An eco-friendly building material company in New York that utilizes hemp in its products has been awarded a $9.1 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to create new living building materials, according to a report from NPR-affiliate WAMC. Ecovative Design has been using a variety of products in its building supplies since it was founded 10 years ago, including agricultural waste, fungus, and, more recently, hemp.
The raw material “looks like mulch,” said the company’s Products Development Specialist Kyle Bucklin in the report, “but it’s actually corn and hemp mixed together.” The product also contains mycelium – think the roots of a mushroom – which is activated with water and a little flour to hold the materials together in any shape.
Gavin McIntyre, Ecovative chief scientist, said the company is planning to scale up the production of the building material that would be able to self-repair.
“For instance, if there were an issue, say, a leak in your roof. This material could react to that leak and self-repair as such that you no longer have to worry about that hole in your roof because the material has responded to that naturally,” he said in the report.
The Department of Defense’s interest in the product is likely due to the self-repair features and the compound’s ability to be grown on site, which would reduce the need to import building materials into conflict zones.