Courtesy Terreform ONE

Known for bridging the gap between the built environment and the natural world, New York–based firm Terreform ONE has debuted its Bio-Informatic Digester in Camden, N.J.. The "living machine" employs mealworms to eat "Styrofoam packaging e-waste," highlighting "the often-unseen beneficial behavior of insects," according to a Terreform project description. Although Styrofoam is typically considered a non-biodegradable, recycling nightmare, mealworms can "reduce and mineralize" the polystyrene, naturally biodegrading the material into a compostable mulch.

Courtesy Terreform ONE
Courtesy Terreform ONE

The biodigester comprises mycelium panels supported on a base of transparent tesseract cubes, through which viewers can watch the mealworms at work. Terreform encourages anyone to bring their waste to the biodigester, hoping that the project "shows nature as an aestheticized and functional event in its myriad of forms," and offers "the public the capacity to see waste, energy, and agricultural systems in flux." [Terreform ONE]

A report published by the British Ecological Society notes that measures increasing the presence of nature in urban areas improve wellness, economy, and biodiversity, and help combat climate change. The researchers examined the impacts of urban interventions—planting urban trees, increasing community green spaces, utilizing brownfield sites, and building sustainable drainage systems—on dense populations. "Cities are a place where most people interact with nature so improving this environment with nature-based solutions makes a lot of sense," said lead author and University of Toronto-Scarborough professor Marc Cadotte in a press release from the BES. "Any space, no matter how small, has value and can have a major contribution to environmental well-being." The British Ecological Society's full report will be available on May 12. [British Ecological Society]

Georgia Tech EcoCommons
Courtesy Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects Georgia Tech EcoCommons

National landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects has completed the latest phase of Georgia Tech's EcoCommons, the university's largest landscape project not associated with a building. Although the overall EcoCommons project encompasses 80 acres, this 7-acre portion (an announcement by Georgia Tech describes the latest addition as 8 acres) features three landscape typologies that provide a learning and research zone, a "play and relaxation" area, and "a contemplative grove," according to a project description. It also helps reduce stormwater runoff, capturing and reusing 50% of stormwater and reducing the stormwater that enters Atlanta's sewage system. The project also acknowledges the "difficult racial history of the site and city of Atlanta" by marking the location of a diner that serves as an important civil rights landmark. [Nelson Byrd Woltz]

Courtesy MIT

MIT researchers have developed an artificial intelligence–generated solution to forecast material stress and strain, using the image of a material's internal structure to predict its properties. Publishing their findings in Science Advances, the researchers used Generative Adversarial Neural Network technology, training the system to recognize how a material's internal geometry relates to the stresses it can experience. “So, from a picture, the computer is able to predict all those forces: the deformations, the stresses, and so forth,” said Markus Buehler, a MIT professor of engineering and the director of the Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics, in a university press release. “That’s really the breakthrough—in the conventional way, you would need to code the equations and ask the computer to solve partial differential equations. We just go picture to picture.” [MIT]

The Washington National Cathedral

The Washington Cathedral has revealed a new carving on its Human Rights Porch. Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Weisel will join the sculptings of Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, and other historic figures. Cathedral stone carver Sean Callahan used medieval techniques to hand-carve Wiesel's likeness. [The Washington National Cathedral]

Nations around the world have pledged intentions to drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but those good intentions could be derailed by an accounting error. Reporters from the Washington Post have found a 5.5 billion–ton gap between the reality of annual carbon emissions and the amount that nations actually acknowledge, an "accounting discrepancy that threatens to complicate the already difficult task of resetting the world’s climate trajectory." [Washington Post]

Courtesy Mahsa Hedayati of Virginia Tech

The American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture have announced the winners of the 2021 AIA COTE Top Ten for Students competition. The 10 notable student projects were evaluated for their design considerations of water, community, integration, energy, economy, resources, change, discovery, ecosystems, and well-being. [ARCHITECT]

Biochar pellets
Courtesy of Lou Gold via Flickr Biochar pellets

What are the benefits of biochar? ARCHITECT columnist Blaine Brownell, FAIA, dives into the properties of this carbon-rich soil. [ARCHITECT]