A diagram outlines the services that urban trees can offer.
courtesy TreesAI/Dark Matter Labs A diagram outlines the services that urban trees can offer.

From improving air quality and reducing street noise to filtering and managing stormwater, trees offer tangible advantages to cities and their residents. But how can a community best expand and maintain the urban forest it needs?

courtesy TreesAI/Dark Matter Labs

That question is top of mind for the creators of Trees as Infrastructure, or TreesAI, slated to launch its portfolio of building services in November. Developed by the international team of urban planners, technologists, and financial whizzes at the Amsterdam-headquartered, not-for-profit Dark Matter Labs, the open-source, cloud-based software aims to help cities plan and execute urban forest projects through a variety of tools. In addition to providing site-specific information such as tree inventory, the effects of various plant-care practices, and models of tree-related benefits like runoff reduction, among other data points, TreesAI hopes to connect project leaders and beneficiaries with potential investors to streamline the funding process.

“TreesAI is not a traditional startup,” says team leader Carlotta Conte-Billant. The platform “seamlessly integrates state-of-the-art technology to map climate risks, model [nature-based solutions], and monitor [their] impact in order to finance portfolios,” she adds. “Currently, there is no other organization that is developing the same connected components.”

And, thanks to a recently launched pilot program in Glasgow, Scotland—where city leaders hope to plant 18 million trees by 2030—potential platform users will soon have a glimpse into how those components work. In partnership with Glasgow City Council, among other local stakeholders, Dark Matter Labs plans to deliver a series of projects focused on bolstering stormwater retention to reduce the cost of flood damage.

The TreesAI project team
courtesy TreesAI/Dark Matter Labs The TreesAI project team
courtesy TreesAI/Dark Matter Labs

While Conte-Billant says the launch of the pilot is one of the team’s biggest successes to date, she looks forward to watching TreesAI grow. “Following requests by a number of municipalities, we foresee new revenue streams to help us scale our impact in more cities and regions globally,” she says.

This article first appeared in the October 2022 issue of ARCHITECT.