Living Buildings: 7 New Innovative Building Materials


From pollution absorption to self-healing abilities, a number of innovative building materials that function as self-regulating, living systems are being developed today. Comprised in part from bacteria and other natural biological processes, the materials have the ability to cool, heat, and even repair themselves.

No longer simply inert objects, these engineered materials when combined to form completed structures are transforming buildings into living systems that have the ability to adapt to their surroundings automatically on their own.

Traditional mechanical and plumbing systems such as drainage and venting are being reimagined through the creation of living, breathing building systems that are powered by natural biological processes. The end result could be a significant reduction in emissions and a reduction in the carbon footprint of buildings.

On a larger scale, these innovative building materials have the potential to not only transform individual buildings but entire cities so that infrastructure is less dependent on fossil fuels and instead harnesses the potential energy of natural organisms. Here are seven such building materials that are either in production or in the research stages:

Virtual Reality in Construction


6 Ways Virtual Reality Could Impact the Building Industry


Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have the potential to play a significant role in the building industry in the coming years. While their use has been slow to be implemented, in part due to cost, the technology provides advantages that could greatly impact the fields of design and construction.

The design professions, Architects, in particular, have been quicker to implement the use of virtual reality mostly because it provides an excellent platform to display their visions to clients. In recent times, Architects have relied on technologies such as 3D modeling and digital true-to-life renderings to showcase their designs.

While these methods can show a great deal, in particular with the ability of 3D modeling to simulate walkthroughs and pan and move around the virtual models, there is one component missing in these presentations that virtual reality can provide. The ability for the user to move and experience the space in any way they choose. In other words, an environment where the user dictates movement through space, not the designer.

Most VR design applications today are desktop virtual reality presentations. The user can view and interact with the computer presented image on a traditional computer graphic screen. However, fully immersive virtual reality takes this a step further by replacing the screen with a head-mounted display unit. Following are six ways virtual reality and augmented reality could impact the building industry in the years to come.


City Design - Physical Activity


Density Contributes to Healthier Living


A new international study on the design of cities and how they correlate with physical activity and health found that there are four factors that contribute to improved physical activity among adults.

These four factors include:

1. Residential density - The more dense residential developments are, the more likely they are to support commercial shops and amenities within closer walking distance.
2. Intersection density - Streets that are well connected help reduce distances, shorten travel destinations, and encourage walkability.
3. Public transport density - The closer and more available transit stops are to residents, the more likely they are to use them.
4. Access to parks - In addition to providing a place for recreational activities, parks also serve as destinations for people to walk to and from, encouraging exercise.

The analyses of data from the adult study included 6822 adults aged 18–66 years from 14 cities in ten countries on five continents. Mean daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity were measured with 4–7 days of accelerometer monitoring.

The study concluded that design of urban environments has the potential to contribute substantially to physical activity. Similarity of findings across cities suggests the promise of engaging urban planning, transportation, and parks sectors in efforts to reduce the health burden of the global physical inactivity pandemic.

For more information, you can view the report at The Lancet Abstract.

Public Spaces


Placemaking and the Future of Cities


Improving streets as public spaces, creating squares and parks as multi-use destinations and building local economies through markets top the list of 10 recommendations in a new study titled "Placemaking and the Future of Cities" by Project for Public Spaces, Inc.

The study's aim is to harness the power of public space for the common good. The report points out that by recognizing and developing the positive potential of their public spaces, cities can enhance safety and security, create economic opportunity, improve public health, create diverse public environments, and build democracy.

The list of 10 best practices for public space projects includes the following:

1. Improve Streets as Public Spaces
2. Create Squares and Parks as Multi-Use Destinations
3. Build Local Economies Through Markets
4. Design Buildings to Support Places
5. Link a Public Health Agenda to a Public Space Agenda
6. Reinvent Community Planning
7. Power of 10
8. Create a Comprehensive Public Space Agenda
9. Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper: Start Small, Experiment
10. Restructure Government to Support Public Spaces

The five-year cooperation agreement between UN-HABITAT and PPS aspires to raise international awareness of the importance of public space; to foster a lively exchange of ideas among partners; and to educate a new generation of planners, designers, community activists, and other civic leaders about the benefits of the Placemaking methodology.

For more information, you can view the full pdf report here: Placemaking and the Future of Cities.