The construction industry is a significant contributor to carbon dioxide emissions across the planet. The built environment, in a broader sense, is an even bigger contributor when we consider not just a carbon impact of construction, but also operation of these buildings.
It is therefore no surprise there is a lot of time, money and effort going into decarbonising construction and built environment.
In this micro-feature, I speak with a UK/Portugal-based company about their solution to this problem.
Continuing my fascination for repurposing waste, this company has found a way to repurpose industrial waste from the paper manufacturing process into high performing carbon-negative insulation materials for the construction industry.
To find out more about Mykor and how they are helping address UN SDG 3,6,13, we speak with their co-founder, Valentina Dipietro
Valentina, how did Mykor come to be?
As a product designer and lover of nature, I felt responsible for creating products that will preserve our environment and that do not subscribe to planned obsolescence. The concept of Mykor started in 2019, when Olivia and I met and realised we could capture our complementary skills: Olivia’s broad understanding of technical and materiality of building construction with my product development research.
About the company in this micro-feature:
Bristol, UK and Lisbon, Portugal
Not seeking funding
What problem are you addressing at Mykor?
Construction materials emit massive amounts of carbon long before the lights of a building are even switched on.
In fact, 11% of worldwide carbon emissions come from their manufacturing.
As a result, the legislative landscape in Europe is changing to impose stricter regulations on embodied carbon emissions. In the UK, from 2025, the current materials on the market will struggle to meet new legislation like the Future Homes Standard and the Embodied Carbon Bill making traditional materials obsolete.
The “Carbon Emissions Bill” was presented in the house of commons in June 2022. This bill is proposing a stricter whole-life carbon assessment for new buildings over 1,000m2 and it has been supported by leading figures in the construction industry (Harris, 2022).
As a result, 34 countries all over the world are imposing stricter legislation on embodied carbon emissions.
PUR/PIR, Polystyrene and Phenolic insulation materials are made out of plastic, they’re non-renewable and their manufacturing process has high energy consumption.
In the UK, since the Grenfell tragedy and increasing oil prices, these plastic insulations are transitioning to be a thing of the past, the problem is that the sustainable products currently on the market are not as affordable and performative as their oil based counterparts.
How are you approaching this challenge?
The MykoSlab is a carbon-negative insulation sheet for construction bio assembled from cellulosic feedstock and fungal mycelium.
Our solution is to create highly performative building materials made from biomass waste with a carbon-negative manufacturing process.
Our fabrication technique involves the use of mycology to propagate mycelium on cellulosic waste from the paper industry, that would otherwise be discarded to landfill or incinerated. Mycelium is the “root” of mushrooms and functions as a natural adhesive.
Mykor insulation sequesters 22kg of CO² per m³ and its manufacturing process utilises 90% less water and 40% less electricity than polystyrene. We have estimated that we will be able to repurpose 20,000 tonnes of waste on average each year.
There are other benefits too…
With studies linking air pollution’s negative impact on our health, it has become important to improve the quality of air in our homes. Mykor promotes higher standards of air quality compared with synthetic materials which, as they degrade, ‘off gas’ i.e. emit minuscule toxins.
Our materials prevent the accumulation of dampness, they are breathable, vapour-permeable, free of volatile compounds, and fire safe (estimated Euroclass B).
The Mykoslab is stronger than EPS and more water resistant than hemp, wool and straw insulation.
Its thermal performance is estimated to be competitive with mineral wool while its estimated sound-absorption is 75% at 1000Hz.
What successes have you had so far?
Mykor estimates that their carbon negative insulation solution has the potential to remove 6,600 tonnes of CO2 per year from the atmosphere, or 19,800 tonnes over the next 3 years.
At pilot stage, Mykor will repurpose 900 tonnes of waste each year or 2,700 tonnes over the next 3 years.
Mykor also cuts the water usage of polystyrene by 90%.
How are you helping address the UN SDGs?SDGs being addressed by Mykor: 3,6,13
Mykor’s solutions cut water consumption, reduce energy loss and help prevent carbon emissions associated with waste. Our additional benefits can lead to positive impacts on the health of the building’s occupants, too.