Here at Forming Solutions we believe in the sustainability of our insulated concrete forms because although we use expanded polystyrene, a petroleum based product, we use it in a responsible way. We do not support the use of single use petroleum products such as plastic bags, takeout containers, and disposable straws. Moreover, we believe that petroleum products should be used in a way that will last for hundreds of years and in its lifetime save fossil fuels by using less energy to heat and cool the building. However, some environmentalists believe that petroleum products should not be used under any circumstance. In our quest to be a more sustainable company, we aim to be informed about environmentally friendly products that could have potential in the building industry. As mentioned in the first part of this blog, Forming Solutions looks to companies like Ecovative to lead the way for the building industry. Ecovative has developed a number of mushroom foam products to replace petroleum products over the past ten years.
What is Mushroom Foam?
Beneath the surface of the ground, fungi form a wide network of thin, root like fibers called mycelium. Mycelium can be grown and formed into just about any shape, and is said to be stronger, pound for pound, than concrete. Mycelium mushroom foam is also 100% organic and compostable.
Ecovative mulches mycelium and agricultural waste products like cornhusks, cottonseeds and buckwheat hulls, then grows the material together in a mold to create their own version of mushroom foam called MycoFoam. On average it takes about a week to complete the growing process. Below is an example of a finished product.
Mushroom Foam Today and in the Future
Mushroom foam can be used for everything from hand planes to lamp shades, but is most commonly used for packaging. Ecovative started to make EcoCradle® packaging in 2012. Dell, a leading technology company, has used mushroom foam packaging since 2014 for their laptops and computers. In addition, IKEA announced in 2016 that it is planning to make the transition to mushroom packaging. Although packaging seems to be the leading use of the product, mushroom foam could have potential in the building industry. Ecovative did not stop at EcoCradle, they also made Mushroom® Insulation for tiny homes out of their MycoFoam in 2013.
The Mushroom® Insulation has been tested by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and has a R-value of 3.72. Unfortunately, this does not come close to the R- 23.5 of an Insulated Concrete Form. A vital aspect of a sustainable building is closing the thermal envelope to improve energy efficiency. Therefore, the mushroom foam insulation is not yet suitable for insulating net-zero energy structures. Nevertheless, the more that builders and consumers alike demand more efficient yet sustainable products, the sooner we will see them on the market.
Although it looks like it will be a while before mushroom foam is ready to replace the expanded polystyrene, Forming Solutions is excited to hear that forward thinking companies are finding ways to begin to eliminate single use petroleum products. While EPS is not the ultimate solution, we firmly believe that is the best option currently available for building great structures that will last. In order to make a significant difference in energy consumption and the overall sustainability of where we live and work, our focus should be on using such precious materials for the things we want to last for a lifetime.
Written by Allison Devlin