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Could mushrooms soon be used to make house bricks?

Could mushrooms soon be used to make house bricks?

Mushrooms Come Out of the Dark in New Building Boom

Roll up, roll up for the latest idea on house building materials – mushrooms! Funghi!

You may have heard of the mushroom philosophy in management theory – keep ‘em in the dark and periodically throw manure over them. That’s mushrooms and people.

Yes, but now those old stables of food and artificial foods like Quorn, mushrooms – or ‘living root organisms’- are being used in actual building bricks.

Dawn of The Mushroom Age

These bricks are corn stalks and mushroom cells that grow to form blocks of almost any size or shape. Once they are laid down, they just go on growing in an ever tighter mesh, strengthening against all weathers.

The more excited commentators are labelling it the birth of a mushroom era, in the same mould as the Bronze Age, the Medieval Era, the Renaissance and even the Digital Era.

You can see the apparently first examples of this high-tech work at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) PS 1 in Long Island, New York this summer.

Their website proclaims: ‘An exhibition space rather than a collecting institution, MoMA PS1 devotes its energy and resources to displaying the most experimental art in the world. A catalyst and an advocate for new ideas, discourses, and trends in contemporary art, MoMA PS1 actively pursues emerging artists, new genres, and adventurous new work by recognized artists in an effort to support innovation in contemporary art.’

Interesting that they talk primarily about art, rather than architecture and technology. So are they actually seeing a mushroom building technology as first and foremost an art installation rather than a startling piece of green technology?

Anybody catching the exhibition from June to September, please let us know.

The Green Technology Debate

The urgency of this discussion doesn’t lessen. Mushroom bricks are apparently inexpensive, emit no carbon, require near zero energy and are ultimately compostable.

The actual exhibition is called Hy-Fy and it clearly draws together the disciplines of architecture, bio-design, engineering, creative living, pure art, futurism and recycling. The perfect circle of harmony really.

What they will display is: ’a circular tower of organic and reflective bricks, which were designed to combine the unique properties of two new materials. The organic bricks are produced through an innovative combination of corn stalks (that otherwise have no value) and specially-developed living root structures, a process that was invented by Ecovative, an innovative company that The Living is collaborating with. The reflective bricks are produced through the custom-forming of a new daylighting mirror film invented by 3M.

The reflective bricks are used as growing trays for the organic bricks, and then they are incorporated into the final construction before being shipped back to 3M for use in further research. The organic bricks are arranged at the bottom of the structure and the reflective bricks are arranged at the top to bounce light down on the towers and the ground. The structure inverts the logic of load-bearing brick construction and creates a gravity-defying effect—instead of being thick and dense at the bottom, it is thin and porous at the bottom. The structure is calibrated to create a cool micro-climate in the summer by drawing in cool air at the bottom and pushing out hot air at the top.

The structure creates mesmerizing light effects on its interior walls through reflected caustic patterns. Hy-Fi offers a familiar—yet completely new—structure in the context of the glass towers of the New York City skyline and the brick construction of the MoMA PS1 building. And overall, the structure offers shade, color, light, views, and a future-oriented experience that is designed to be refreshing, thought-provoking, and full of wonder and optimism.’

All this is line with commentary elsewhere.

The Green Building Press talks about how soon ‘home builders may be growing their own insulation right in the walls of the home. And bricks could grow in a mold rather than bake in a kiln.’

They cite figures stating that ‘manufacturing traditional construction products like bricks and insulation consumes a lot of resources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that residential and commercial building contributes up to 40% of landfill wastes, and 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions are linked to the construction industry. Also, the building products industry is a large consumer of non-renewable materials and embodied energy.’

They say that to reduce the environmental impact of building, scientists and entrepreneurs are creating products that are grown, not made.

And thereby lies the future of buildings and possibly clothes too.

Other enviro-green blogs from our MBF Blog garden:

A Quick Tour Round the Garden of Latest Greenish Technology Stories, 14 August 2013

Fancy Some New Year Green and Healthy Resolutions? 6 January 2014

A Quick Drive Around Eco-Friendly Motoring, 19 November 2013

Striped Icebergs Tell a Colourful Winter Story, 15 January 2014

Startling Skeletons Send Stark Warning of Pollution Effects, 15 October 2013

Image: Jarek Tuszynski