As architecture and design progress, the materials available have always made a great impact on the industry. With environmental factors coming into play, and a desire to build increasingly dramatic designs, engineers and scientists are looking for increasingly strong, sustainable and easy to produce building materials.
Also referred to as Neptune Balls, these naturally occurring compressed masses of seaweed fibers can be used as an insulation material without any additives. Though they can be treated to increase their insulation properties, the lack of living plant matter and a high salt content prevent the material from molding or breaking down over time. The German company Neptutherm has been one of early leaders in using this naturally occurring insulation material.
Coconut wood composites look to replace other tropical woods that are commonly in protected or at risk wildlife areas. The Dutch manufacturer Kokoshout is one of the primary manufacturer of this material that can be used in nearly all applications where wood is traditionally. The material is stronger than oak, and is comprised of thousands of small pieces which limits the amount of waste during production.
HOLLOW SPHERE STRUCTURES
Created through an air suspension coating process where metal or ceramic powders, binding agents and water are used, the resulting spheres are subsequently heated, evaporating much of the inside polymers to create a hollow sphere. The thickness, size and primary material of these spheres can be easily altered providing a host of possibilities for this building material. Materials created through the hollow sphere system can be up to %4000 times lighter with significantly lower thermal conductivity when compared to similar solid materials.
ECOR is creating composite materials out of compostable matter like corrugated cardboard, old newspaper, office paper, discarded wood chips and residual agricultural fibers. The material can be used in lieu of metal, wood, and others previously used for structural panels, furniture and interior design elements. The company Noble Environmental Technologies have been working on this project since 2004, with products now readily available.
The search for an organic material that can be used in a traditional building manner has largely ended with the mushroom as the top contender. Due to the strength of mycelium, a fibrous threadlike mass grown by most fungi, these bricks can be incredibly durable and fire resistant. Furthermore, the creation of these bricks uses waste materials that the fungi consume as they grow into the desired shape. Recently founded Mycoworks is looking to patent their process for producing fungus bricks that can even “naturally weld” or fuse themselves together.