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Drive to reduce embodied carbon in buildings makes biomaterials market a “really exciting space” – Dezeen

Concerns over carbon emissions caused by the construction process are fuelling a surge of interest in biobased materials according to Arup research and innovation leader Jan Wurm.

Dezeen

Concerns over carbon emissions caused by the construction process are fuelling a surge of interest in biobased materials according to Arup research and innovation leader Jan Wurm.

Demand for biomaterials such as mycelium, hemp, algae, bamboo and cork is growing, Wurm said, as architects search for materials that store atmospheric carbon rather than emitting it.

“It’s a really exciting space,” Wurm told Dezeen. There are a lot of startups and a lot of grants. There’s a lot of things happening.”

Demand is being fuelled by the realisation that around half of the total carbon emitted by a building is caused before it even opens.

“The big driver is the focus on whole-life carbon,” Wurm said. “The focus has shifted from making buildings energy-efficient to looking at carbon.”

Top image: Jan Wurm. Above: Wurm worked with Italian brand Mogu on new mycelium acoustic panels
Top image: Jan Wurm. Above: Wurm worked with Italian brand Mogu on new mycelium acoustic panels

The built environment is responsible for an estimated 40 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions but construction’s role has been overlooked until recently, Wurm said.

“For a long time, the construction industry was not a sector being addressed when we talked about climate change,” he said, pointing out that November’s COP26 climate conference will have a dedicated built-environment day for the first time.

In addition, the European Commission this week announced proposals that would limit emissions from buildings for the first time.

“So it’s now part of the overall discussion on climate change,” Wurm said.

Wurm leads the European research and innovation team at Arup, the glo

bal architecture and engineering group that is headquartered in London.

He has worked on pioneering biomaterial projects including a 2013 project that used algae to generate electricity and the 2014 Hy-Fi project at MoMA PS1 in New York, where he collaborated with Evocative Design to develop the mycelium bricks used to build a temporary tower designed by design studio The Living.

The pioneering Hy-Fi project at MoMa PS1 made use of mycelium bricks
The pioneering Hy-Fi project at MoMa PS1 made use of mycelium bricks

More recently, he has collaborated with Italian biodesign firm Mogu to create a range of acoustic wall panels made of mycelium, which is the underground part of fungus. It feeds on waste biomass such as sawdust, absorbing carbon as it grows. It is increasingly being used for packaging, insulation and products.

Mogu produces a variety of biobased materials including mycelium acoustic panels and flooring products from bioresins and agricultural waste. The new system developed with Arup, called Foresta, was unveiled this week.

The Foresta product joins a growing range of experimental biomaterials being used in construction projects. Materials research lab Atelier Luma has added interior finishes made of algae, sunflowers and salt to The Tower, a building by Frank Gehry at Luma Foundation in Arles, France.

Source: Drive to reduce embodied carbon in buildings makes biomaterials market a “really exciting space”

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