Open Access Thesis
Master of Architecture (M.Arch.)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Our current system of research and production is no longer suitable for solving the problems we face today. As climate change threatens our cities and livelihoods, the global economic system preys on the weak. A more responsive, equitable, and resilient system needs to be implemented. Our post industrial cities are both products and victims of the boom-bust economies employed for the last few centuries.
While some communities have survived by converting to retail and services based economies, others have not been so fortunate and have become run-down husks of their former bustling selves. The key to revitalizing these cities is to create new industries that empower people, unlike the service economies that deride and devalue them. Peer to Peer (P2P) development models like open source software communities create platforms for people to collaborate on projects and share resources. On the scale of cities, the goal is to stimulate the growth of closed loop, local, micro-economies that are inherently more stable than traditional, centralized economic models.Commons Based Peer Production (CBPP) is a term coined by Professor Yochai Benkler at Harvard Law School. It describes a new model of socio-economic production in which the labor of large numbers of people is coordinated (usually with the aid of the Internet) mostly without traditional hierarchical organization. It is based on low thresholds for participation, freely available modular tasks, and community verification of quality (peer governance). CBPP usually only applies to intellectual output, from software to libraries of quantitative data to human-readable documents (manuals, books, encyclopedias, reviews, blogs, periodicals, and more); however, this system can be adapted for physical manufacturing.
A P2P system of development for material goods must be explored through the production of a common resource. Mycelium is the “roots” of fungi. It can be grown anywhere with agricultural refuse as a substrate. It has properties that make it ideal for building insulation and it is environmentally innocuous. It is Cradle to Cradle certified, and it requires little specialized equipment to produce. As a consumer product, it has had trouble gaining traction in a notoriously stubborn market dominated by hydrocarbon based market leaders like extruded polystyrene (XPS). Mycelium products are ripe for development as a regenerative building material.
The goal is to increase the R-value of the material, decrease the cost of manufacturing, and carve out a market for this extraordinary product. The purpose of applying a CBPP approach is to increase the speed of development and aid in market penetration. The strategy is to decentralize manufacturing of and experimentation with the product. This requires a robust network of production nodes. Essentially, this involves setting up franchises in select markets (like the Pioneer Valley), where there is a strong interest in local, sustainable products. The nodes would be small cooperative businesses that are licensed to produce the material as well as collect data on the manufacturing and performance of mycelium insulation. The data will then be used to improve the production process. The bulk of the thesis is in designing one such node in Greenfield, MA, located adjacent to the new John W. Olver Transit Center on Bank Row St.
Rocco, Grant R., "Developing Maker Economies in Post-Industrial Cities: Applying Commons Based Peer Production to Mycelium Biomaterials" (2015). Masters Theses. 257.