Mushroom Building Materials Grown To Be Stronger Than Brick
100% organic blocks of fungi that are water-, mold- and fire-resistant
Fungi has already been used to make lamps that are good enough to eat, but mycologist Philip Ross has some much bigger plans for them. Using the root-like fibers called mycelium, he has created a water-, mold- and fire-resistant building material that is stronger than concrete. Not only that, but it’s completely organic, compostable, and easy to mold into any conceivable shape.
It might sound too good to be true, but Ross has already put the idea to work as part of his Mycotecture project, which features an arch grow exclusively from the fungus Ganoderma lucidum (also known as Reishi or Ling-chi) at the Far West Fungi mushroom farm in Monterey, California. This particular test structure is also part of a much larger project which aims to grow an entire building out of fungal material. On his website, Ross said, “My goal is to create a space that can shelter 12-20 people at a time.”
“It has the potential to be a substitute for many petroleum-based plastics. It’s left the art world and seems to have entered a Science Fiction novel or something like that,” explained Ross in a recent interview with Glasstire. “Things are doable now that are only limited by the imagination, or money. There are so many people doing stuff with mushrooms right now. It felt lonely for a while being this insulated mushroom weirdo, so in some ways it’s a huge relief. Right now there’s just a profusion of mushroom stuff that crosses over between practical technology and the fantastic.”
While the practical applications are extensive, Ross is also keen to include his mushrooms in as much artwork as possible. One such example is the Hy-Fi Mushroom Tower pavilion, currently being built by NYC’s MoMa PS1.
Growing mushrooms and putting them to use in various ways used to be a well-guarded secret by many people, but at a time when every little counts towards salvaging the environment, that knowledge is slowly being made available to the public. As with any industry, the threat of companies patenting every possible approach is very real, but hopefully those involved can learn to take a more collaborative, and open-source approach to building with mushrooms.
Images by Philip Ross