Could a process which uses mycelium to help recycle old buildings into new ones solve the problem of the citys many abandoned homes?
Over 7,000 abandoned or condemned homes litter the urban landscape of Cleveland, Ohio, where a stunning population loss of about 100,000 residents in 25 years and widespread foreclosures have sparked a housing crisis marked by growing racial and economic disparities. Posing concerns in terms of economic stability, public health and safety, the abandoned homes that line many of the citys streets are at once symbols of its resilience and ongoing obstacles to growth and prosperity.
Cleveland native Christopher Maurer, founder and principal architect at local humanitarian design firm Redhouse Studio and adjunct professor at Kent State University, has plenty of ideas about how to address the citys complex challenges.
Inspired by the work of inventor Philip Ross and his company MycoWorks, Maurer argues that one of the keys to addressing Clevelands housing crisis lies in an unlikely source: mushrooms. Specifically, in using mycelium the vegetative part of a fungus and Clevelands other natural resource, construction waste, in a process called biocycling, which essentially recycles old buildings into new ones using plant materials.
I like to refer to Cleveland as ground zero for biocycling, says Maurer, who believes the city has the perfect conditions and challenges to serve as a prototype for the process.
Widespread demolition is often touted as a means of solving many of Clevelands ills, including violent crime rates. In 2017, in response to the discovery of the body of a 14-year-old girl, Alianna DeFreeze, in a vacant home in Cuyahoga County after she was abducted on her way to school, the mayor, Frank Jackson, unveiled a demolition programme as part of his Healthy Neighborhoods initiative. The city allocated $5m last year for the demolition of 500 vacant homes primarily on Clevelands east side within 500ft of public schools.