PRO Structures’ Degree Apprentice, Luke Rearden, is in his final year of a 5-year course in Civil and Environmental Engineering at UWE, and his final year dissertation is a research paper on using mushroom mycelium as a load-bearing material.

High thermal insulation, fire resistance, sound absorption, and compressive strength – who knew?

Luke is especially interested in sustainable materials, which can herald a new era in carbon-neutral construction. Mycelium is the root-like structure of a fungus, which absorbs nutrients from its environment – the actual mushroom we know and love, or love to hate, is in fact a spore-bearing fruiting body which simply enables reproduction.

Mycelium is composed of a mass of branching tubular cells known as hyphae. Hyphae are intricately connected and form to give mycelium its unique properties such as high thermal insulation, fire resistance, sound absorption, and relatively high compressive strength for its weight.

Current literature only really suggests using mycelium as a means of providing insulation or fire resistance to buildings. Luke is specifically researching if the application of mycelium, as a construction material, can be expanded to function as a load-bearing material via increasing mycelium density.

If successful, Luke hopes that mycelium composites can be offered as a sustainable alternative to conventional building materials; offering an excellent opportunity to upcycle agricultural waste into a low-cost, and biodegradable material.

He also popped over to Barcelona to run a half marathon, for the very first time. GO LUKE!