Moulding the Future: Buildings Made from Mushrooms

A new technology that transforms fungus into an organic building material has been developed by researchers. The mould-breaking eco-material has already been used to construct a structurally sound 40-foot tower, made entirely of mushroom matter. CCL investigates whether this pioneering technology could signal the start of a new wave of organically grown building materials.

The mushroom tower, (unsurprisingly, the first of its kind) was constructed from 10,000 bricks formed from fibrous fungi grown entirely from agricultural waste. The structure is the result of a collaboration between an architectural team known as The Living, and eco-material researchers Evocative Design, both based in New York.

Source: The Living

The Science
Known as mycelium material engineering, the process sees complete, ready to use bricks grown in just five days from a simple organic mixture containing fungal spores, which is placed in moulds. This emerging technology is of interest to the construction industry as it could represent a viable alternative to other materials in certain building applications. The material is not only fast to produce and much lighter than concrete but can literally be grown on-site where and when it is needed, negating the need for some of the carbon-heavy manufacturing and transportation associated with traditional construction materials.

hyfi_01Source: The Living

The Durability Test
To stress test the material before the tower was constructed, the bricks for the mushroom tower were put through an accelerated ageing process over a period of three weeks, which imitated the weather conditions in a typical three-year period. Rather impressively, the blocks were unaffected and proved to be just as durable as they were when they were first made.
Due to its much lower weight-bearing capacity, compared to concrete, the new material has far fewer practical construction applications, but it remains on the ‘useful’ list, especially considering its positive environmental credentials.

Comparative Assessment
Mushroom bricks are much lighter than concrete (43 kg/m³ as opposed to 2400kg/m³) and as such they are much easier to work with physically. However as they bear less weight they are not suitable for traditional load-bearing applications. They are ideal, though, as insulation and could be used in some non-load-bearing situations.

hyfi_02Source: The Living

Zero Carbon Footprint
The most attractive feature of mushroom bricks is the fact that they are carbon-neutral. And although the mushroom tower is very much a first iteration of using the material practically, the benefits of organic construction materials that can actually be grown on-site are so compelling, we expect to see this kind of initiative heavily funded in the future. The mushroom tower is likely to be the first of many, ever-stronger versions.

Usefulness Beyond Construction
This material is also peaking the interest of the packaging industry. Mycelium-based materials make a great alternative to traditional paper-based packaging as it can be formed into any shape and has a curing time of just five days. Plus its natural resistance to fire makes it far safer than conventional packaging materials.

The Future
The search for sustainable, carbon-neutral building materials is expected to continue to accelerate over the coming years. Although there are challenges to overcome, it may not be long until we all live and work in structures made from materials that are grown rather than manufactured.

hyfi_05Source: The Living