Imagine a world where humans, bugs, animals and plants live in harmony. Where instead of just sustaining natural life, the built environment allows it to thrive. Designers who utilize interspecies design are on a mission to make this dream a reality. 

What is Interspecies Design?

Interspecies design is essentially design that puts the needs of non-human organisms like animals and bugs at the same level to that of humans. This could come in the form of a garden designed to attract and allow bees to thrive or a pavilion designed to accommodate bird populations. Interspecies design also often involves utilizing materials that benefit both humans and nature. 

Below are some projects and materials involved in interspecies design. 

Materials Used in Interspecies Design 

Mycelium

Mycelium is a material made out of mushroom “hyphae” or the mushroom’s root system. 

When hardened, mycelium turns into a tough, water and fire resistant material. Designers can even mold it into shapes like bricks, boxes, lampshades, and furniture. In construction, this material is growing in popularity for its potential to be structurally sound and thus used in larger building projects. As of now, while mycelium can bear a lot of weight, it begins to break down over time. 

Mycelium is fast-growing, 100% biodegradable and has the unique ability to break down waste, filter out contaminants in water, convert heavy metals into less dangerous compounds, and eliminate non-degradable materials like plastics, unrefined oil, construction waste and even nuclear waste n a process known as mycoremediation. So, this fungi can simultaneously get rid of construction waste and turn it into a usable material. Additionally, not only is the process of creating mycelium bricks carbon neutral, it is carbon negative. This means that it is completely regenerative and actually sucks carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Because of all of these qualities, mycelium is the perfect material for creating interspecies designs. 

Projects that Utilize Mycelium

There are so many interesting applications for mycelium. Check out the amazing 3D printed mycelium projects at Blast Studio. This design company uses mycelium combined with discarded coffee cups to create beautiful, artistic projects. Another interesting application of mycelium is the Growing Pavillion, a pavilion made of all bio-based materials including mycelium. 

Eco Concrete

Eco Concrete is concrete that is specifically designed to allow marine life to thrive on ocean shore infrastructure. This type of concrete is engineered to create “complex surface textures that promote the growth of organisms like oysters, corals, and barnacles.” This allows marine life to develop ecosystems within that concrete. This can benefit marine life itself as well as build up layers of biomaterials that stabilize any structure built over it. 

This results in concrete that is stable for humans and habitable by marine life: perfect for interspecies design.

Projects that Utilize EcoConcrete

Check out these projects made with EcoConcrete. Projects are located around the world, including an intertidal habitat along the Hudson River in New York and tide pools created to increase biodiversity in Toulan, France. 

3D Printed Natural Materials

Sometimes called “additive manufacturing,” 3D printing is a process where a large robot creates a three dimensional printed object or structure from a digital file. 3D printing typically uses plastics, powders, resins, and carbon fiber- materials that aren’t known for being all that sustainable. However, some companies and institutions are developing 3D printing materials out of natural materials. Here are a few examples:

Chitin

Chitin is a polymer that is most commonly found in crustaceans like shrimp, crabs, scorpions and even butterflies. Scientists at MIT were inspired by this sturdy, lightweight material, and created a material out of shrimp shells that can be used in 3D printing robots. This material is 100% recyclable and biodegradable as well as cheap to acquire and produce. It has boundless potential for 3D printing and perhaps with more development, in architecture and construction. – This could be a great material for use in an interspecies design project since it is made out of crustacean waste (the creatures are already dead, not killed for their chitin) and is completely biodegradable.

Cellulose

Cellulose, the most abundant organic polymer on earth can be found in plant, wood, and cotton fibers. This material is most commonly used by humans for printing paper and clothing. However, researchers at MIT have discovered a way to use cellulose to print out 3D objects. “As explained by the scientists, cellulose acetate can be dissolved in acetone and extruded through the nozzle of the 3D printer. As the acetone quickly evaporates, the cellulose acetate becomes solid quite fast.” The ability to use cellulose for 3D printing materials opens up the possibility of creating biodegradable, earth friendly, 3D printed objects- perfect for interspecies design.

Seeded Soil

Researchers are also developing a way to 3D print out seeded soil. You can use this amazing method to print out covering over walls and roofs. Eventually, plants will sprout and grow from the seeded soil, easily creating an evenly covered green wall or roof. This is an amazing example of a material that could be used for interspecies design. Not only will the green roof or wall beautify and keep a structure cool, it will provide a habitat for bugs and other creatures.

Mycelium

Amazingly, mycelium can, and is already used to make 3D printed projects. In fact mycelium molds are already utilized by companies like Ikea, which has committed to using the fungi material as packaging. Mycelium can be made into a lot of other things too like vegan leather, beauty products, vegan meats, and more.

Other Projects that Utilize Natural Materials and 3D Printing

There are already tons of projects out there featuring 3D printed natural materials. But, check out this amazing house made out of soil and agriculture waste. This impressive, artful structure named Gaia, is made from soil taken from the area surrounding it, as well as waste materials from rice production such as chopped straw and rice husks.

Bee Bricks and Posts

Did you know that pollinators like bees are responsible for a third of all food we eat? This means that bees are absolutely essential for our survival. Unfortunately, bees are increasingly subject to habitat loss, pesticides, parasites and displacement from climate change. Luckily, there is a product that can simultaneously help solo bees and add an interesting design element to structures. 

Bee bricks by the company Green&Blue are bricks that are designed to provide shelter for solo bees. Inspired by bee nests found in old mortar and walls in the English countryside, these bricks can create temporary or permanent lodging for several species of bees. Bee bricks are essentially just bricks that have holes which allow bees to nest, lay eggs, and provide their young with nectar.  

Bee posts by the same company are sculptural posts designed in the same way as bee bricks. These aesthetically pleasing bee nests can be incorporated into landscaping and outdoor architectural projects for an artistic, interspecies design. 

Adding these bricks and posts  to your garden  is a great way to incorporate interspecies design. One cannot also help but picture this interesting design being used for a larger architectural project in the future. 

Human’s Will Continue Designing

As long as there are people, the built environment will continue to change and grow. Instead of creating an environment only considering humans, designers can start integrating interspecies design elements and materials and allow members of all species to thrive. Whether it is a homeowner incorporating bee bricks into their garden, or a designer utilizing 3D printed soil, we can all contribute to making the world a better place for all creatures.

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