The race to find the next sustainable technology or emerging materials is causing countless new materials to develop, which holds the possibility of helping to achieve this generation’s sustainability goals.

Organic brick making

One of the newest and most promising is the mycelium brick – an organic brick that is formed using organic waste and the mycelium of fungus. Mycelia are the thin root-like fibres from fungi which run underneath the ground. When dried it can be used as a super strong water-, mould- and fire-resistant building material, which can be grown into specific forms, thus reducing the processing requirements.

This 100% organic material has been gradually developed across multiple disciplines, with the architectural and construction industry recently taking interest in its possible implications.

The mycelium brick has been developed slowly and is created much the same as other mycelium products, by adding mycelium to crop waste collected by farmers. It is then poured into moulds and grown and dried into a sturdy material, with the brick taking roughly five days to grow and become usable.

Compressive strength

Although the mycelium brick is developing, it is a long way from becoming a viable and widely used building material as its compressive strength is about 30psi, which is much less than the 4 000psi compressive strength of concrete. However, relative to its weight a mycelium brick is stronger than concrete, with a cubic metre of mycelium brick weighing 43kg and a cubic metre of concrete weighing 2 400kg.

Future benefits

As mycelium is 100% biodegradable, there is a huge reduction in the reliance on fossil fuels, the embodied energy required for fabrication and building waste, which is left at the end of the product’s life.

Through bio-fabrication a carbon-neutral building process can be achieved by eliminating products such as the artificial insulation used in walls, MDF and other non-loadbearing structures.

Mycelium products can also provide other benefits such as termite proofing. Products are created to attract termites, but when eaten it causes a fungus spore to activate within the termite to kill it and repel other termites.

Although the use of mycelium is still experimental in the construction industry, its development indicates a desire to create and foster a more “cradle-to-cradle” attitude towards building. If this is eventually developed and recognised by the BASIX process, especially in Australia, it could provide enormous benefits to the country’s sustainability and energy usage goals.

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