N.Y. company gets $9.1 million to develop living building materials

July 3, 2017

Photo courtesy of WAMC radio

A company based in New York’s Capital Region has been awarded a $9.1 million federal contract to develop a new generation of living building materials. 

Ecovative Design in Green Island, just north of Albany, has a unique approach: instead of manufacturing products, from lamp shades to packing materials, they grow them, reports WAMC public radio.

Using agricultural waste and a special kind of fungus, Ecovative has been able to develop a variety of products since it was founded a decade ago. What started as a partnership between two RPI grads has grown into a business that employs more than 60 people.

Ecovative Product Specialist Kyle Bucklin shows off a bag of what will become the company’s signature material.

“This is what the raw material looks like; it looks like mulch. But it’s actually corn and hemp mixed together and inside of here … you can’t really see it, but that’s the mycelium actually in there, in a dormant state,” Bucklin said.

Think of mycelium as the roots of a mushroom. With some water and a little flour the fungus can be activated and grown to hold the material together in any shape.

Bucklin also shows off a new packaging product being developed.

“This is a new prototype packaging part. We designed it to be a breakaway part so everything is grown in one piece, and then once it comes to the customer they can break it off,” Bucklin said.

Ecovative received a $9.1 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to create new living building materials.

Ecovative Chief Scientist Gavin McIntyre says they’re aiming to scale up production on a mycelium-based building material that would have the ability to self-repair.

“For instance, if there were an issue, say, a leak in your roof. This material could react to that leak and self-repair as such that you no longer have to worry about that hole in your roof because the material has responded to that naturally,” McIntyre said.

This product would continue to grow once it is installed.

Ecovative imagines a future where U.S. forces might be able to arrive at a conflict zone or disaster site and be able to actually grow their own building materials. They might even be able to grow the furniture within the building.


Topics: Associations / Organizations, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Engineering Firms, Environmental Firms, Sustainable Communities, Urban Planning and Design

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