Bio-Based Building Materials

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Bio-based building materials represent a sustainable and innovative approach to construction, utilizing renewable resources to create eco-friendly alternatives to conventional building materials. These materials are derived from biomass sources such as wood, bamboo, hemp, straw, algae, and other natural polymers. They offer a compelling solution to reduce the environmental footprint of the construction industry, a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, resource depletion, and waste generation.

Impact on climate action

Bio-Based Building Materials significantly reduce carbon emissions by replacing traditional construction materials like concrete and steel. By utilizing renewable resources such as wood, bamboo, or agricultural waste, they mitigate the environmental impact of construction, promoting sustainable practices and contributing to a greener future in the fight against climate change.


  • Biomass Processing and Material Engineering: Transforming biomass into durable and high-performing building materials involves a range of techniques:
    • Wood Modification: Treating wood with heat, pressure, or chemicals to enhance its durability, dimensional stability, and resistance to moisture and pests. Examples include thermally modified wood and acetylated wood.
    • Natural Fiber Composites: Combining natural fibers, such as hemp, flax, or bamboo, with bio-based resins to create strong and lightweight composite materials for structural and non-structural applications.
    • Bio-Based Concrete and Cement Alternatives: Developing concrete and cement alternatives that use bio-based binders or incorporate bio-based aggregates to reduce the carbon footprint of concrete production.
    • Mycelium-Based Materials: Cultivating fungal mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, into specific forms and then drying it to create lightweight, strong, and fire-resistant building blocks and insulation materials.

TRL : 7-9 (depending on the specific material and application)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Engineered Wood Products: Innovations in engineered wood products, such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) and laminated veneer lumber (LVL), are enabling the construction of taller and more sustainable buildings using renewable wood resources.
  • High-Performance Bio-Based Composites: Research focuses on enhancing the performance and durability of bio-based composite materials, such as improving their fire resistance, strength, and moisture resistance.
  • Carbon-Negative Building Materials: Developing building materials that sequester more carbon than they emit during their production and lifecycle, contributing to carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere.
  • 3D Printing with Bio-Based Materials: 3D printing technologies are being used to create complex and customized building components from bio-based materials, reducing waste and enabling innovative architectural designs.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Engineered Bamboo Frameworks
  • Hemp-Based Concrete Solutions
  • Mycelium-Infused Insulation
  • Cross-Laminated Timber Innovations
  • Bio-Resin Composites
  • Algae-Derived Building Panels
  • Thermally Modified Wood Applications
  • Acetylated Wood for Durability
  • Bio-Based Aggregates in Concrete
  • Sustainable Straw Bale Construction
  • Bio-Polymer Roofing Solutions
  • Renewable Cork Flooring
  • Eco-Friendly Wall Panels
  • Plant-Based Structural Supports
  • Fungal Mycelium Fireproofing
  • Biofiber-Reinforced Plastics
  • Bamboo Reinforced Concrete
  • Biodegradable Building Materials
  • Bio-Based Acoustic Panels
  • Recycled Bio-Waste Construction

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Ecovative Design:
    • Technology Enhancement: Ecovative Design specializes in using mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, to create sustainable alternatives to traditional building materials. They grow mycelium into desired shapes and densities, creating materials that are lightweight, durable, and biodegradable.
    • Uniqueness: Ecovative’s use of mycelium as a building material is highly innovative. Mycelium-based materials offer several advantages over conventional materials, including being renewable, carbon-negative, and compostable at the end of their lifecycle.
    • End-User Segments Addressed: Ecovative’s bio-based building materials appeal to architects, designers, builders, and manufacturers seeking sustainable alternatives for various applications, including packaging, insulation, and structural components.
  2. Hempitecture:
    • Technology Enhancement: Hempitecture specializes in using hemp-based materials, such as hempcrete, for construction. Hempcrete is a mixture of hemp hurd (the inner woody core of the hemp plant), lime, and water, which creates a lightweight, insulating, and breathable building material.
    • Uniqueness: Hempitecture’s focus on hemp-based materials is unique in the construction industry. Hempcrete offers benefits such as excellent thermal performance, moisture regulation, and carbon sequestration, making it an attractive alternative to traditional building materials.
    • End-User Segments Addressed: Hempitecture serves architects, builders, developers, and homeowners interested in sustainable construction practices and seeking alternatives to conventional building materials.
  3. Bamboo Living:
    • Technology Enhancement: Bamboo Living specializes in utilizing bamboo as a primary building material for residential and commercial construction. They offer prefabricated bamboo structures that are sustainable, durable, and customizable.
    • Uniqueness: Bamboo Living’s focus on bamboo as a building material sets it apart in the construction industry. Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on Earth, making it highly renewable, and it offers strength, flexibility, and aesthetic appeal in construction applications.
    • End-User Segments Addressed: Bamboo Living caters to homeowners, developers, resorts, and eco-conscious communities seeking environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing building solutions.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. ETH Zurich (Switzerland):
    • Research Focus: ETH Zurich’s research on Bio-Based Building Materials focuses on the development of sustainable construction materials derived from renewable biomass sources, such as agricultural residues, cellulose, and lignin.
    • Uniqueness: ETH Zurich’s approach stands out for its emphasis on advanced material science and engineering techniques to enhance the performance and durability of bio-based building materials. Their research explores novel fabrication methods, structural optimization, and compatibility with existing construction practices.
    • End-use Applications: The applications of ETH Zurich’s research span across the construction industry, including residential, commercial, and infrastructure projects. For example, they’re developing bio-based composites for structural components, insulation materials, and facade systems, promoting a more sustainable approach to building construction.
  2. Delft University of Technology (Netherlands):
    • Research Focus: Delft University’s research on Bio-Based Building Materials focuses on the integration of biodegradable polymers, natural fibers, and bio-based additives to create innovative construction materials with reduced environmental impact.
    • Uniqueness: Delft’s approach emphasizes the circular economy principles, aiming to develop bio-based building materials that are not only sustainable but also fully recyclable or biodegradable at the end of their lifecycle. Their research explores material compatibility, durability, and end-of-life considerations.
    • End-use Applications: The applications of Delft University’s research include sustainable building construction, interior design, and urban infrastructure projects. Their bio-based materials can be used for wall panels, flooring, furniture, and other architectural elements, contributing to the overall sustainability of built environments.
  3. University of British Columbia (Canada):
    • Research Focus: The University of British Columbia’s research on Bio-Based Building Materials focuses on harnessing the unique properties of biopolymers, bio composites, and bio-inspired materials for innovative construction applications.
    • Uniqueness: UBC’s research stands out for its interdisciplinary approach, combining expertise in materials science, biology, and architecture to develop bio-based building materials inspired by natural systems. Their research explores biomimetic design principles, self-healing mechanisms, and adaptive properties.
    • End-use Applications: The applications of UBC’s research range from residential and commercial construction to sustainable infrastructure and disaster-resistant housing. For example, they’re exploring bio-based materials with enhanced thermal insulation, structural strength, and resistance to extreme weather conditions, offering sustainable solutions for resilient building design.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Bio-based building materials are finding their way into a growing number of construction projects, demonstrating their viability and potential to transform the industry.

  • Structural Applications: CLT and other engineered wood products are being used to build multi-story buildings, bridges, and other structures, showcasing the strength and versatility of wood-based materials.
  • Insulation: Bio-based insulation materials, such as hempcrete, cellulose insulation, and straw bales, are gaining popularity as a sustainable alternative to conventional insulation.
  • Interior Finishes: Bio-based materials like bamboo and cork are being used for flooring, wall panels, and countertops, offering a range of aesthetic and functional benefits.