MOUNTAIN LIFE - Coast Mountains | Winter / Spring 2021

68 words :: MJ Castor Mushrooms thrive in dark, wet places… doesn’t that sound a lot like the Sea to Sky Corridor during a big autumn storm cycle? Whistler naturalists have categorized around 950 species of mushrooms and fungi growing in the Coast Mountains around us, maybe it makes sense to start bringing them into our homes as well. Building on practices recently developed to help reduce packaging waste, an Italian company called Mogu is mixing selected strains of mycelium (the tendril-like, vegetative state of mushrooms) and repurposed organic waste (like cotton fibres or hemp shives) to “grow” 100 per cent biodegradable acoustic wall panels and floor tiles with far less energy required than traditional manufacturing processes. “It’s pretty cool technology,” says Katie Schaitel, owner of STRØMMEDESIGN, an interior design studio based out of Squamish who has been speaking with the Mogu team for the past 11 months after hearing a mycelium segment on CBC radio. “Sustainability is becoming more of a focus in the industry right now, so upcycling waste materials mixed with organic, living compounds makes a lot of sense. Especially if the products look so striking and unique.” Mogu products are made by mixing a sterilized substrate (like waste cotton fibres) with mycelium tissue into digitally fabricated moulds (the container type, not the type that grows on old bread). As the mycelium digests and grows, it creates a dense matrix of interlocking filaments. Cast into its final shape, the growing process is halted by an energy efficient slow-drying process, and the result is a durable, spore-free, non-allergenic product that’s low emission, low pollutant, and 100 per cent plastic-free. The floor tiles are made through a similar process but have a 95 per cent bio-resin coating over a mycelium composite core. “It is possible to employ nature’s intelligence to everyday items, and Mogu products are designed according to the principles of a circular economy,” says Mogu CEO Stefano Babbini, who adds that his company holds a large collection of fungal strains comprised of several hundred different species. “Each has its own features and overall qualities.” Beyond interior design, mycelium has shown potential as a construction material as well. In 2014, a group of New York architects designed and constructed the Hy-Fi tower, a 40- foot structure made almost entirely of bricks composed of mycelium and agricultural waste. Mogu has been experimenting with materials for the fashion and automotive industries, as well as microbial systems for the development of intelligent sensors and living processors. In July of 2019, a Scientific American article proclaimed, “The Mycelium Revolution is upon Us” and that advances in biofabrication will likely transform the way we manufacture, build, consume and live. “It’s exciting,” says Schaitel, who notes that Mogu products are in use across Europe and on a few residential projects in the United States but haven’t yet hit the local market. “I see a lot of potential here. The Sea to Sky Corridor is a forward- thinking region and I believe the environmental benefits combined with that refined Italian style will make this technology attractive to my clients, although everyone has their own tastes.” Indeed they do, but few can deny the benefits of being closer to nature. And adding a pinch or two more mushrooms to our lives can certainly facilitate that., MOUNTAIN HOME ROOMS WITH ‘SHROOMS Mycelium-based #ooring and wall panels employ nature’s intelligence for greater sustainability @MOGU