Hyphae Design Laboratory
We are a mission-driven company.
We collaborate with communities, companies, cities and scientists to discover the inseparable links between earth's systems, human societies, and their built environments.
We create healthy connected communities through innovative research, engineering and design partnerships.
From the Bay Area to the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh, our stories highlight the intersection of art, science, justice and engineering.
Cleaning the Air through Ecosystem Interventions
Traffic sourced air pollution is a major contributor to human disease, with children and the elderly being most vulnerable to its toxic effects.
A Daily Dose of Green
Louisville's Green Heart Project conducts a clinical trial in which nature is the drug.
"Landscape as drug is our concept," says Brent Bucknum, the founding principal of Oakland, California's Hyphae Design Laboratory. It's his way of explaining how he and his team, which includes ecologists, engineers, and landscape architects...
Ambitious Louisville study seeks to understand impact of trees on our health
Green for Good
Louisville Metro Government’s Office of Sustainability and its partners embarked on an exciting project called Green for Good: to strategically unite interrelated sustainability efforts and to connect the dots between investing in greening strategies and quantifiable health impacts. The Office partnered with Hyphae Design Lab, Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil, University of Louisville and Washington University in St. Louis to leverage their innovative work around assessing environmental conditions and human health risks. Extensive research supports the fact that human health is significantly impacted by the built and natural environment. Exposure to vegetation is reported to reduce stress, improve health perceptions and protect against cardiopulmonary disease. This effect is thought to be due in part to associated reductions in exposure to air pollution; various types of vegetation are known to capture air pollution.
The overall goal of the Green for Good project was to examine how vegetation may be utilized to reduce exposure to traffic pollutants and to test the idea that a greener neighborhood is a healthier neighborhood. The project was conducted at St. Margaret Mary School and a vegetated buffer (biofilter) was installed and configured to reduce exposure of the students and staff to traffic related air pollutants. Air sampling was conducted before and after the planting to see how the trees affected pollution levels. A cohort of 60 students and 24 adults volunteered to provide blood and urine samples both before and after the planting. The samples were evaluated for levels of circulating angiogenic cells and immune cells as well as other health indicators.
The air monitoring data showed that under certain conditions, particulate pollution was 60% lower immediately behind the biofilter. The health monitoring showed that among the study participants, levels of circulating angiogenic cells were higher after the biofilter was planted. These cells keep blood vessels healthy. When a person has higher levels of these cells, they have a lower risk of heart disease. We also found that levels of immune cells were lower after planting.
Hyphae Design Laboratory is working with the University of Louisville’s Envirome Institute, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), National Institute of Health (NIH), Washington University, and other partners on a multi-year study to determine if dramatically increasing vegetation through the planting of thousands of trees in the South Louisville study area positively impacts the resident’s cardiovascular health.
Existing research—including a pilot study in Louisville—supports a link between urban greening and health outcomes. However, the Green Heart Project is the first controlled experiment to test urban greening in the same way a new pharmaceutical intervention is tested. The focal point of the project is a five-year health study. First the research team will assess the risk of diabetes and heart disease, stress levels, and the strength of social ties in 700 participants from the neighborhood. The team will take baseline measurements of air pollution levels at the same time.
The project team is considering parts of several neighborhoods of South Louisville. Over a two year timeframe, the team is working with community members, agencies and non-profit organizations to collaboratively design and plant thousands of trees, grasses, vines and shrubs (many of them mature specimens) throughout the community to enhance the urban ecosystem, promote physical activity while decreasing stress and physically buffering and filtering air pollution. Over the following three years, roughly 700 participants, (enough for the research to be significant) will receive annual check-ups to evaluate how the increasing greenery has affected their physical and mental health, and their social ties.