Harvesting architecture
Society has predominantly embraced an extractivist approach for material manufacturing.  

This model is unsustainable, leading to the re-evaluation of what, and how materials are made. This momentum may be due to the emergence of a more environmentally consciousness. What is certain, is the development of new production philosophies, such as plant-based materials, reducing dependence on extractive processes and promoting sustainable alternatives.  

Diverse opportunities 

The advantage of plant-based materials lies in its diversity, mirroring the variety seen in nature among various species. Innovative materials that contribute to the decarbonisation of the environment, take advantage of sub-explored resources that might otherwise be considered waste. 

The selected examples of plant-based materials in this article highlight their potential, scalability and diverse applications.  

Straw-wall panels 

The system comprises panels with a twin-stud timber frame and a straw infill mixed with other natural materials, together constituting 98% of its structure. Developed by EcoCocon, it stands out for the absence of glues or chemicals in its production process. One of the main advantages of the product is that straw is obtained as a by-product of agriculture, presenting a rapidly renewable alternative compared to timber. 

Straw panels are being employed in constructing exterior walls for single-family residences through to multi-level structures. The panels provide a loadbearing structure with high insulation levels. Various panel formats are crafted for specific scenarios, allowing for diverse design and structural requirements. 

The key to scaling up is automation, according to the team. They reduce the transportation distance and embrace local production using local resources. They emphasise the need for small, agile and highly automated production centres. 

Harvesting architecture

Straw-wall panels have no glues or chemicals in the production process. Image courtesy of EcoCocon


Bio-receptive concrete 

This is a type of concrete with higher porosity than average, created using 90% to 95% recycled concrete and covered with moss wall cladding. The coating contains nutrients, water and moss spores, which are sprayed onto the concrete surface. According to Respyre, who initiated research on this material 18 years ago, this spraying method accelerates processes that “otherwise would happen through nature’s instinct”. 

This results in a material that provides benefits such as greenhouse gas conversion, the promotion of biodiversity, reduction of the heat island effect and sustainability. 

To attain scalability, the team has an efficient nursery that supplies moss for projects up to 37 500m² every twelve weeks. Outsourcing concrete production and collaborating with large-scale partners allow them to operate quickly and efficiently, focussing on moss cultivation. They stress that the main challenge lies in improving the self-sufficiency of the coating to prevent intensive project management tasks. 

Fast-growing perennial grass panels 

Based on only two resources – grass and formaldehyde-free resin – Plantd has crafted an alternative to oriented strand board (OSB), eliminating the “need” to cut down trees. The foundation of this material lies in addressing global warming by efficiently capturing excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is accomplished by cultivating a fast-growing perennial grass and enhancing the production process to convert it into a plant-based panel suitable for wall cladding and roof coverings. 

Regarding scalability, the primary focus lies on completing a 100% electric, modular and continuous production line. Considering the urgency of the climate crisis, Plantd states: “It is critical to focus on decreasing the embodied carbon emissions of all new construction projects.” On a large scale, these carbon-negative materials can transform buildings from a global warming problem into a solution. 

New possibilities 

Most building materials in architecture are associated with processes that leave a discernible carbon footprint. Each innovation in plant-based materials offers new possibilities for material reuse and the decarbonisation of the built environment. The use of these materials in new constructions is expected to grow. It is giving rise to innovative and aesthetically distinct building proposals that, instead of operating on the landscape, blend in with it.  


Plant-based materials could serve as a foundation to constructing architecture

that is more conscious of both what it builds, and how it builds it. 


Full thanks and acknowledgement to www.archdaily.com for the information in this article. 

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