Architects have created biodegradable building blocks using fungus

The installations are lightweight, fire-resistant, and have good insulation properties.
Sejal Sharma
Materials made of mycelium bio-composites
Materials made of mycelium bio-composites

PLP Labs 

Architects are using thread-like strands of fungi to build biodegradable and renewable building materials which can be used in construction and manufacturing.

These thread-like strands are called mycelium. As the vegetative part of a fungus, mycelium uses agricultural crop waste like rice husks and straw as catalysts for the growth of its network. This process requires no energy input and doesn’t generate extra wastage.

Mycelium-based bio-composite materials have already been applied to areas like construction, manufacturing, and agriculture. And researchers at UK-based PLP Labs have been part of a year-long experiment that explored the building capabilities of mycelium bio-composites. 

“The next era in human history is the Symbiocene, a period of re-integration between humans and nature,” says PLP Labs. Their study is focused on understanding the structural capabilities and architectural potential of Mycelium.

The team built an installation

Materials used in construction like steel and concrete aren’t biodegradable or renewable, unlike mycelium bio-composites which can be grown and harvested with minimal environmental impact. They are also lightweight, fire-resistant, and have good insulation properties, the team noted.

In their experiment, the team first 3D printed a wood block and introduced a substrate to it which was packed with mycelium. The mycelium grew over a couple of weeks. After it was dried using intense heat, the mycelium then colonized the substrate and created a durable material that could be shaped and molded into different shapes. High-heat drying was necessary to prevent the mycelium from growing any further.

Changing design with a changing environment

According to Architecture 2030, a non-profit established in response to the threat of climate change, the built environment generates 40% of annual global CO2 emissions. Building operations are responsible for 27% of these emissions. Building and infrastructure materials and construction are responsible for an additional 13% annually.

PLP Labs wants to revolutionize the construction industry by designing and building using the principles of the Symbiocene. “We believe architects and urban designers have a role in collaborating with nature to cultivate the urban landscape of the symbiocene,” said the lab. Symbiocene was coined by the environmental philosopher, Glenn A. Albrecht, who said it is the era in human history following the Anthropocene (Era of Man). This new era will focus on companionship between humankind and the natural world.

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