Aalto University: The Designs for a Cooler Planet exhibition showcases 30 projects for a more sustainable future

Resource wisdom means using raw materials, energy, products, time and facilities with care. Wise design respects our common future. It advances wellbeing and carefully considers the impacts of our choices on future generations, society and biodiversity.

Aalto University’s Designs for a Cooler Planet event showcases radical ideas and creative prototypes under the theme of Resource wisdom. The physical exhibitions at Otaniemi will follow all regulations set by the Finnish authorities in September. The virtual exhibition and the seminars are open for everyone from 8 to 29 September 2021. The event is part of the official program of Helsinki Design Week.

Come and see what happens when scientists and designers work together, across disciplines, to come up with ideas for a more sustainable future.

Foam wood for packaging, insulation and food industry
The wood-based foam material developed by Aalto’s researchers is light, durable and flexible, and of course renewable and biodegradable. In the future, it could replace, for example, styrofoam and bubble wrap, as well as insulate buildings and be a raw material for the food industry. Researchers are using artificial intelligence to tailor foam properties and find new uses.

Lignin is the binder structure of wood, and as it is very difficult to process chemically, it has been burned for energy. Now Aalto researchers have developed a simple and economical way to make spherical lignin particles. They can replace fossil raw materials and toxic chemicals in adhesives and coatings, for example. The invention is important not only for the environment but also for the economy because it multiplies the yield from lignin compared to incineration.

Precision fertilizer for forests from compost and ash
Fertilization of forests significantly boosts tree growth, and thus increases both carbon sequestering and forest owners’ income. Aalto researchers developed an ecological precision fertilizer which contains all the nutrients needed by trees from compost and ash without chemical processes and extraction that burden the environment. Indeed, the carbon footprint of this fertilizer is only one-tenth that of a similar chemical fertilizer.

Designs for a Cooler Planet
From a car-dominant road to a liveable street
We can decrease the need to build new construction by renovating and revitalizing neglected urban areas. Otakaari road on the Otaniemi campus was used as a case study in which a bleak road was redesigned to a lively street: there will still be cars, but pedestrians and biodiversity are prioritized. Based on unmet user needs and visitor data, architect and service design students made plans to make outdoor spaces and interiors more attractive to improve the occupancy and user satisfaction.