courtesy Ernest Ching and Josephine Carstensen

Aiming to address the embodied carbon in building materials, a group of MIT researchers has analyzed truss structures and crafted a suite of computational tools to help architects and engineers minimize the embodied carbon in a given project. The system, which relies on topology optimization, takes input such as structural load and dimensions, and produces a tailored design that can be optimized for traits, including cost and environmental impact. The environmental footprint is influenced by material selection, so the researchers paid close attention to options between wood, which has a smaller carbon footprint and performs well under compression, and steel, which excels in tension. Design professionals can apply the tool, which is not publicly available yet, at different stages in the design process, avoiding carbon-heavy decisions along the way by "choosing materials more smartly," says assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering Josephine Carstensen in a press release from the university. “There’s a big interest in the construction industry in mass timber structures, and this speaks right into that area. So, the hope is that this would make inroads into the construction business and actually make a dent in that very large contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.” [MIT]

Nine years after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, The New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman takes a look at the Manhattan neighborhoods and residents that remain at risk of rising sea levels. Kimmelman also examines the changing proposals for architectural interventions—which currently include razing the city's John V. Lindsay East River Park—and how they highlight "confluence of different interests, different areas of expertise, different notions of community," he writes. [The New York Times]

Also from The New York Times: These graceful roundabouts in Carmel, Ind., not only reduce injury and death from driving accidents, but also lower vehicular emissions. [New York Times]

The Los Angeles Business Council Institute has polled potential voters on Senate bills 9 and 10, which could reshape development in California. Its findings? Fifty-five percent of the respondents support S.B. 9, which allows landowners to construct duplexes in single-family zones, and 68% of voters polled support S.B. 10, which permits city councils to expedite the construction of apartment complexes with 10 or fewer units. [Los Angeles Times]

Despite the glossy renderings and high aspirations associated with smart cities, Yale E360 reports that some of these built from scratch—and very costly—developments are falling short of promises. Another option? Integrating cutting-edge smart technologies into existing cities. [Yale E360]

Has remote work changed architecture for good? Farah Ahmad, a New York–based architect, reports on the ways that the pandemic has altered daily operations in the profession. [ARCHITECT]

MIka Sippone

Researchers from Stockholm University have formulated a novel form of thermosetting resins and adhesives that avoid synthetic plastics altogether. The "resource-efficient method" uses lignin—the supportive polymer found in plant cell walls and a byproduct of the paper industry—as a base in the reusable, plasticlike material. [Stockholm University]

In part two of her Startup Story series, Cove.Tool co-founder and CEO Sandeep Ahuja dives into the story of how her company developed a beta product and attracted its first paying customer. "From our initial outreach, 80 beta users—a mix of architects, energy modeling experts, and mechanical engineers—signed up," Ahuja writes. "Our goal was to collect as much feedback as possible to continue growing the software." You can also read one of the series here. [ARCHITECT]