Our current selection of building materials tend to be carbon intensive and can have long lasting unhealthy impacts on humans. This issue (and others) have led some to look into alternative forms of building which are healthier and sturdier than what we currently use. There have been attempts at this in the past and with each iteration of research we get better at figuring out alternative building materials. One of the most interesting is to use mushrooms to build the entire structure, and to let it keep growing.
Joe Dahmen, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia School of Architecture, said people first became interested in mycelium for construction about 15 years ago as a substitute for foam insulation, which isn’t biodegradable and can pose a potential health hazard.
“There’s a real tie-in here with healthy buildings,” he said, noting that he became interested in mycelium as a replacement for formaldehyde-based glues.
Climate change is destroying many parts of the world, which increases pressure on cities and farms to make more use of less space. Building flood walls will only buy so much time and the use of energy-intensive building materials contributes to faster climate change. This might sound like a catch-22, but it isn’t. We have other options for building our cities and using land: biomaterials.
Over at coDesign they look at the quickly growing biomaterials industry and what some companies are up to. It’s not inconceivable that in the near future we’ll be able to send robots into the desert to grow a city using mushrooms.
According to Bayer, this mycelium-based material is as structurally sound as—and priced similarly to—the materials they replace. He says the production can easily scale, as verified by the several partnerships they have with manufacturers, and he is confident that we will start seeing biomaterials replacing traditional building materials. But the process of actually getting these materials produced into the hands of construction companies—and convincing them to use them over the materials we’ve been using for centuries—remains challenging.
For Bayer, the largest and most prescient problem biomaterial makers face is getting the material out of the lab and into the factories of manufacturers who will incorporate it into existing product lines. “If we create bio products that are safe and healthy and get them out there so people can see what it is, that will create market pull,” he says. “We have to take it out from the lab and demonstrate [the science] to consumers with consumer-facing applications.”
An enterprising student went on a brewery tour and discovered a lot of food waste. Grain is used when making beer in a similar way that tea is steeped, after the grain has been soaking in the water it is discarded. In some areas that grain gets turned into compost, other areas the grain can end up in a landfill. Beer is an energy intensive product and being able to cut waste is beneficial for everybody, and that’s what the student did. He has started a company that takes that grain and uses it to grow mushrooms!
One day, not long after he arrived in 2015, he was eyeing a pile of spent grain left over after the sugars are extracted during the fermenting process. Brewers not only want to dispose of it, but ditch it fast, because bacteria begin to work on the grain and, after a couple of days, cause an awful stink. “Why are we throwing this away?” he remembers asking a professor. He was directed to microbiologist Paul Tiege, a research scientist in the Olds College Centre for Innovation (OCCI), who encouraged Villeneuve to run nutritional tests on the spent grain. “Alex spotted an opportunity . . . actually, several opportunities . . . where others see a liability,” says Tiege, who worked alongside Villeneuve on his research. “He fleshed out his idea, developed a research plan and decided to turn the idea into a business.”
Tiege says it was fortuitous timing, as the innovation centre had created an incubator fund in 2015 of up to $5,000 to ensure “innovative ideas do not get stuck in the development phase.” Villeneuve’s idea was greenlighted, and he began testing
In a scientific study reminiscent of 1960’s era experimentation, researchers are delving into the effects of psylocibe mushrooms on human consciousness, the CBC reports.
The research has shown more clearly than any previous research that psilocybin produces mystical experiences in the user. 36 volunteers were tested in this modern scientific experiment, and months later they reported lasting changes in behavior as a result of the experience.
The scientists are hopeful that more research into this area will help people to deal with a number of problems such as emotional trauma and addiction.
The researchers advise against experimenting on one’s own with the drugs, as they can lead to extremely frightening experiences.