Valentina Dipietro is a material designer and researcher about to complete her MA in Textiles at the Royal College of Art. She is currently undertaking a 12 week research residency here at the lab, utilising our developing material lab to experiment with mycelium materials with an outcome to make them viable for products and interiors.
Her project, Mychrome (from mycelium and khrôma –atos, “colour” in ancient greek), is based on material circularity and usage of waste to supply a need for a radically sustainable range of materials for design which are compostable, but at the same time, desirable.
Mycelium is the vegetative part of the mushroom and it can grow on different varieties of agricultural waste. The material fully colonises the waste in the span of two weeks from inoculation while in the right environmental conditions and it presents advantageous physical properties, as it is fire resistant as well as temperature and sound insulating. At the end of its life span it can be re-introduced in the environment as an agricultural fertilizer.
During her residency she will experiment on how to incorporate colour and waste at incubation level, experimenting with different varieties of fungi (Pleurotus Ostreatus, Ganoderma Lucidum or Fomes Fomentarius), as well as multiple waste substrates like straw, wood chips, sawdust and hemp. Combining them with natural pigments obtained from wine waste, she aims to create textural materials and, at the same time, experiment with a range of natural finishes in the realms of natural resins, agar and wax.
Materiom have taken residence in the lab for our Green Lab X Materiom collaboration. Zoe Powell and Pilar Bolumburu are both material researchers and workshop facilitators from Materiom and they will be spending the next few months working with us and helping to develop our Material Lab and Library.
‘Materiom is an open platform for materials experimentation and development for a circular economy. We believe this multidisciplinary and collaborative approach is the key to unlocking a 21st century materials economy that is regenerative by design.
Working at the intersection of design, material science and ecology, the Materiom platform and its community are using open source data and technology to unlock a circular materials economy that is regenerative by design.’
The material lab is going to be a bookable space for material lab members to use. The space is ideal for material research and development that can’t be conducted at home but that doesn’t need a bio lab. With stainless steel work benches and equipment ranging from what you would find in your kitchen to more advanced lab equipment the space is ideal for messy work.
During our collaboration Materiom will also help us develop a material library, showcasing future sustainable materials alongside more traditional examples. The library will be a space for students, researchers, buyers and industry to come and explore alternative possibilities. Located next to the lab, the library will also connect viewers with researchers making these alternative options, creating a unique space for collaboration.
At our next #openhouse evening on Thursday 28th February we will be launching our material lab and running some material workshops – come along to meet with the Material Lab team and Materiom.
As a makerspace with a concern for re-designing complex urban food, water and waste systems Green Lab values open-source design and innovation to tackle important challenges for the future and knowledge exchange is fundamental to achieving sustainable practice on a global scale.
For this stage of the project a small team from Green Lab will spend the next 6 weeks tutoring 12 MA Industrial Design students from Central Saint Martins. Having created a design led brief that focuses on the future of Algae, students will be encouraged to work with these incredible organisms to speculate the immense potential they could have in a more sustainable future. This brief will challenge them to work with living systems and encourage them to focus on material as a starting point.
The open design for sustainable future living project will explore how an open design-led process can be used to develop future products, materials, new processes or services that use algae as the core material; whether at an industrial level such as a future biofuel, at a much more personal level for cosmetics, food source, a new material, decorative perspectives or as a bioremediation (cleaning our air and landmass).
The natural resources of our planet are being used at a greater rate than they can be naturally replenished and the shift towards a more sustainable and ecological way of using resources has become a global imperative.
A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a sobering picture of the potentially terrible impacts of allowing global mean surface temperature to rise by 2C compared with pre-industrial levels: more extreme weather, sea level rise and ocean acidification, with detrimental effects on wildlife, crops, water availability and human health.
Exploring how we use naturally occurring biological and organic materials that do not have a detrimental effect on our natural habitats, human life or broader ecological survival is now being explored by organisations across the corporate footprint of every major country.
This project seeks to provide an insight into naturally occurring macro and micro algae that grow in freshwater and saline environments; from the tiny microscopic algae that create the green waters in local ponds to the vast kelp forests that fill our oceans. Algae occurs naturally in our oceans in the form of seaweed and also in freshwater in temperate and tropical environments.
Algae are simple life forms with simple biological needs (light, Co2, simple nutrients) and have been farmed and used to create new materials, fuel sources, highly nutritious food sources, cosmetics, light sources and decorative materials. Algae has numerous benefits that make it an ideal choice for creating a variety of sustainable products.
We are asking the students to produce a set of design tools and methods that explore collaborative design research with stakeholders of the product, service or materials developed. We also require insight into the feasibility of developing the end product/service as a commercial service and also the environmental impacts the product/service will have.
All narrative and future scenarios must be backed up with research currently being done within this field.
They will produce a physical end product, design or service model that can narrate the scenario there work is situated within.
The project offers design challenges of working with living materials and systems, installing a greater consideration and understanding of the material itself.
We will be running a series of workshops and field trips with the students aiming to inspire them of the vast possible directions they can take this brief.
The outcome will be an open design project that allows for public engagement and critique. Theoretically this process should enable people from outside of the university space to pick up ideas and research conducted throughout the 6 weeks and develop there own future possibilities.
The Lab has gone a little quiet over the last week – with big decisions to be made…
With the news that our Bermondsey home will stay standing until early 2019 we have decided to stay put and halt our move to Brixton – that’s right Lambeth – I’m afraid you aren’t getting us yet.
It was a difficult decision to make but we feel it is the right one for the lab for now. Over the coming weeks we are going to be focusing our attention identifying what the lab means to people and understanding exactly which are the most important areas for us to continue with.
We’re going to continue our focus on projects and research working with food, water and waste we provide a space to test, research and grow new ideas that are going to make real positive change for the future. The lab will still be open for short term urban agriculture technology and growing projects in our wet lab and also upper clean areas.
Today we had the chance to visit our new friends at Biohm and hear about their use of mycelium and biomaterials to create a more sustainable construction industry. We were shown around by founder Ehab Sayed and learnt more about their material research and incredible plans for the future.
Their mission is to innovate the construction industry to create a healthier and more sustainable built environment, with human centered design and bio materials at their core. Set to challenge the current model of mass construction that rarely considers the negative impact on both the surrounding environment but also on the future inhabitants well being.
They are currently in the materials research phase developing biomaterials from mycelium and other food waste to create alternative living and sustainable materials for insulation and other building purposes. By growing materials and utilising food waste these materials are minimising the wasteful practice often associated with building.
‘Placing biological systems at the heart of our inspiration, we combine ideologies of the circular economy and human-centred design with future-tech to create a step-change in building technologies, materials and manufacturing methods.
we collaborate with industrial and academic partners to lead the construction industry towards a circular future that is inspired by nature and driven by our human, environmental and economic needs.’
Ehab Sayad will be speaking about the amazing work they are doing at Biohm at ‘A Mushroom Matter’ a talk curated by Pauline Roques and hosted at Green Lab on Tuesday 29th May from 7-9pm, make sure you get a ticket to hear more about the exciting changes the future holds.
The project looked to explore the role of technology in the arts and how this will impact the future of our creativity. As we continue to live in an age of rapid technological change we need to explore how this will impact all areas of our lives and industry. By embracing these advancements we can utilize technology to create, make and grow towards the best possible future.
The digital maker collective transformed the Tate Exchange into a large public innovation hub, exploring different forms of technological advancement and inviting both makers and the public to get involved, contributing a hands on experience to the event.
Green Lab was part of the ‘Growing Space‘, contributing seedlings, plants and technology for growing.
About Growing Space –
‘A collaborative project about local collection and sustainable, communal space.
This project is the adaptation of a greenhouse in an indoor environment, raising questions about sustainability. Since it is locally sourced with non-specialist materials from recycling circuits, it is aimed to be easy to build on its own, as a modular framework that can be replicated by anyone.
The modularity of the space provides an expanding and growing capacity backed up by the plants growing in it, creating an intimate pleasant atmosphere, in which the air is filtered, providing a cleaner environment to be in.
This adaptable space rethinks design as a collecting and evolving activity that can be shared between the members/builders.’
The space was an organic structure that took shape throughout the six days that the event ran for, with both a team from UAL and Green Lab helping to build the space, add plants and technology and engage the public to help the environment grow and expand. The project was a place to learn about the possibilities of growing in whatever space you have available to you, highlighting the options to grow within the city with just a bit of creativity and experimentation.
The project also highlighted the ability to find usable materials from your surroundings, collecting local unwanted materials from businesses to build and grow in. With the combination of low tech and high tech the project successfully planted the beginning of an edible garden with minimal cost and maximum imagination.
Providing seedlings and plants from the lab the space soon became a green jungle of intrigue, with chilli’s and microgreens provided by lab resident Silly Greens being grown in recycled plastic bottles and coffee cups.
The smart system also combined a Blynk dashboard and Arduino to keep track of the air quality, humidity, light and temperature of the growing space.
While the concern for the future of our growing systems increases it is easy to focus on the large long term struggles we will face trying to feed the planet globally, while forgetting the small change you can make yourself, even if you lack outside space, with bit of versatility you can grow small amounts with an adaptable modular system right at home.
To highlight this our resident hydroponics designer, Ed the urban researcher, held an interactive workshop showing just how easy it is to create a small scale hydroponics system with a bucket, some ventilation ducting and a water pump.
If you want to learn more about the projects we explore at the lab and how you can adapt your living space to house some simple small scale growing systems at a low cost come along to our #openhouse events or sign up for an aquaponics workshop.
The video below captures the space and the various projects that the public could interact with. To find out more about the different work exhibited head to Arts Work of the Future.
Bento Lab is a DNA analysis laboratory created by Bethan Wolfenden and Philipp Boeing. The duo are currently in their first production run of the first affordable DNA laboratory after it successfully passed beta testing. With backgrounds in Biochemistry and Computer Science they are seeking to bring DNA testing into the public sector, allowing anyone to conduct their own simple DNA analysis with the use of the lab.
The beauty of the design is its compact size and accessibility. With the lab measuring no more than the average size of a laptop, you could literally take your lab with you. This is a game changer for the world of science. As someone that last conducted a scientific experiment in secondary school, the world of laboratories, DNA testing and white coats has seemed a very closed of and inaccessible space, one reserved for only the highly intellectual. Bento Lab brings this world into everyday accessibility. With the rise of makers spaces, DIY and opensource we are seeing a transition from these disciplines being reserved for the technically trained to an open space for collaboration and cross disciplinary work. The more transparency we see through these sectors the greater chance for public engagement and understanding, potentially leading to the possibility of a more inclusive community.
Citizen science and the maker movement was an important source of inspiration for Bethan and Philipp, who were running hands-on biotechnology workshops in schools and community centers and were becoming frustrated at the lack of accessible hardware for these events. After taking an initial mock-up of the lab to a maker festival in Rome in 2013 and receiving positive feedback they realized this concept had depth and needed to be scaled, bringing the use of a DNA laboratory to the many.
As in keeping with the accessibility this lab will bring to science, a proportion of the funding they raised for their first production run was via Kickstarter. Running this campaign meant that the public and educational institutions could donate to the cause, or pre-order their own Bento Lab.
What is Bento Lab exactly?
‘Bento Lab is the first complete DNA laboratory, suitable for a beginner to a professional. It comes with a PCR thermocycler, a centrifuge and a gel electrophoresis box and power supply with blue LED transillumination – all controlled by an intuitive interface. And with an A4 footprint that fits into any laptop-sized bag, Bento Lab can travel wherever your science goes.’
We now have a fully functioning vertical farm in the Lab employing a tower growing system using aquaponics.
With the delivery of the mint and fish our vertical farm is now fully up and running and we can share with you how and why you should have one too.
We are growing mint in our vertical farm and using an aquaponic system that works with fish, however the basics are fully adaptable to suit your own needs, with the ability to grow a host of various herbs.
Ed who built the system for us explains the basics of how it works –
‘The idea of the vertical wall was that it will fit in a small space and it’s a modular system that can be easily increased in size by adding more wall structures. The design behind it has been left open – I did this partly as an educational piece, it explains itself to the viewer, and can be easily replicated. The system could fit in a school or an office space and would allow you to grow fresh herbs and vegetables.
The system is aquaponic – it’s a circular system – you feed the fish which in turn poo, the bacteria then converts the ammonia in the fish poo into nitrates which are absorbed by the plants and used as nutrients, whilst cleaning the water before returning this to the fish tank.
The fact it’s a modular system means that it can be easily adapted – you can even run the system without fish, turning it into a hydroponic system instead, by adding nutrients to the water instead of using the fish poo.’
We don’t like waste. In fact we are actively trying to eliminate or recycle everything that we grow, farm or produce at Green Lab – whether its eating the food we grow, recycling the cardboard we receive or composting left over food from the lab.
Over the past few weeks Green Lab has been working along side a UCL researcher to develop a programme of research focused predominately on composting and bio-digestion systems.
In late August we participated in an event hosted by UCL at Hackney Wick, Grow: a kitchen & creative space, with a community of London narrow boat users. Exploring the practicalities of composting toilets and the human factors involved in using, emptying and composting.
From late September 2017, we’ll be working alongside a small team of Msc and PhD researchers from University College London – Environmental Engineering, on a project exploring the transformation of ‘humanure’ – yes, that’s the organic matter we produce that is typically mixed with clean drinking water and flushed through a complex piping system to large sewage processing systems – to safe and sustainable products.
Working with the narrow boat community and an on-site system at Green Lab the research project will explore the human factors in designing these systems, and the end use of fertiliser for leafy greens and hydroponic plant growth.
We’ll be using a Kildwick system (generously donated by Colin Ives) at Green Lab and inviting all our early stage startups to participate.
The agricultural composting project will transform mixed organic matter including food, leaves, dead organic mater and human organic media. We’ll be open sourcing all of our findings and naturally sharing the outcome of the project over the coming months.
The project is being lead by Eve MacKinnon, one of the Green Lab team and PhD Researcher in Safe Sanitation Management.
What is composting?
Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming. At the simplest level, the process of composting requires making a heap of wet organic matter known as green waste (leaves, food waste) and waiting for the materials to break down into humus after a period of weeks or months.
Aquaponics, algae, edible plants, hydroponics, microgreens, insects or mushrooms… take your pick, there is space at Green Lab to grow all of these.
From September 18th we’ll be offering six urban farming residency spaces in the lab for individuals to grow their own food projects. Each resident will have access to a grow bay in Green Lab to farm their own food related project, whether you want install a small scale aquaponics pilot, create an edible plants display or just grow that basil for your pesto.
Green Lab growing bays provide just enough space for small scale projects for individuals, schools or early stage urban agriculture startups. You’ll be able to experiment with growing habitats, lighting and different growing media – they are a blank slate.
Live projects in our growing bays.
Corn and peas growing hydroponically in Coir
Aquaponic chilli and spinach with Red Comets
Spirulina growing in 15 litre upcycled water cooler bottles
We only ask you don’t bring any pests or diseased plants into the lab – we’ll help you get started, get growing and learn about urban agriculture. Use of the lab will be free for the first 3 months, after which it will be £30 p/month for the bay.
You’ll need some basics like a grow tray, maybe a light, growing medium or maybe a fish tank – it’s up to you what grow or farm, but we’ll help you get started. You can either bring your own kit or rent from the lab. We offer subsidised rates for students and educational bodies.
We offer affordable lab space and workspace to incubate early stage new food-based initiatives and business. Our curated residencies provide access to the Green Lab, the team and all of our network. It's a place to scale an idea beyond your proof of concept.