A Sustainable Alternative to Architectural Materials: Mycelium-based Bio-composites
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In the history of architecture, technologies adapted from other disciplines have created new paradigms for design and production. During the first Industrial Revolution, for instance, developments in mechanical and material engineering, and the introduction of wrought-iron, steel, and concrete, led to revolutionary changes in architecture. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, electrical engineering and electronics had a similar groundbreaking effect on architecture and design. It seems that regarding the necessities and problems that exist in the 21st century, such as dependency on fossil fuels for construction that lead to carbon emission, the abundance of solid and liquid waste and unjustifiable costs, another change in the paradigm of construction is required. One possible way to address these issues is to return to nature and take advantage of biomaterials. This research studies the integration of mycelium-based bio-composites into the field of architecture. Mycelium is the vegetative part of mushrooms by which they absorb nutrients from the soil. When treated, mycelium results in a foam-like composite material that is lightweight, and biodegradable. Over the past couple of years, designers started to use mycelium-based composites in several applications ranging from product design and furniture to building panels and masonry blocks. In this research, the aim is to explore novel methods to use mycelium-based bio-composites in temporary and/or low- rise constructions. The focus of the research is on enhancing the material properties by investigating the factors that affect the nature and growth of the cultivated mycelium-based bio-composites and exploring novel structural systems based on the constraints and affordances of mycelium-based bio-composites, using computational form- finding techniques, generative design and optimization methods. In this paper, the initial incentives for conducting the research and the proposed methodology are discussed.