It sounds like something from a science fiction novel, but it could become reality. With focus shifting to populating Mars, researchers have faced a huge problem with how to build homes for new Martians to reside in. Toting materials from Earth to Mars would be a huge drain on resources and space, creating a need for alternatives.
While there are a few other ideas in the works -- creating bricks with the soil on Mars, or using artificial bone to create building materials to name a couple--, mycotecture is a highly intriguing one. Mycotecture is the use of mushrooms, particularly the mycelium, in architecture.
Each of the building types being looked at have a lot to offer, and there is also the possibility of using a combination of some or all of them. There are a few bonuses that mycotecture has: the ease of creating customized structures, the ability to repair itself, the speed it grows, and the simplicity in transporting it.
Mycelium tends to grow to the extent of the container holding it. Usually, this starts out as a petri dish, but in this case, the mold would be larger, and created to fit the design of the structure. The mushroom spores would be put into the container with a material to grow on, usually sawdust or flour, and some water. After a couple of weeks, the result is a building material that is as hard as plywood and is already in the shape needed.
Genetic engineering of the mycelium to insert colored proteins would increase its potential benefits. If the proteins cause the wall to change colors, that’s a sign that there is damage in the structure. This heads-up would be important in the harsh environment on Mars. If there is damage, more mycelium would be grown to fix it.
Mycotecture was around before being brought up as a potential for Mars habitation. In fact, there have been experiments done with creating building materials out of mycelium for several years now. One of the first projects was a temporary set of towers, which were up for three months before being composted. Not all have been temporary, though. Far West Fungi, a farm in California, focuses on growing mycelium with the intent to build with it. Phillip Ross, the owner, created a six foot tall arch with mycelium-based bricks as his first project. The bricks are fireproof, water and mold resistant, offer more insulation than fiberglass, and are stronger than concrete.
It will be interesting to see how this progresses, not just for Mars, but here on Earth as well. Could we see buildings sprouting up created from mushrooms in the future? What do you think about the idea of mushroom houses on Mars? Let us know in the comments.