The Constructor

Mycelium as a Construction Material

Mycelium

Mycelium

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Mycelium is a natural fungi material that has been explored as a potential construction material in recent years. It is a fast-growing matrix that has the capability to act as a natural glue. 

Mycelium composites have been promoted in response to the need for alternate construction materials with less environmental footprint. It is experiencing an increasing interest and commercialization in the EU and USA for construction applications.

This article discusses the various features and applications of mycelium as a construction material.

What is Mycelium?

Mycelium is the vegetative tissue of a fungus (e.g., mushrooms) that is found underneath the ground. It acts as the medium through which the fungus absorbs nutrients.

Shell Mycelium Pavillion / BEETLES 3.3 and Yassin Areddia Designs
Image Credits: Krishna & Govind Raja

Mycelium forms the invisible part of the mushrooms that contain minuscule threads called hyphae. These threads colonize the soil and other types of substrate by acting as glue and cementing it to form a solid block.

When dried, the root-like fibers of mycelium are used as a super strong, water, mold, and fire-resistant building material. 

Mycelium as a Construction Material

When clean, organic waste is brought in contact with mycelium, the fungus grows around the waste by growing roots and fibers that digest all of the waste. Finally, a solid block of mycelium is formed. It is later broken up and put into molds. These solid mycelium blocks are used for packaging applications or for manufacturing other mycelium composites.

Mycelium products can be molded to produce furniture, insulating panels, bricks with increased thermal and acoustic properties, etc. 

The final mycelium product varies based on the mycelium strain and the substrate used. 

As per the scientific research and studies, the characteristics of mycelium-based biocomposite are strongly affected by the fungal species and their growth rate. 

The key benefits of mycelium-derived materials include:

  1. Low-cost material
  2. Low-cost energy production
  3. Low-density materials
  4. Low environmental impact and carbon footprint
  5. Biodegradable
  6. Good fire, thermal and acoustic insulation
Image Credits: Ecovative Mushroom® Insulation, Cortesia de Ecovative

Mycelium is used to create airtight insulating walls. Mushrooms are packaged between wooden panels. Within 3 days, mycelium grows and solidifies the loose particles to create airtight insulation and form a strong sandwich, as shown in the figure below.

Ecovative Mushroom® Insulation
Image Credits: Cortesia de Ecovative

Even though mycelium is used in several small and temporary structures in the nascent stages, it is still under study.

Mycelium has low structural strength and dries off when exposed to the environment and becomes inactive. These limitations require further research and development to make it achieve excellent functional characteristics for construction. 

FAQs

How is mycelium used in construction?

Mycelium is a natural fungi material that has been explored as a potential construction material in recent years. It is a fast-growing matrix that has the capability to act as a natural glue. Mycelium products can be molded to produce furniture, insulating panels, bricks with increased thermal and acoustic properties, etc. 

What are the advantages of mycelium in construction?

The key benefits of mycelium-derived materials include:
1. Low-cost material
2. Low-cost energy production
3. Low-density materials
4. Low environmental impact and carbon footprint
5. Biodegradable
6. Good fire, thermal and acoustic insulation

What are the drawbacks of mycelium?

Mycelium has low structural strength and dries off when exposed to the environment and becomes inactive.

Read More:

Materiality in Architecture: 7 Eco-Friendly Materials to Look Out For

Alternate Building Materials Used in Construction Industry

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