Biohm grows mushrooms in sawdust and agriculture waste, and then uses mycelium, the thread-like roots that connect the fungus, to make clean, effective insulation panel.
Every time a building is built or demolished, dumpsters full of construction waste head to landfills—and each year in the U.S., the construction and demolition industry generates around twice as much trash as all of the other waste in cities. The materials often can’t easily be recycled. But by redesigning common materials, a U.K.-based startup called Biohm is working to help the industry shift to a circular model.
At a factory a few hours west of London that will open early next year, the company will soon begin mass-producing its first product: insulation made from mycelium, the thread-like roots that connect mushrooms. The material is biodegradable and eliminates other environmental problems caused by typical foam insulation. But it also outperforms the standard product.
“We found that mycelium, or mushroom-based networks and structures, are incredibly similar to the structures that you get in engineered plastic-insulation products,” says Ehab Sayed, founder and director of innovation at Biohm.
In tests, they found that the material does a better job of insulating than alternatives like foam, with less thermal conductivity, and in a fire, it’s slower to burn. Tests also suggest that it’s as durable as standard insulation. But unlike standard insulation, it can be safely composted at the end of its life, or easily reused to make more insulation.
The company grows mycelium by feeding waste, such as sawdust or agricultural byproducts, to the fungus, which helps make the final product carbon negative. Then it lets it grow to the size of a standard insulation panel. “What you’ll end up with is an insulation panel that’s been completely naturally formed,” Sayed says. Once it’s grown to the correct size, it’s cured into a rigid, strong material.