Exploration of Bamboo and Mycelium as a Combined Building Material
Modular, 100% Renewable Disaster Relief Shelter
Materials used: Bamboo, Mycelium, Plaster
Software: Autodesk Fusion 360, Adobe Illustrator CC 2017, MakerWare
Working in the Making Center has exposed me to many different new materials- one of which being Mycelium. Being new to the use of the material, my project was mostly and exploration of the different ways it can be grown and used. After learning that it has a greater strength than concrete when compared pound for pound, that it is entirely recyclable, grows from organic waste matter, has more insulating capacity than fiberglass, and that it is resistant to both water and fire, I decided to research how it could be used as a building material.
My research on sustainable construction led me to learning about the properties of bamboo, and its many advantages as a building material- it has a greater tensile strength than steel, grows a meter per day without having to harvest its roots, and is stronger yet cheaper than carbon fibre. I realized that instead of using sawdust as the substrate for the mycelium, I could use the fibres from bamboo, thereby creating a composite material that would take the structural strength of bamboo and apply it to the durability of mycelium forms.
I created several different prototype “bricks” out of this substance, and found that this composite is an incredible shock absorbent- when nestled within a plaster mold, even if dropped from a height greater than 1 meter, the plaster would retain its shape due to the mycelium inside. I also discovered the strength of mycelium as an insulating material, due to the fact that it can grow into any crevice. This led me to consider using mycelium as both a shock absorbent and insulating material for wall construction, essentially sandwiching a layer of mycelium between two bamboo fibre walls to create an incredibly strong, yet lightweight and insulated 100% renewable material- with none of the drawbacks of the mycelium being present, such as its smell and fungal properties, that could possibly be inhaled due to its presence in a housing environment.
My next step was to prototype an environment/problem space that this material could best be applied to. Inspired by Studio Penda’s “Rising Canes” modular bamboo structure, I decided to see if there were ways I could improve on its design. First and foremost was its triangular structure- I realized that this was very inefficient for space conservation, and that a hexagonal shape would be far better, as it allowed for maximum space efficiency and modular expansion. Second was its open, unsheltered nature, that left it heavily exposed to the elements.
What follows is several renderings of a concept for a disaster relief shelter, and a brief description of the advantages that this type of shelter could provide, over more traditional ones. I focused on recyclability, modularity, and comfort.
- Hexagon Shape:
- Allows for generative expansion
- Maximum space conservation/efficiency
- 5 or more interlocked units can create an enclosure, to foster a sense of community.
- Each unit can change based on the required need- for example, as more and more people require shelter, more and more units can be added through an interlocking system, allowing for suitability to many different scenarios.
- Water/Fire resistant
- 100% organic and compostable
- Grows from recycled waste matter
- More insulating power than fiberglass
- Shock absorbent
- 100% organic and compostable
- Grows up to 1 meter per day, making this a very efficient building material
iii. Stronger than carbon fiber, 100x cheaper
- Greater tensile strength than steel
The result of the combination of these two materials for this prototype shelter is a heavily insulated, therefore comfortable, shelter, that is deployable in numerous different situations due to its structural integrity, and its modularity. It is also adaptable to increases in need for shelter, due to its modular structure. Its sturdiness means that it can last for a very long time in the environment, but yet need not be a permanent addition due to its recyclable components.