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Fungal Architecture: How Mycelium Is Revolutionizing Sustainable Building Materials
Mycelium. It’s more than a concept kids learn about in school. It’s more than a way to restore ecosystems and help trees survive and thrive. It’s a material that may alter the way we build our homes, neighborhoods, and cities.
Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, and researchers have been discovering its many uses for years. One includes creating innovative, sustainable building materials to revolutionize the construction industry.
In simple words: Living in mushroom homes never seemed more feasible.
Join us to explore the fascinating world of fungal architecture. We discuss how it works and how we may create eco-friendly buildings with unique properties.
Hint: we will discuss self-healing and fire resistance.
Where plants have roots, fungi have mycelium. This network of tiny, thread-like fibers grows underground, absorbing water and nutrients. Sometimes, the fruiting body (what we know as mushrooms) emerges above ground.
This material is self-healing. It consists of a network of fibers that easily break and re-form. Hyphae keep growing after receiving damage, essentially repairing themselves.
Mycelium has impressive fire resistance. It consists of fibers with low thermal conductivity, meaning it doesn’t spread heat. Its water contents make it less susceptible to ignition. It can also release water vapor and extinguish flames if heated.
Fungal architecture is also well-insulated. Mycelium is dense and three-dimensional, with air pockets that trap heat and keep living spaces comfortable.
How Do We Build With Mycelium?
The possibilities are endless, but scientists have a few general ideas.
One option is to use mycelium as a binding agent due to its adhesive properties. Combining it with sawdust or agricultural waste creates hardy, sustainable composite material.
Another option is to grow mycelium into blocks by placing it into a mold filled with nutrient-rich substrate. The resulting structures are light and sturdy, with minimal waste or carbon emissions.
Mycelium Architecture in Practice
Fungal architecture isn’t solely a theoretical concept: we can find real-world examples across the globe. Notable projects include:
- The Growing Pavilion is a creation made by mixing mycelium and agricultural waste. Its creators call it the “ode to biobased materials.”
- MY-CO-SPACE is an inhabitable sculpture that uses mushrooms as its primary material. It’s designed for two occupants and allows folks to experience the cohabitation between humans and fungi.
- MycoTree explores the potential of fungi in architecture and design. It uses only fungi and bamboo for construction, insulation, and furniture.
- HyFi Tower is a NYC construction made of sustainable building materials. The company combines mycelium, hemp, and corn stalks to replace synthetics.
- NEWood materials consist exclusively of organic, locally sourced matter. A related startup seeks to make them available in the industrial sector.
Perks of Mycelium-Based Materials
As we’ve seen, mycelium has a range of impressive properties. But how does it compare to traditional options?
Mycelium vs. Traditional Materials
Concrete and wood have long been the go-to choices in the construction industry. Their durability compares to mycelium, but they lack self-healing ability. Fungal materials are lightweight and easy to transport, making them easier to use on-site. They’re also simple to cut and shape without specialized tools, saving time and money during construction.
Environmental Benefits of Mycelium
Buildings are complicit in the climate crisis. Their creation and existence contribute 39% of the world’s carbon footprint. Of this staggering percentage, 11% is from construction and materials. Mycelium is much environmentally friendlier.
Fungal materials are grown rather than manufactured, meaning they have a smaller carbon footprint. They may even sequester (isolate and diminish) carbon dioxide as they develop.
Fungal blocks also produce less waste. Concrete, wood, and bricks scraps and debris often end up in landfills. We can compost fungal leftovers and use them as nutrient-rich soil additives.
Economic Benefits of Mycelium
Fungal architecture may require a higher initial investment but offers significant long-term savings. Being durable against wear and tear, they require less maintenance and replacements.
The production process is also less resource-intensive. We can grow mycelium with organic waste, reducing the use of energy and raw materials.
Challenges & Limitations
Sustainable building materials of fungi are promising, but they come with unique challenges.
Notably, scalability and availability can be problematic. While fungi rapidly grow, producing large quantities for commercial construction is still hard. They also require specific nutrients, some of which are expensive or inaccessible.
Scientists and engineers are developing methods for producing mycelium blocks efficiently and cost-effectively. For instance, these materials may grow in farm manure or combine with existing materials for added sturdiness. The projects are in their infancy, but promising.
Future of Mycelium Architecture
Fungal architecture can be game-changing for eco-friendly construction. Startups are coming up to make it commercially available for components like:
- Roofing: Due to their insulating and waterproof properties, mycelium blocks can be efficient roofs. The tiles are lightweight, easy to install, and can last decades.
- Flooring: We can mold this material into many shapes, creating durable floors. Its insulating properties can regulate temperature and reduce noise in homes.
- Walls: The strength, insulation, customizability, and fire resistance make mycelium suitable for load-bearing and non-load-bearing walls.
The future of sustainable building materials relies on continued interest and investment. As science meets industry, we can expect greater demand and innovation.
Building a Better Future With Fungi
Mycelium as a sustainable building material has massive potential. It offers various environmental benefits, potential cost savings, and safety for people within homes.
While issues remain, ongoing research is looking bright. Experimental architecture already proved it possible: all that’s left is expansion. Since the world is going greener, we may see those mushroom homes spring into reality.
Let’s continue to push the boundaries with fungal architecture and work towards a more sustainable future. Visit our blog for more fascinating explorations in this field.
All of the content and images on our site are for informational reference only. The cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms is federally illegal in the United States. We do not promote the cultivation of psilocybin “magic” mushrooms under any circumstances. Do not contact us asking for advice related to this subject. Any products found on this site are for microscopy and taxonomy purposes only. None of the psilocybin mushroom spores we offer are for consumption or cultivation. We do not sell any products containing psilocybin.