FIU architecture students led by Landscape Architecture Professor Robert Rovira and Architecture Professor Nick Gelpi recently unveiled their design of a new butterfly garden at Oleta River Park in North Miami Beach. Unlike many other public butterfly gardens in South Florida, this one features a new, permeable aggregate material—dubbed as Mineralized Wood Concrete (MWC). The butterfly garden at Oleta also serves as an outdoor classroom for local schools.
MWC is in its research and development stage, highly-sustainable and made from mineralized Melaleuca wood, which is typically known for being an invasive species in the Florida Everglades. Supported by industry sponsors Michigan-based Allied Metals Corporation and Belgian concrete company Prefer, the FIU team researched and invented applications and designs for MWC. FIU students studied how MWC affects the interaction with the general public and with South Florida’s native butterfly population. The students were provided with access to 20,000 pounds of this raw material, and turned it into a series of walls, planters, benches, and walkable permeable pavers. The permeability of MWC allows water to flow right through it, instead of creating puddles; it is also more lightweight than standard concrete.