Winnipeg Free Press: UM project hopes to turn fungi, moulds into walls, insulation to address First Nations housing shortage
Mercedes Garcia-Holguera walks up the front steps of a white shed in the southwest corner of the University of Manitoba’s Fort Garry campus. It’s among many other structures scattered throughout the area, next to a gravel road, with no signs or windows hinting at what might be inside.
“Prepare your nose,” she says, opening the door.
A pungent smell, sour and thick, hits immediately. The air is hot and humid, like the inside of a school gym on a 30 C day.
“That’s the only thing that we can control in this room. We can control temperature,” she says.
Garcia-Holguera, assistant professor at the University of Manitoba’s department of architecture, is in what’s called the growth chamber. Inside are clear rectangular containers filled with a thick brown film called bacterial cellulose. Next to them are bags holding moulds of mycelium, networks of fungi roots.
These are biomaterials — materials made from living things — and one day, they might be used as the walls and insulation of a home in Manitoba’s north.
Extreme weather, limited infrastructure, and rising inflation has made housing in northern Canada costly to build and maintain, contributing to a lack of housing and poor housing conditions.