Mushrooms are helping architects and engineers solve one the world’s biggest crises: climate change. These fungi are durable, biodegradable, and are proving to be a good alternative to more polluting materials.
“Our built environment needs these kinds of materials,” says David Benjamin, founding principal architect at the firm The Living. “Different countries have really ambitious climate change goals, and this material could really help jump-start some of that progress.”
Building materials and construction make up about a tenth of global carbon dioxide emissions. That’s way more than the global shipping and aviation industries combined. And the problem is getting worse.
Materials made with mycelium, the fungal network from which mushrooms grow, might be able to help turn that around. They produce far less planet-heating carbon dioxide than traditional materials like cement. An added bonus is that mushrooms are biodegradable, so they leave behind less harmful waste than traditional building materials. Mushrooms can even help with clean-up efforts, feeding off things that might have otherwise ended up in a landfill, like sawdust or agricultural waste.
Construction materials made from mushrooms are still in pretty early stages of research and development. But they’re showing potential as an insulation material and even as a replacement for concrete blocks. The Verge spoke with some of the people leading the mushroom revolution. We even made our own mushroom brick and put it to the test. Check out the video above to see how well mushrooms performed.