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UrbanMYCOskin – a promising biomaterial for sustainable construction of the future

19 of April '24
  1. UrbanMYCOskin is a novel building biomaterial derived from recycled textile waste under the action of mycelium. Its authors are Natalia Piórecka, Rita Morais and Jennifer Levy.
  2. The UrbanMYCOskin biomaterial won an award in the Rising Stars category of the New European Bauhaus 2024 competition.
  3. UrbanMYCOskin is a material of the future that can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of construction.
  4. The UrbanMYCOskin project promotes a circular economy by recycling waste and creating bioreceptive infrastructure that adapts urban space to changing climate conditions.
  5. The durability of mycelium-based materials can be comparable to traditional building materials, especially in interior spaces.

  6. For more interesting information, visit the home page of the A&B portal.

Did you know that the textile industry generates 92 million tons of waste every year? What if it were used as a building material? Natalia Piórecka, Rita Morais and Jennifer Levy, researchers at London's Bio-Integrated Design lab at the Bartlett School of Architecture, have created UrbanMYCOskin, a novel biomaterial based on said waste and mycelium. This is the future of architecture!

proces tworzenia UrbanMYCOskin

the process of creating UrbanMYCOskin

© Illustrations courtesy of Natalia Piórecka

The use of bio-based materials and the use of ethically produced low-carbon materials is one of the keys to lowering the construction industry's carbon footprint. UrbanMYCOskin meets this challenge — it combines mycelium with agricultural and textile waste. Components integrated in this way are transformed into material and, using digital fabrication technology, take the shape we expect through 3D printing.

druk 3D

3D printing

© Illustrations provided courtesy of Natalia Piórecka

The project not only promotes circular economy, but also aims to create a bioreceptive infrastructure — the creators of UrbanMYCOskin explain. — Using specific geometric topologies based on environmental simulations, Urban MYCOskin creates microclimates that help adapt urban spaces to extreme temperature increases. The project's bioclimatic strategies include diverting rainwater, creating shaded spaces and promoting plant growth in selected areas, supporting local biodiversity — they add.

The researchers won an award in the Rising Stars category of the New European Bauhaus 2024 competition for this project. In their competition vision, they proposed building a tram stop on Praça Martim Moniz in Lisbon out of this material.

We talk to Natalia Piórecka about the process of creating UrbanMYCOskin, the possible applications and the durability of the mushroom-based material

Ola Kloc: You convert agricultural and textile waste into a building material, what is the process like?

Natalia Piórecka: The process of converting agricultural and textile waste into building material involves the use of mycelium, which is an organism capable of decomposing organic matter. Initially, waste is collected and processed to create a suitable substrate for mycelium growth. The mycelium is then introduced into the substrate, where it colonizes and, through partial decomposition, binds waste particles together to form a cohesive material. This material can be molded into desired shapes and allowed to grow and strengthen over time. By stopping the decomposition process at a certain point, we can obtain a highly functional biomaterial.

elementy zbudowane z UrbanMYCOskin

Components built with UrbanMYCOskin

© Illustrations provided courtesy of Natalia Piórecka

Ola: How long does it take to produce such a material?

Natalia: The production time of a mycelium-based material can vary depending on several factors, such as the type and amount of substrate used, the species of mycelium chosen, and the conditions under which growth takes place. Typically, the process of mycelial growth, or colonization of the substrate, takes about two weeks. After this phase, the material is ready for final processing.

Ola: Is it possible to compare its durability to other building materials?

Natalia: In terms of durability, mycelium-based materials can exhibit strength comparable to traditional building materials, such as untreated wood. However, their durability can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the application method, environmental conditions and maintenance methods, especially if the material is exposed to direct contact with water. Overall, mushroom materials have shown great potential for use in architecture and design, especially in interior spaces.

Design of a tram stop on Praça Martim Moniz in Lisbon using Urban MYCOskin

Design of a tram stop on Praça Martim Moniz in Lisbon using Urban MYCOskin

© Illustrations provided courtesy of Natalia Piórecka

With growing interest from scientists, engineers, architects and designers, these materials are advancing rapidly, pushing the boundaries of typical composites. Numerous studies are being conducted on their durability and strength, including outdoors, as reflected in the UrbanMYCOskin project. With their diversity and great environmental advantages, such as the low energy needed for production, the ability to recycle waste as a base for growth, or their full biodegradability, composites created with mycelium are an attractive alternative to conventional building materials, and their use in everyday life will become increasingly common. It is also crucial to recognize the unique advantages and properties of these materials, which are not limited to the role of substitutes for existing solutions, but offer new perspectives in creating innovative architectural designs.

Ola: Thank you for the interview!

asked Ola Kloc

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