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Assistant professor uses biomaterials in construction

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Nature is resilient.

Nature has the ability to self-regenerate, self-repair, and maintain function in the face of disability.

Biomimetic design draws abstract lessons from nature and uses them as a source of inspiration for various systems.

This is the basis of the research of assistant professor M at the Mercedes García Jorgera Faculty of Architecture.

“We try to learn from nature,” she said.

Garcia-Holguera began experimenting with biomaterials during the COVID-19 pandemic, developing materials for building projects under construction, in mycelium, a network of fungal fibers and synthesized by bacteria. We focused on two specific biological sources of the biomaterial, bacterial cellulose.

She said the goal of her research is to reduce the environmental impact of buildings, explaining that “buildings are responsible for a huge amount of our problems” in regards to the environment.

“We designers have to take responsibility for that,” she said.

A major challenge that biomaterials could serve as a potential solution is the high cost and inaccessibility of construction materials in remote northern communities.

One of the things Garcia-Holguera focuses on in her tests is whether biomaterials can be grown in unspecialized and poorly controlled environments outside the laboratory. . This has the potential to address the housing crisis experienced in remote communities.

“If you can grow those materials in those conditions, it’s better to think that you can grow them in these remote communities and people in these communities can grow these materials themselves.” Reasonable.

For example, mycelium-based materials are grown in a standard, uncontrolled space on the Fort Garry campus.

Garcia-Holguera and her team use a two-step growth process to inoculate agricultural or industrial waste such as sawdust or straw with mycelium. This inoculated mixture can be grown in humidity-controlled bags until fully colonized by mycelium.

The substrate is then transferred to a mold where it is grown for several weeks before being dried in an oven and ready for use.

Unlike mycelium, bacterial cellulose material has a different growth process described by Garcia-Holguera as similar to the fermentation process of kombucha.

According to Garcia-Holguera, both mycelium and bacterial cellulose materials have great potential for improving environmental performance compared to conventional materials used in current construction.

The mycelium-based material integrates industrial waste such as sawdust and agricultural waste such as hemp and straw that are abundant in the state.

Not only does this recycle waste, but these new materials are biodegradable and cause less harm to the environment when broken down.They also require less energy to produce than materials such as steel and concrete. much less.

Past studies have shown that these products have thermal insulation potential and excellent compressive strength, making them viable alternatives to traditional building materials such as brick.

Garcia-Holguera, on the other hand, believes that bacterial cellulose materials have great potential as tensile elements, potentially replacing materials such as cables and ropes.

Although little research has been done on the architectural applications of bacterial cellulose materials, Garcia-Holguera and her team have tested how these materials perform in both Winnipeg and Mann’s Churchill weather conditions. I’m here.

“Our expectation at the time we put out the samples was that they would break or break very quickly, but that’s not what we’re seeing,” she explained.

“They maintain their integrity.

The team is now developing a 3-meter dome using larger panels derived from bacterial cellulose.

“Conditions and exposure to weather are much more dramatic, and on an even larger scale we can see if these materials still perform well,” says Garcia-Holguera.

An important aspect of Garcia-Holguera’s research involves changing the public perception that buildings are permanent structures intended to last as long as possible. Rather, the use of biomaterials in building design allows certain building elements to be maintained on a regular basis.

For Garcia-Holguera, the concept is more suited to natural cycles and how ecosystems are seasonally renewed.

Garcia-Holguera said the next step in her team’s research is to scale up the biomaterials used in the project.

The team plans to build a shelter-like prototype within the next year to test the biomaterial’s weather performance and hypothermic and mechanical properties in Manitoba’s climate.

Garcia-Holguera emphasized the importance of student participation and collaboration in her research.

“The work we do wouldn’t be possible without our students,” she said. “Students are the main characters.”

“You need a team, you need a passionate team.”

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