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Mushroom bricks and peanut partitions?

Would you want to live in a house insulated with mushroom bricks?

Before you answer that, let me share a statistic with you…

Did you know that the construction industry in the UK is responsible for 60 per cent of all raw materials consumed in this country? (That is according to estimates by WRAP.)

Perhaps if we invested more time and effort into looking at how we can reuse materials, we could reduce this industry’s impact on the planet.

What if, instead of sending organic waste to landfill, or incinerating it, we created building materials from it? Meaning we could reduce the volume of raw materials used.

It’s an interesting prospect, isn’t it?

Apparently in Europe we generate more than 40 million tonnes of dried organic waste each year, and the amount is growing.

If we burn that waste, each kilogram is worth about €0.85, but if it were turned into interior cladding, it could potentially be worth €6 per kilo.

More importantly, this would have a positive impact on the environment too.

Some of the products already available include:

• Partition boards made from peanut shells – these are moisture resistant and flame retardant.

• Boards and fillers made from rice and rice husk ash respectively.

• Rugged textiles made from banana fruit and leaves. Banana fibre is high strength and has good sound absorption and durability.

• Insulation and acoustic absorption provided by potato peel. The peel is cleaned, pressed and dried to create a material that is low-weight, fire resistant and water repellent.

A report from Arup has looked at some of the advances made in developing alternative organic materials, and mentions innovative products including mushroom bricks, which can be grown in five days.

The concept comes from inventor-artist Philip Ross, who has been experimenting with fungi and mycelium in his art installations for around 20 years, including creating building blocks.

He creates the blocks by letting mycelium bacteria grow within a brick-shaped mould. The growth is stopped using a hot oven.

There are some limitations though. If the blocks aren’t dried sufficiently, they can start sprouting. And there is also the issue of people associating fungus with mould – not something we want in our homes.

Potentially, it will take time for these kinds of materials to catch on, but there is a push towards greater sustainability, so maybe it won’t be that long before our homes are insulated with fungi?

What do you think? Is using organic matter in construction a positive step? And is it likely to become mainstream?

Remember, if you need help with the structural elements of a project, please get in touch to see if our team can help.

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