Lasse, Kristian, and Dan from the Grotesk Innovation startup. Photo: Kaare Schmidt

Mushroom turns waste into building materials

Friday 26 Mar 21
Building materials based on industrial waste and 'roots', known as mycellium, of edible mushrooms might become a tender for sustainable building materials. Three master students from DTU Management have developed a method to grow building materials that show surprisingly good fire-retardant properties and, by example, can be used to replace wooden boards.   

“The materials are mainly grown on industrial waste from agriculture, but we also grow materials on other more exotic types of industrial waste such as hemp shives, seagrass, and cotton. And since our materials are grown together, by the roots of edible mushrooms, it takes very little embedded energy to produce the materials. And when the materials is no longer needed they can either be recycled into new materials or be composted right back into nature,”says Dan Skovgaard Jensen, who studies Design and Innovation at DTU Management.

Dan Skovgaard Jensen has developed the compostable building materials and have the startup company Grotesk Innovation together with Kristian Ullum Kristensen and Lasse Koefoed Sudergaard, who are also master students at DTU Management. 

Made from industrial waste

The production of the mushroom building materials takes place in DTU Skylab. Here, mushrooms spores, nutrients, and water are added to industrial waste. Subsequently, the mixture is poured into special bags that ensure optimal growth conditions for the mushroom. The mushroom then shoots its white roots through the industrial waste, binding the waste together, and forming a structure that can either be moulded into various forms or pressed into boards. One week later, the materials are dried out and the materials are ready for use.

As hard as a particle board

The acoustic panels are as light as flamingo and the boards are hard as particle boards. Both materials have shown good fire-retardant properties in fire screenings at DTU Civil Engineering. Unlike wood products, the roots of mushroom help inhibit the ignition of the compostable building materials.

Dan Skovgaard Jensen, Kristian Ullum Kristensen, and Lasse Koefoed Sudergaard believe that the compostable materials can be used as a sustainable alternative for various applications within the construction industry, such as wooden boards or acoustic panels.

DTU Skylab recently published a book on creating an innovative environment. You can access the e-book here.