Tall order: the air-cleaning tree that reflects natural systems

Combining beauty and practicality, this sculptural installation to fix indoor air quality asks important questions about the future of environmental technologies

What technology can solve current problems with indoor air quality? Your first thought might be a smart monitoring system combined with some complex HVAC system that brings air from the outdoors into your office. But the oldest and most natural solution to this problem would be far simpler – a tree.

That’s the basis that One.Tree operates from, asking the question: what would a sustainable solution to this problem be? And the answer is undoubtably beautiful, a 3D printed tree made from algal biopolymers, borosilicate glass, and living cultures of chlorella. This sculpture creates a living system which capture carbon from the air, creating a less polluted environment. It was unveiled as part of an exhibition at the Chengdu Biennale 2023 in Chengdu, China.

Would you want one in your office, cleaning your air and replacing your HVAC system? It might take a lot of space but the biophilic design is undoubtably beautiful and calming – creating a more reflective space with a better atmosphere.

Asks important questions

Is it a technology? It’s a good question – and not an easy one to answer. It utilises algae that has been robotically 3D-printed in order to perform its function, making it a man-made system, but admittedly one that reflects the natural world around it. It certainly performs the same role as other technologies in our lives and may even perform it better. Perhaps the better question is not ‘is this an environmental technology?’ but rather ‘how can technology be more environmental?’

Perhaps this will usher in a new generation of technologies that utilise the best knowledge in bioengineering, chemistry and design to create systems that are self-sustaining and sit more lightly on the earth. If these new technologies all looked like One.Tree, they would make the office a very different landscape.

Read Echo Callaghan’s latest Technology Roundup in our Innovation Zone here, focusing on green technologies.

To access premium content in the Innovation Zone, join WORKTECH Academy here.

Find exclusive content in the


Premium content for Global Partners, Corporate and Community Members.
The latest analysis and commentary on the future of work and workplace in five distinct themes: Research & Insights, Case Studies, Expert Interviews, Trend Publications, and Technology Guides.