New York architect David Benjamin wants to bring architecture alive, using biological systems. This year, he will build a 300-unit affordable housing complex in Oakland, California, US, that will use filler grown from mushrooms and hemp as natural insulation and carbon storage between the fiberglass shell and interior walls. The first three 12-unit houses will serve as test cases -- one with conventional insulation, one with insulation made from hemp and resin, and one with mycelium-hemp insulation. Benjamin’s construction partner, Ecovative, which operates the world’s largest production plant for mycelium materials, has already been producing sustainable packaging for companies like Dell and Puma. “The material is fire-resistant, compostable and uses almost no energy in its production,” says Ecovative co-founder Eben Bayer. “Our goal is to replace plastic and insulation foam in all industries. Mushrooms are nature’s plastic.”

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