From the issue: Left-field products

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From the issue: Left-field products

Conventional wisdom would have it this way: The more things verge in the direction of smart home, the less tangible home innovations become.

The truth is that building materials have been undergoing a quieter revolution away from the noisy Wi-Fi networks where the connected home dwells. Indeed, many of these high-tech products adopt a “back-to-nature” approach, with inventive applications that merely capitalize on the already impressive qualities of our Earthly resources.

Perhaps you didn’t quite see these products coming, but it’s hard to deny their potential role in building the homes of the future.


It turns out that mushrooms are useful for more than mere pizza toppings. Mycelium (pictured above), or mushroom roots, can be grown as a dense substrate, which is tough as nails and resistant to water, mold and fire. By allowing it to grow in a mold — any shape at all — and then drying it out, companies like Ecovative are creating a finished product that can be sanded and painted, all while retaining its organic appeal.


Self-Cleaning Coatings

A team of researchers at the U.K.’s University College London has carved a major notch in the belt of low-maintenance building materials. The coating creates a self-cleaning layer when applied to paper, glass, clothes and steel, and it can be combined with adhesives too. The material builds on the work of previous self-cleaning surfaces — it not only repels water, but can withstand everyday wear and tear.



Plenty of you are aware that the usefulness of hemp knows no bounds, but did you know that it can give concrete a run for its money? Hempcrete — a simple, lightweight mix of water, hemp aggregate and a lime-based binder — boasts remarkable insulating and sound-blocking properties, and it’s good at resisting fire, mold and termites. Even more notably, homes made with hempcrete require less energy to heat and cool, are more resistant to earthquakes and are carbon-negative.