A British startup wants to combat waste in the construction industry by creating insulation panels from mushrooms.
Every time a building is constructed or demolished, the garbage and debris generated end up going straight to landfills, as many of the materials are not recyclable. But there is a startup in the UK that is trying to change this paradigm by making use of everyday materials and thus making the construction industry more sustainable.
In a factory that will open in early 2022 near London, the Biohm will start mass-producing its first product: insulation panels made with mycelium – the vegetative part of mushrooms consisting of a branching mass formed by a set of tangled hyphae.
The product is biodegradable and puts an end to the environmental problems caused by today’s most widely used foam insulation, which often uses styrofoam, writes Fast Company. But in addition to being more environmentally friendly, this new material is also more efficient than current competition.
“We’ve found that mycelium, or mushroom-based nets, are incredibly similar to the structures we see in plastic insulation products,” says Biohm founder and director of innovation, Ehab Sayed. The team concluded that the material insulates buildings better than current alternatives with less thermal conductivity and burns more slowly in a fire.
Tests have also shown that panels made from mushrooms are as durable as the foam used today, but unlike foam, it can be easily composted at the end of its life. used to make more panels of insulation.
The company grows mycelium as a by-product of mushroom farming, which helps to make the final environmental impact negative, and then grows it to the overall size of an insulation panel and turns it into a rigid and resistant material. “We ended up with an insulation panel that was created completely naturally,” says Sayed.
Through the use of mushrooms, the material does not need fossil fuels, which are used in typical foam insulation. Current panels also use a gas with far more harmful effects on the environment than CO2, although the industry is trying to change this paradigm due to tighter regulations. Dust released during construction and inside houses is also harmful to air quality and affects workers and residents.
In addition to the panels made with mushrooms, the company is developing plant-based cement and fiber boards made from food scraps and hopes to open new factories in the UK and the Netherlands.
The current production capacity will reach 30 houses a month, but that small scale should not make the prices too high and the panels will remain competitive with the insulation used now.
Biohm hopes that the increase in production and the use of waste will lead to a reduction in costs and that the panels will become eventually more accessible.