Making It: Mushrooms And Building Materials Created From Waste

Making It

MAKERS: Chris Maurer and Jeremy Umansky

BUSINESS: Biocycler by redhouse

FINDING A NEW USE FOR WASTE: The Biocycler makes use of construction waste, like 2x4's, by letting biology do the work of binding and remediating the materials. Creator and architect Chris Maurer saw the need for the eco-friendly process after witnessing the amount of building materials sent to the landfill—nearly 500 million tons a year in the U.S. alone. "Buildings are responsible for 40% of the nation's carbon emissions," Maurer said. "We're able to lower the carbon footprint of the building process and save materials from going to landfills."

WHY HERE?: “There are about 9,000 houses that have been demolished since 2006 in the Cleveland area. There are thousands that are still on the list for demolition. If we can take that material and save it from the landfill and make new building materials we'd be doing a great service,” said Maurer.

WHY THERE?: Maurer’s previous work in Africa made him much more cognizant of waste/resource streams and how to work within limited resources. Having a process like the Biocycler solves three problems: it keeps waste from landfills, creates sturdy building materials, and produces food. This makes it especially useful in low-resource areas of the world that need innovative and sustainable solutions.

HOW IT WORKS: The Biocycler relies on mushrooms to do the crucial work of binding and remediating waste. Piles of construction and agricultural waste are chopped into small pieces, then pasteurized and inoculated with fungi cultures. The fungi roots then bury deeply into the waste and “fuse” it together, eventually creating fire-resistant, well-insulated building materials. And a bonus product: edible mushrooms.

MUSHROOM JERKY: In fitting with a desire to keep the Biocycler’s applications useful to low-resource regions, we wanted to create a shelf-stable product that was meat-like in taste, said chef and Larder Delicatessen owner Jeremy Umansky. Hence, he created a recipe for turning the Biocycler’s mushrooms into mushroom jerky.  

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