‘Decomposition Farm: Stairway’ tackles construction waste in architecture

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Decomposition Farm

Decomposition Farm: Stairway is a temporary installation that suggests one possible solution to the environmental issues associated with construction waste in the architectural field. The amount of CO2 emitted by the construction industry peaked in 2020, accounting for 38% of all energy-related emissions. In South Korea, there are no recycling statistics for Styrofoam waste from demolition. Polystyrene, more commonly known as Styrofoam, biodegrades in 500 years.

Researchers recently confirmed that mealworms, the larva of the beetle, can consume polystyrene, decompose it with its stomach enzyme, and excrete a safe substance large enough to grow crops.

Decomposition Farm

A 6-axis industrial robotic arm (IRB-4600 by ABB) is used to construct this being-digested polystyrene structure. The main design methodology is based on a 1.5-meter-wide hot wire cutter attached to the end of the robotic arm, which can carve out a chunk of foam. A design constraint is the ability to manipulate straight lines of wire; all shapes are made of ruled surfaces. In geometry, a surface S is ruled if a straight line passes through every point on the surface. In the late 1800s, without modeling software, Antoni Gaudi used the forms of ruled surfaces to simplify modeling because they are constructed from straight lines. Through exquisite robot control, thousands of computer-generated surfaces are elaborately boolean-ed out of the volumetric mass.

Many holes are drilled into carved polystyrene foams to provide a habitat for mealworms. Mealworms consume and digest polystyrene, which they then excrete in harmless feces. This process feeds moss, which is also attached to the foam, and eventually establishes a new ecosystem in the artificial environment. Mealworms are frequently provided, and this man-made structure eventually melts into nature. Humans are involved in this systematic cycle by aggregating linear-patterned elements into a large spiral staircase. More than carbon-zero construction – carbon-negative building life cycle, this radical experiment can suggest a new sustainable approach in the architectural field.

Project Info

Project Name: Decomposition Farm: Stairway
Office Name: Yong Ju Lee Architecture
Completion Year: 2022
Gross Built Area: 10 sqm
Location: Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
Photo Credits: Yong Ju Lee Architecture

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