Sustainability project to test fungus as insulation material

The potential use of fungal mycelium as an insulation material in construction is one of a range of natural and recycled resources to be tested as part of a major European project.

Horizon Europe’s INBUILT project has set itself the ambitious mission to advance sustainable building practices across the continent. The project’s goal is to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of buildings throughout their entire life cycle by introducing innovative products and systems.

This includes recycled and bio-based materials, such as prefabricated wall-panels made from waste wood, and the use of fungus to create insulation products.

Researchers from Bath University Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering will carry out work to test a range of such natural and bio-based materials. The work will seek to understand their suitability as building materials, as well as carrying out analysis of their environmental impacts throughout their life cycle.

Dr Steve Allen, associate director of Bath’s Institute for Sustainability is leading the university’s part of the INBUILT project

He said: “At Bath we are well-known for our capability and work characterising new materials, while understanding the commercial and practical reality of the ways in which they will be used. Also key to this work is the life cycle assessment we will also carry out, to understand and minimise the environmental footprint of each product.”

Life cycle assessment involves building an understanding of the processes at each step of a material or product’s creation, use and disposal, and monitoring the associated emissions and environmental impacts of these processes.

This assessment informs decision-making related to which materials or products perform best from an environmental standpoint.

As well as the assessment, Bath researchers will also work to reduce environmental impacts of the construction products, by co-developing and optimising production processes.

Allen added: “Carrying out work that will help transform the construction industry to become more sustainable is an exciting prospect, with potential for huge positive impact.”

INBUILT’s strategy involves the development and demonstration of 10 innovative products and systems, including large-sized rammed earth blocks, recycled fired and non-fired bricks, hybrid straw-clay boards, recycled concrete and recycled concrete blocks, prefabricated waste wood external and internal wall elements, smart windows with recycled glass and bio-PUR frames, bio-based prefabricated curtain walls, recycled waste paper and textile fibre insulation mats, bio-based recycled insulation sheet panels/infill, and second life photovoltaic panels.

Four demonstration buildings will be built across Europe – one in the UK – to carry out the experimental tests.

Project coordinator professor Erwin Franquet from the Université Côte d’Azur, France, added: “These innovative solutions are pivotal in our journey towards sustainability, using locally sourced bio- and geo-materials, as well as reused and recycled elements to mitigate the construction sector’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions”

BIM is in

A key feature of the INBUILT project is the integration of a digital platform employing a Building Information Modelling (BIM)-based approach. This platform will streamline the construction projects’ entire lifecycle, from design to end-of-life, and is enhanced by Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).

INBUILT’s approach will be demonstrated in real-world settings across France, the UK, and Germany, showcasing its viability and adaptability.

The project emphasises a shift from traditional construction models to more sustainable and efficient methods. According to the project team, this change is vital for aligning with Europe’s sustainability objectives and conserving resources.

INBUILT will not only focus on new construction but also on renovating existing structures to enhance productivity and competitiveness in the construction industry.

Coordinated by the Université Côte d’Azur, the INBUILT project involves a consortium of 16 partners, including researchers, architects, and technology providers.

The project, which formally started in December 2023, will run until May 2027. It is funded with £6.2m (€7.3m) from the EU’s research and innovation programme Horizon Europe within the Built4People partnership, which brings together the whole construction value chain to accelerate people-centric innovation for a sustainable built environment.

Main image: Members of the Europe-wide INBUILT team


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