A new multi-use material, mycelium, has the potential to change the world of construction, as well as replace polystyrene and MDF. Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus and is a dense network of microscopic fibres that grow through the substrate. When dried, it can be used as a super-strong, water, mould and fire-resistant building material that can be grown into specific forms, thus reducing the processing requirements. It is completely organic, and when mixed with other organic waste, has the potential to be transformed into building materials that are 100 per cent biodegradable.
Mycelium has already been used in a variety of forms on a smaller scale, such as packaging, with companies such as IKEA and Dell using it as an alternative to polystyrene, which takes decades to naturally break down and poses great difficulty when trying to recycle it. Other applications of mycelium include a composite board (Myco-board), which can be used much like MDF without the extremely dangerous formaldehyde which can cause respiratory illness if inhaled when sawn.
Mycelium bricks are grown in moulds using cleaned crop waste as a base. The mycelium grows around the waste, sending out roots and fibres that digest the materials, and growing into a solid form. Each brick is then dried to create a sturdy, lightweight material. The whole process takes roughly five days.
The potential benefits of using mycelium are massive. There are huge reductions on the reliance on fossil fuels, on the embodied energy required for fabrication, and in building waste – the bricks are 100% biodegradable and can be used as soil.
Although mycelium bricks have piqued the interest of the architectural and construction industries, it is not yet viable for wide-spread use and further developments need to take place. In the future, mycelium holds the possibility of being integrally involved in the construction process of buildings, being used for things like insulation and in lieu of traditional masonry.
Read more about this incredible emerging material here.