They can capture more carbon than they emit. So why aren’t wooden buildings mainstream?

Four storeys high and made almost entirely of wood, the ZEB Lab building in Trondheim, Norway, had, even before it existed, sucked as much carbon from the atmosphere as it would probably produce in construction. Now, thanks to its arboreal origins, as well as to the sleek expanse of solar panels on its roof and … Read more

Buildings, tunnels and bridges could soon repair themselves

Stone and concrete structures with the ability to heal themselves in a similar way to living organisms when damaged could help to make buildings safer and last longer. Over time the weather, vibration, ground movements and general wear and tear can take their toll on the masonry and concrete used in buildings. But keeping buildings in … Read more

Why future homes could be made of living fungus

In the summer of 2014 a strange building began to take shape just outside MoMA PS1, a contemporary art centre in New York City. It looked like someone had started building an igloo and then got carried away, so that the ice-white bricks rose into huge towers. It was a captivating sight, but the truly impressive thing about this building … Read more

Carrot cement: How root vegetables and ash could make concrete more sustainable

Concrete has become our building material of choice for countless structures such as bridges, towers and dams. But it also has a huge environmental footprint mostly due to carbon dioxide emissions from the production of cement – one of its main constituents. Researchers are now experimenting with root vegetables and recycled plastic in concrete to … Read more

Q&A: ‘We need to reduce the ‘embodied energy’ of buildings

Retrofitting Europe’s buildings for energy efficiency is not enough to slash the carbon footprint of the construction sector and cut emissions in time to meet the Paris climate agreement goals, according to Dr Catherine De Wolf, assistant professor of design and construction management at TU Delft in the Netherlands. She says that we need to … Read more

We can programme plants to grow biomolecules. Is farming the future of vaccines?

On the southern outskirts of the city of Owensboro in Kentucky, US, there is a square, nondescript building. Inside, rows and rows of small plants are growing under artificial lights. This is a new generation biotech venture: a molecular farm. Others are springing up across the US and elsewhere – and they farm vaccines. This … Read more