Each time a building is constructed or torn down, dumpsters filled with building waste go to landfills—and yearly in the U.S., the building and demolition industry creates twice as much trash as all other metropolitan waste. The materials are not easily recycled. Yet through the extensive redesign of common materials, a U.K.-based startup known as Biohm is shifting the industry to a circular model.
At a factory outside of London that will open next year, the company will start to produce its premiere product: insulation culled from mycelium, the thread-like roots that interconnect mushrooms. The material is biodegradable and eliminates environmental issues prompted by typical foam insulation. And it outperforms the typical product.
Company founders discovered that mycelium, or mushroom-based networks and structures, are much like the structures that you see in engineered plastic-insulation products, said Ehab Sayed, founder and director of innovation at Biohm. They discovered that the material is better than foam when it comes to insulation, with less thermal conductivity, and is slower to burn in a fire—and it’s as durable as standard insulation. But unlike standard insulation, it can be composted at endlife, or recycled to generate additional insulation.
The company grows mycelium by way of agricultural byproducts to the fungus, which renders the final product carbon negative. Then it grows it to fit the dimensions of a standard insulation panel. The result is a naturally and perfectly formed insulation panel.
Mushroom insulation is not made with fossil fuels, or flame retardants. This healthy alternative is produced by a company that reigned as one of the 2021 winners of the Index Award, a prize focused on social impact, and is also developing other green construction materials, such as plant-based concrete and a fiberboard alternative made from food waste. A new circular construction system will use these sustainable materials in combination; the company also plans to build factories in the U.K. and the Netherlands.
The company’s present facility will create the insulation on a small scale, with enough to facilitate about 30 houses a month—and at a competitive price. Choose mushrooms for your rooms!
Image credits by Biohm