Architecture Research Group

Mycelium Curiosities

Investigating the feasibility of fungal mycelium synthesised materials and the utilisation of nature’s biopolymers obtained from agricultural waste to biologically engineer a sustainable and biodegradable material for use in construction.

Mycelium Curiosities

The Challenge

The world of fungi has attracted a lot of interest and seems to be becoming very fashionable of late. No surprise: we’re being promised that mushrooms may be the key to a sustainable future in fields as diverse as fashion, toxic spill clean ups, mental health and construction.

Climate change is the fundamental design problem of our time: buildings are hugely complicit in the crisis. Together, buildings and construction contribute 39% of the world’s carbon footprint. Energy used to heat, cool and light buildings accounts for 28% of these emissions: households are the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases since 2015, accounting for a quarter of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2017.

The remaining 11% of buildings’ carbon emissions consists of those associated with construction and building materials. The UK construction industry, for example, uses around 400 million tonnes of materials each year and approximately 100 million tonnes become waste. Cement alone is responsible for a whopping 8% of global CO₂ emissions. Compare this to the much maligned global aviation industry, which emits 2% of all human-induced CO₂ emissions. Buildings and, by association, the construction industry, are profoundly responsible for climate change.

There is evidently a real need for the construction industry to reduce the impact of its material and energy use and to take part in the transition towards a more sustainable economy by researching and using alternative materials. This is not an absurd ask: such materials already exist.


Mycelium Curiosities is a Ph.D. research project which investigates the feasibility of fungal mycelium synthesised materials and the utilisation of nature’s biopolymers obtained from agricultural waste to biologically engineer a sustainable and biodegradable material for use in construction. The aims of the research project are to provide an overview into the production, properties and performance of mycelium-based materials, extract natural cellulose fibres from wheat straw and to determine whether the material can be implemented for structural and/or non- structural applications. Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus consisting of a mass of branching thread-like hyphae, which act as a natural binder (matrix) in the mycelium-based composite system. Mycelium is mainly composed of natural polymers, such as chitin, cellulose and proteins and is a natural polymeric composite fibrous material. Mycelium digests nutrients from agricultural waste and in the process bonds to the surface without use of any additional energy input. It also depolymerises and colonise natural cellulose fibres acting as a natural self-assembling glue.

THE impact

The research includes investigations into the development of mycelium materials using locally sourced materials such as wheat straw. Wheat straw is a cheap and abundant source of waste in the Yorkshire region, so would be a fantastic raw material for construction. The main objective is to develop a material for use in non-load bearing applications, such as internal wall construction and façade cladding. The material displays similar structural properties to those of natural materials like wood.

The development of mycelium materials from locally sourced agricultural waste could reduce the construction industry’s reliance on traditional materials, which could improve its carbon footprint. Mycelium composite manufacturing also has the potential to be a major driving force in developing new bioindustries in rural areas, generating sustainable economic growth while creating new jobs.

A full article is published at The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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