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Next Gen Sustainable Building Materials

Mushroom insulation? Chipboard made from potatoes? We take a quick look at some of the sustainable materials with the potential to transform the way we build in the coming years of environmentally responsible construction.



Researchers from around the world have found ways to harness the potential of mushrooms for use as building insulation over recent years although not on a mass scale. The insulation is made from the vegetative part of mushrooms, known as mycelium. The process of mycelium bio fabrication works by letting the fungus from a mushroom feed on a substrate, such as sawdust. The fungus will then grow to the shape of the mold it is placed in and its growth is only halted when the fungus is dried. The final dried product can then be sanded and painted to suit its intended use . Not only is this material completely natural and biodegradable, but it massively reduces a building’s embodied and operational carbon footprint. Because the material is naturally self-extinguishing and air purifying at the same time, it actually removes carbon from the atmosphere and becomes even stronger in the process. This innovative material could be used in almost any construction project and contains no VOCs, no chemical flame retardants, no plastics or other artificial materials.


Sheep's wool has been used as insulation in buildings for many years in the UK, and has enormous benefits as a natural insulator, being locally grown, breathable and fire safe. Sheep wool insulation is one of the most natural and sustainable ways to insulate a building, since sheep’s wool is a 100% natural product as sheep naturally produce the wool, it requires a fraction of the energy to produce than man made equivalents with most of this energy required to wash the wool before it is used. The main widely recognised problem with sheep's wool insulation is moth attack and infestation. This normally leads to a necessity for toxic pesticides including Borax, which is impregnated into the wool fibres to eradicate the problem. Consequently this brings all the original environmental benefits into question.

After extensive research and development an Austrian company have developed a patented method of Ionic protection, described as a plasma treatment for wool that changes its ionic structure, making moths not recognise it as wool. After the fibres have been treated with 'Ionic Protect', the moth is not attracted to it and does not even attempt to lay its eggs on the fibres.

The product is not yet widely available and only one or two companies in the UK have access to it, but it has been thoroughly tested to the industry standard CUAP test for clothes moth and carpet beetle attack.

More on the Austrian company Lehner-wool here and their excellent research here;


The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that one third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally – that’s an incredible 1.3 billion tons a year and serious work needs to be achieved to reduce this in the long term. In the meantime, there are some ingenious solutions to turn waste into material. One such solution is a UK-based concept to create chipboard building material from potatoes. Chip[s] Board Ltd is a revolutionary company that creates a product made entirely from discarded restaurant potatoes scraps. Inspired by the circular economy that we see in nature, effectively where resources and waste are used again in a long-lasting environmental loop, the concept allows for needless food waste to be regenerated as a sustainable building material.

Chip[s] Board Ltd website to find out more:


Wood as a construction material has been used for thousands of years. The strength of the wood fibre comes from the very thing humanity is trying to reduce - carbon. Cross-laminated timber consists of small pieces of softwood laminated together to become a larger structure, glued under significant pressure in opposing directions to give it tremendous strength. This engineering process also allows panels to be made to measure, creating flat packed structures that can be constructed much faster than conventional material. With a lower embodied carbon footprint, its potential for off-site construction also makes it a sustainable product. The strength of this layered wood actually makes it a very suitable substitute for concrete and steel and could even be the preferred material for our cities’ skyscrapers in the future.


Cement accounts for 5% of global carbon emissions – yet is still one of the most widely used construction materials. It’s mainly comprised of limestone, calcium, silicon, iron and aluminum and is the binding factor in concrete, but the drive for sustainable alternatives is well underway. The DB Group, for example, has created zero-cement concrete Cemfree that can save up to 88% in embodied CO2 compared to a conventional mix – all without compromising strength . There is also 'Concrete Canvas' which is a flexible, concrete impregnated fabric that hardens when exposed to water to form a thin, durable, water proof and fire-resistant concrete layer. The material comes in batched rolls and can be speedily laid up to 10 times faster than conventional concrete. Not only does this cut down on construction time and cost, it is also a low mass, low carbon technology that uses up to 95% less material than traditional methods. Both of these novel materials are already now being used in the building of infrastructure around the world.

Find out more about Cemfree here:


At ArchiWest we feel uniquely placed to offer environmentally sustainable principles specifically in the building conservation sector and older buildings as a whole, with theoretical and practical expertise in the use of breathable, low embodied energy materials.

If you need assistance with your building project, please call us on 01934 3111017


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