weinzapfel Associates, the building will house the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Architecture, and the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional planning in addition to technology labs, interior courtyards, outdoor classroom space, and a rain garden. According to the UMass Amherst chancellor, Kumble Sabbaswamy, the university’s faculty pushed the administration to make the building environmentally friendly. “We had a conventional design with concrete and steel, but faculty advocated for this,” he said. It is the largest structure made from this material in all of New England. [The Boston Globe]

ICYMI: Timothy Schuler recently explored the zipper trusses for the new UMass Amherst Design Building for our Innovative Details series. In his reporting, Schuler discovered that the zipper truss "solved the structural challenge of the irregularly shaped green-roofed commons." [ARCHITECT]

RapidLiquidPrinting from Self-Assembly Lab, MIT on Vimeo.

MIT's Self-Assembly Lab has partnered with furniture manufacturer Steelcase to develop a new 3D printing technique that is quicker than more traditional methods and produces a more refined product. Using a long tube, the lab's printer injects hard plastic or flexible rubber into a tub of gel, which suspends and supports the created structures. “The gel supports the structures as it is printed so that support structures or other materials aren’t needed,” said Sklyar Tibbits, the founder of the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT’s International Design Center, to Quartz. “That allows us to print in 3D space without layers and without the post-process of dissolving or breaking off supports. We can simply remove the part from the gel and wash it with water." [Quartz]

Researchers at international engineering and service company Kone's underground testing facility, Tytyri, are looking into how they can improve various aspects of the elevator experience by experimenting with emergency brakes, carbon fiber ropes for lighter units, ambiance with music, and even smell. [Curbed]

Scientists at McGill University are collaborating with Canadian electricity distribution company Hydro-Québec to develop a device that harvests and stores energy using light. With the help of a $564,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the team incorporated photo-harvesting dye molecules with a lithium battery for energy collection and will next need to build a storage component to hold the energy. Called light-charged batteries, these devices could have applications in various mobile devices. [McGill University Newsroom]

Courtesy MIT

A team of engineers at MIT have found that graphene—an ultra-thin lattice carbon material—can withstand high pressure when paired with a porous substrate. “As a whole, this study tells us single-layer graphene has the potential of withstanding extremely high pressures, and that 100 bars is not the limit—it’s comfortable in a sense, as long as the pore sizes on which graphene sits are small enough,” said department of mechanical engineering associate professor Rohit Karnik in a press release. "Our study provides guidelines on how to design graphene membranes and supports for different applications and ranges of pressures.” [MIT News]

Courtesy Inhabitat/University of California Riverside

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside—led by professor of mechanical engineering Cengiz Ozkan and professor of electrical engineering Mihri Ozkan—have developed a way of producing lithium-ion batteries out of discarded glass bottles containing silicon dioxide. The process involves grinding the bottles into a fine powder in order to convert the silicon dioxide into nanostructured silicon particles, which are finally coated with carbon. [Inhabitat]

Courtesy CSIC Communications Department/PA

Federica Bertocchini, a researcher at at the Spanish National Research Council and an amateur beekeeper, recently discovered that wax moth larvae have an appetite for plastic bags when she put infesting worms from one of her hives into a bag—and they ate right through it. Upon further investigation, Bertocchini and a team of scientists at Cambridge discovered that 100 worms can eat 92 milligrams of polyethylene—a common plastic—in 12 hours. While the scientists have not determined if the worms are eating the plastic for energy or as a survival tactic to escape the plastic enclosures, this discovery could lead to breakthroughs in accelerated plastic waste disposal. [The Guardian.]

Courtesy Miniwiz

Miniwiz, a company dedicated to upcycling consumer and industrial waste, has developed a semi-portable, solar-powered "mobile upcycling plant" that can fit inside a 40-foot container and be unpacked on site. The Trashpresso "can wash, shred, melt, and mold plastic and fabric waste into tiles" according to a New Atlas article, creating 108 square feet of the indoor/outdoor flooring in about 40 minutes. "Until now, industrial grade recycling was limited to plants," said Arthur Huang, co-founder and CEO of Miniwiz, in the article. "The Trashpresso overcomes the distance and energy barriers by showing that recycling is possible everywhere. Not only does it serve to transform trash on-site, it also serves as an educational tool in isolated communities." [New Atlas]