Since civilization began, men and women have recognized the need for materials that would insulate them from the chill of a cold winter’s night, and the scorching heat of a hot summer’s day.
In the history books, you’ll see many humans wearing wool and skins made from animals, as these materials provided them with ample insulation. In medieval times, buildings were made with straw and mud plaster, but these materials failed at protecting its occupants from the elements.
Over the years, as civilization evolved, a process to make fiberglass insulation was finally found in 1932. Over the next decade this material, which is still in use today, was found to be most efficient in making buildings comfortable.
Insulation manufactures today use materials ranging from fiberglass, mineral wool, calcium silicate, foamed plastic, glass, and get this…mushrooms. Yes, you read that right, I definitely said mushrooms.
Mushroom Insulation’s Evolution
Within the past couple of years, two engineering students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute came up with the idea of using mycelium – a fungal network of threadlike cells that makes it possible to bind agricultural byproducts together – to make an insulating material that was cost-effective and eco-friendly.
The company, Ecovative Design, explains how it works on their blog:
“Ecovative uses mycelium (mushroom “roots”) to bond together agricultural byproducts like corn stalks into a material that can replace plastic foam. Mushroom Insulation grows into wood forms over the course of a few days, forming an airtight seal. It dries over the next month (kind of like how concrete cures) and you are left with an airtight wall that is extremely strong.”
Being that the company is using mycelium, and not mushroom spores, in their efforts to grow a sustainable insulation material there is no risk of mushrooms sprouting from the walls. Once the insulation has stopped growing, which normally takes only a few days, they hit it with steam to stop the growth.
The main drawback to this insulation material, especially when you compare it to other types of insulation is the fact that it currently has a very low R-value, in this case an R-value of 2.9. Yikes!
Mushroom Insulation on the Move
To show off their innovation, in a bit outlandish way, they built a tiny house using mainly mushroom insulation and took it on the road. Currently the only stop they’ve made was in New York. The entire build and trip is documented in their blog…Mushroom Tiny House.
If you’d like an alternative to this material – one that is eco-friendly and readily available – that provides high R-values please contact Carrig and Dancer at (253) 584-7704 for more information on our green insulation materials.