by Vivian Morellon

We’ve been hearing (and writing) about ways to decrease the waste we produce, decrease carbon emissions and alternative fibers that make our products biodegradable. Here at NTCH our straws are made from Bamboo, water bottles have replaced plastic ones and re-using is a no brainer…. why wouldn’t this lifestyle apply to something else; say the design industry?

In the search for sustainable living I stumbled upon sustainable building, as in construction.

Recycled concrete, 3-D printing, mushrooms, bamboo canes and even ocean waste proved to be functioning alternative for the traditional materials we use now. While still in the beginning stages, these three innovative projects (AND INGREDIENTS) tackle affordable housing, waste impact and sustainability; giving hope to future urban developments.


“Grown Structures” series

Made with mushrooms.

We’re not kidding.

While it’s technically “Mushroom Mycelium”, derived from the mushroom fungi, it has the power to revolutionize architecture because it is environmentally friendly and has the potential to be completely waste free.

How does it work? Created by Aleksi Vesaluoma, a Brunel University student the mushrooms are mixed with cardboard (extra points if tis recycled ) and held inside a cotton tube, hence it’s nickname- “mushroom sausage”. These “sausages” are then placed over a mold and left to grow for about a month.

Then what happens?

After a month the structures harden and bind like glue, paving the way for alternative construction materials.

Already being explored, check out this year’s MoMA PS1 winning pavilion installation, circular towers made from nothing less than cork stalks and Mushroom Mycelium bricks!


“Plastic Island”

Made with plastic found in the Ocean.

As we know, plastic is hard to dispose of, you can’t burn it because the nasty fumes do horrors to our atmosphere and you can’t dump it because it’s not biodegradable, releases chemicals into our soil and chokes all marine life.

The idea isn’t completely radical, in fact kindergartners have been using wrappers and plastic waste to complete art projects of their own. However, it is a completely new concept when 2 architects fish plastic out of the ocean, study it and find architectural uses for it depending on color, texture, light and transparency.

This is arts and crafts on a whole new level.

Architects Erik Goksøyr and Emily-Claire Goksøyr partnered with Out of Ocean and collected plastic samples in order to see how each performed and if they were an enduring material for housing.

It was.

Plastic Island is home to 3 separate prototypes, each focusing on different elements of the materials- the House of Texture, The House of Transformation and the House of Color.

By repurposing and re-using, Erik Goksøyr and Emily-Claire Goksøyr aim to keep oceans plastic free by converting its garbage islands into beautiful buildings. However, while the trash was molded and re-worked into colorful materials, the architects emphasized certain traits in order to remind people of what plastic accumulation does and where it ends up; our oceans.


“3D Housing 05”

Made with recycled concrete using 3D printing.

Engineering firm Arup and architecture studio CLS Architetti debuted a new project at this year’s Milan Design Week: a 3-D printed house using recycled concrete! Hold on, I didn’t even know concrete could be recycled. Well concrete is a mixture of water, rock, sand, gravel and Portland cement so after a building is demolished Italcementi figured out how to re-use it by heating all those mixtures back up.

The house can be built in a week and is 100 square meters in size, complete with one bedroom, a kitchen, living room, bathroom and a little rooftop terrace. While this project is still a prototype, it proves to reduce waste since the printer only uses the exact amount of concrete it needs.

Not only is it eco-friendly but also costs half what traditional construction costs- making this technology affordable for underdeveloped communities- giving new meaning to the phrase ‘Sustainable Design”.

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