What do peanuts, rice, bananas, potatoes, and mushrooms have in common? In addition to being delicious, they could be transformed into building materials. In a report entitled The Urban Bio-Loop, the Arup group proposes to use food waste (something developed nations have an abundance of) to develop low-cost and eco-friendly materials for use in construction.
The authors of the report aim to demonstrate ‘that a different paradigm for materials in construction is possible.” Because first-world nations, such as the United States, waste up to 40 percent of all food, the goal is to turn the waste into a resource for the creation of “construction, engineering, and architecture products,” reports Archinect. This could be done by modifying the traditional waste management system.
Discarded organic materials that could prove useful include peanut shells, which could be used to create low-cost partition boards that are resistant to fire and ice; rice, which could be turned into ash and mixed with cement to eliminate the need for fillers; bananas, a fruit whose leaves can make rugged textiles as a result of high-strength fibers; mushrooms, which can be used to grow buildings; and potato peels, which can be cleaned, pressed and dried to produce a light, fire-resistant and water-repellent insulating material.
The group argues that using food waste for building would contribute to a circular economy where organic waste is put to use, rather than tossed into landfills. Repurposing food waste would also reduce the amount of methane that is produced when fruit and vegetable scraps slowly decompose. The gas contributes to global warming, a phenomenon which results in warming temperatures, rising sea levels, and worsening natural disasters.
Arup’s goal is to ameliorate rising levels of waste and a shortage of raw material. Using the low-cost, low-carbon materials would go a long way towards this goal.