Edible Edifices: Organic Foodstuffs as Eco-Friendly Construction Materials


We're familiar with the health benefits of organic foods such as coconut milk, tofu, berries, hemp seeds and wheatgrass. 

But recent research into a design concept led us to uncover their somewhat secret double lives as eco-friendly building materials, reminding us of their extra set of credentials within sustainable design.

Here's what we discovered:

Coconuts are loaded with antiviral and antibacterial properties, and can be used for a variety of purposes. The Sanskrit name for the coconut palm tree translates to “the tree which gives all that is necessary for living” because it yields electrolyte-rich water, creamy milk, meaty flesh, low glycemic sugar and highly nutritious oil. While not as commonly used in the West as in Asia, coconut palm leaves, branches and even the husks can be used for a variety of building and furnishing purposes, including coir.

Berries are known for their ability to add a delicious texture and flavour to smoothies, and are packed with anti-oxidants, vitamins and fibre. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries and raspberries make fantastic snacks and additions to salads, but they also serve a very practical purpose as well. Pounded berries have been used for thousands of years as the source of richly-coloured dyes used to pigment textiles and clothing.

Bamboo shoots are protein-rich, immuno-supportive and contain anti-inflammatory properties – and they’re delicious in juices, stirfrys, Thai curries and Malaysian fried rice. However, bamboo itself is well known as one of the most structurally sound building materials in the world. Houses, furniture and even some of the world’s airports are made of bamboo, and it can be processed into paper and textiles.

Wheatgrass is undeniably one of the most nutritious ingredients in the world. One shot of wheatgrass contains up to six servings of green vegetables and is a powerful source of chlorophyll. It also contains all of the known minerals, and vitamins A, B, C, E, K and I. While admittedly a shot of wheatgrass is an acquired taste, its ability to transform into home insulation and durable flooring is increasingly gaining popularity.

Hemp seeds are a delicious way to add heart-healthy omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to salads, smoothies and cereals; and nutritious hemp seed oil makes a great base for salad dressings. As a building material, it's lightweight, durable and highly sustainable. Hemp is often pressed into bricks, used as fibrous rope and insulation - extensive trials are currently underway in the UK to develop hemp technology for further use as a building material.

Soybeans are the nutritious bean behind soy sauce, edamame, tofu and miso and are also a common material used in interior design, building and construction. Particleboard, laminated plywood and certain kinds of lumber are all made with soy-based wood adhesives, and soy is found in many carpets and car upholstery. Soy-based candles and other lifestyle accessories can enhance a natural interiors vibe.

Quite the generous asset to our existence, don't you think? Here's hoping that, as long as we're respectful of the supply and use of these amazing resources, we can be just as beneficial to the earth as it is to us.

Carra Santos