PLP Labs Push Boundaries with Mycelium
PLP Architects, a UK-based design firm, is focused on developing mycelium-based bio-composite construction materials as an alternative to traditional building materials. They conducted a year-long experiment to explore the functional properties of mycelium.
Mycelium as a Building Material
Mycelium is the lower part of the mushroom ecosystem. It grows underground creating a fibrous amalgamated matter composed of a network of tiny thread-like strands called hyphae, which grow underground or in a substrate.
Due to the practical and environmental benefits of mycelium, the fungi ecosystem has been increasingly used as a building material. The popularity of mycelium is due to its ecological, sustainable, renewable and biodegradable properties. Mycelium also possesses functional characteristics, such as acoustic regulation and insulation properties.
The Philosophy of Symbiocene
PLP Architecture, through its mycelium building blocks, explores the principles of Symbiocene and practices Sumbiotecture. Glenn A. Albrecht, an environmental philosopher, originally coined these terms. The Symbiocene represents an era in human history that follows the Anthropocene and emphasizes the companionship between humankind and the natural world. Sumbiotecture is the practice of designing and building according to Symbiocene principles.
These principles include, but are not limited to:
- Full and benign recyclability and biodegradability of inputs and outputs
- Using renewable resources from the local environment
- Eliminating toxic waste in all aspects of production, consumption, and enterprise.
Can we do More with Mycelium?
PLP aimed to push the boundaries further. Mycelium is currently not used in load-bearing scenarios. The research project was intended to challenge this limitation and create a functional material capable of supporting weight.
PLP Labs conducted a year-long experiment to explore the structural capabilities and architectural potential of mycelium bio-composites. They focused on combining engineering ingenuity with the natural characteristics of fungi by bonding mycelium with 3D printed wood shells. This technique allows for the molding of mycelium into countless configurations with a high level of precision.
The process of creating (growing) the mycelium blocks used in the recent installation at Clerkenwell Design Week took approximately three months.
- First, the wood formwork is 3D printed for the building block, providing a structure for the mycelium to grow into.
- The formwork was then filled with a substrate that had been inoculated with mycelium. The mycelium substrate can consist of various forms of agricultural waste, such as straw, wood chips, or sawdust.
- Over several weeks, the mycelium colonizes the substrate.
- Finally, the mycelium blocks are exposed to intense heat to prevent further growth.
CDW 2023 Installation
At this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week, PLP Architecture showcased their mycelium bio-composite blocks in a 100% bio-based Symbiocene installation. Through an interpretive artistic installation, the public was encouraged to interact and engage with 84 mycelium blocks, providing an experience of the potential symbiotic relationship between humans and fungi. The blocks were arranged to create abstract seating, towers, planters, tables, and spatial formations, showcasing the versatility of this building material.
Explore Mycelium Products on Firstplanit
Develop a deeper understanding of mycelium as an insulation, by visiting our product analysis page on MykoFoam a mycelium rigid board insulation.