ENGS 88 Honors Thesis (AB Students)

Degree Program


Year of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Vicki May

Document Type

Thesis (Senior Honors)

Publication Date

Spring 6-10-2020


With the building industry being responsible for 39% of global carbon emissions, there is an imperative need for low-carbon solutions that can decarbonize the built environment. This thesis aimed to address whether mycelium, the hyphal body of fungi, can be used as a building material. The first part of research involved developing a protocol for creating and testing mycelium samples. Mycelium composites were created by inoculating strains of mycelium onto agricultural substrates such as walnut shells, rice hulls, and a commercially available mix from Ecovative Design LLC. Mechanical compression and tensile tests, as well as thermal conductivity and fire resistance tests were performed on samples of varying substrates to determine their suitable applications. This study also characterized the effect of nutrient additions such as flour and colonization time on thermal conductivity. Ultimately, we found that the compressive and tensile strengths of our composites aligned with literature data ranges: approximately 1kPa to 1.1MPa for compression and .03-.18 MPa for tension. Thermal test results were also approximate to the literature range of values: 0.05-0.07 W/m*K. By comparing the thermal performance of samples that varied with incubation time and nutrient additions, we found that there is an optimum density for thermal performance that is affected by nutrient additions. This meant that the conventional approaches of waiting for full colonization of thermal samples may not be optimal. While the experiments and analysis were greatly limited by Covid-19, given these findings, mycelium has the most practical application as thermal insulation materials for buildings. Structural mycelium currently is not feasible due to poor mechanical performance.