Change and innovation in the building industry is a slow process. Change has to take root and then drive through the multiple tiers of players, starting with consumers and making its way through suppliers, manufacturers, designers, and builders.
That’s partly why Eben Bayer, CEO and founder of Ecovative, worked on creating a product that can make a change by fitting into the existing infrastructure. His product, MycoBoard, is “grown” using hemp, mycelium—the vegetative growth stage of fungi— and a little bit of starch and it can be used as particleboard to manufacture products used in the building process.
To be successful, his company’s product requires demand that typically starts with a consumer who wants to live in a healthier environment. However, oftentimes a consumer may want a healthy living environment, but they don’t know how to ask for one. Ecovative’s product would be able to support the design/build process while using materials that are formaldehyde-free and nontoxic—even to the point that they can be thrown in a garden compost pile when their lifecycle is over.
Ecovative recently partnered with BioMASON—both companies were honored on the Hive 100 top innovators list in 2016—to create a new line of furniture. Ecovative's MycoBoard can be used for many other things as well, from insulation to packaging materials. Computer giant Dell is a current customer that's using the Ecovative product.
Of course, even if the new product or material fits nicely into the existing infrastructure, it still has to have a reasonable cost. The building industry is extremely competitive, and cost matters. However, understanding true tangible cost implications may require a hard look at long-term health effects and the more intangible costs involved with unhealthy living. The challenge in the building industry, according to Bayer, is that there is a diverse set of stakeholders and a very long timeline. To drive change, Bayer notes that everyone needs to pitch in because there isn’t one person who can make the shift at the top.