Design firm “grows” a house from mushrooms during Dutch Design Week

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In the Netherlands, a design conference is showcasing the ability of mushrooms to one day provide an alternative material to the construction industry, a major contributor of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The Growing Pavilion—the Dutch Design Week submission from Known-design—features several renewable materials, including timber and compressed cattails. But the structure’s main feature is walls made from mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, grown on shaping molds filled with hemp waste as substrate. The molds are six feet tall by three feet wide and grew over the course of the design showcase. Once fully grown, the mushroom walls are hardened to stop expansion and coated with a biobased protective layer.

Jan Berbee, cofounder of Known-design, tells Fast Company that the fungi is meant to replace construction’s extensive use of rigid foam panels made from the plastic expandable polystyrene, which emit three times their weight in carbon dioxide. By comparison, Known-design’s mycelium captures twice its weight in CO2.