The U.S. government’s military research body, “Defense Advanced Research Project Agency” (DARPA) is putting money into an idea that could radically transform the future of buildings and the work of engineers and architects. DARPA is responsible for researching and developing new technologies and have launched a new programme, which will explore the potential to use materials like bone, skin, bark and coral in construction of new homes.
Exploring ideas including the possibilities of materials that grow and replenish themselves and the researchers at DARPA believes that what they describe as “engineered living materials” could help to produce buildings that are both more cost effective and self sufficient.
The initiative will aim to explore the benefits that can be gained from a whole range of innovations including the idea of chimneys that heals themselves after damage or a roof that breathes in a way that controls airflow, all utilising new technology called engineered biology, which enables smart infrastructure that responds to its surroundings.
The programme is about building towards a future where materials are grown on demand, where shipping costs are significantly reduced with buildings or module grown on site and the engineered structures then able to respond to the changes in environment. Speaking to a news agency, DARPA said:
“The long-term objective of the ELM program is to develop an ability to engineer structural properties directly into the genomes of biological systems so that neither scaffolds nor external development cues are needed for an organism to realise the desired shape and properties”.
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