If having fungus inside your Indianapolis home’s walls sounds like a bad thing, the judges of the PICNIC Green Challenge would disagree. In October, Eben Bayer, a 23-year-old won 500,000 euros in the second annual Dutch-sponsored competition for the best solution to reducing greenhouse gases, with his plan for a renewable, biodegradable insulation material made partially from the root structure of mushrooms, or mycelium.
The compound they developed, called Greensulate, uses mycelium to bind natural insulating materials such as rice hulls or cotton husks–whatever agricultural byproducts are available in the area where the material will be made. The end result is all-natural and non-toxic (assuming they use non-poisonous mushroom species, that is), and because the mycelium is simply grown indoors in a dark place and the composite can be made anywhere using local materials, it requires far less energy to create than most insulation material. It will eventually biodegrade, but should last the lifetime of the home, they claim.
They say the insulation has tested well for R-value and fire retardancy, and will be cost-competitive with traditional foams.
Indianapolis Insulation Pros’s Opinion
Mass production of mycelim based insulation may be a ways off, but it is representative of the innovation that is taking place to make insulation more Eco-friendly, more efficient, and less expensive.