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Description

Decomposition rate in organic materials and in nature are based on several factors. Physical factors such as humidity, precipitation, wind, and temperature all affect decomposition rate. Generally, higher humidity & precipitation increase decomposition rate due to both liquid erosion and the growth of organisms, which utilize the water. More wind causes more erosion, and a higher temperature generally allows more biological activity. In terms of organisms, bacteria, fungi, and insects are major biological factors of decomposition. Bacteria decompose material on the surface in small-scale operations; fungi such as Serpula lacrymans decompose material on a larger scale by penetrating deep into the decaying material using their string-like hyphae. And detritivorous insects such as those in the order Isoptera, more commonly known as the termites, directly burrow into decaying organic plant material for food and shelter.

Radicle has one major advantage in its ability to decompose after use in that all of its materials are organic. Being made from mycelium foam (a material derived from fungus), strawboard, and natural fiber rope, this structure has great potential to organically return to nature without lasting much longer than it should.

The mycelium foam, a structural and insulating component of the structure, is not only completely organic, it was also originally designed to be an ecologically conscious alternative to plastics, which speaks to both its structural integrity and ability to decompose. The strawboard is also organic. Exposed to the right elements, discussed previously, strawboard will break down over time.

So, how do we keep the structure lasting the length of occupation? That answer is abaca rope and cotton twill. Abaca rope is still completely organic, as it is made from fibers of the abaca plant, a type of banana. This rope has a high concentration of lignin (16%), a type of plant structural cell. The tightly woven cotton twill boasts a lignin content just below that (15%), but maintains a tightly woven water-resistant structure. Materials high in lignin and resistant to water decompose at a slower rate than do structures without. So, the abaca rope and cotton twill protecting the structure will greatly delay decomposition while in use.

When the structure is done being used, the decomposition rate (which we’ve greatly halted) can be vastly increased using simple steps. The twill should first be removed to expose the strawboard and mycelium to the elements. This will allow decomposition to work on them directly. The strawboard, in its unfinished form, will decompose much as straw does in nature. It will rot and break down as moisture seeps in and fungi, bacteria, termites, etc. utilize it for their own purposes. The mycelium foam will suffer a similar fate, but as it has no lignin in it (due to its non-plant structure), it should decompose even faster than the strawboard. The abaca rope actually has less lignin in it than strawboard, but it will easily hold up while radicle is in use, preventing any structural damage to the strawboard and foam.

So each material will decompose eventually. But how do we make it happen faster when we’re done? Using built in score marks in the structure, it can be broken up
after use. This greatly increases decomposition as the surface area of each component is greater, allowing it to be exposed to the air, which brings moisture, bacteria, fungal spores, etc. Plus, anything wanting to eat/use it has easier access to it. Think of a sugar cube vs. powdered sugar in a glass of water. You can watch the powdered sugar dissolve much faster in the water than the sugar cube.

In summary, radicle will both hold up in use and decompose when finished with only minimal modifications because the materials used are completely organic and decomposable. Yet, the arrangement of the cotton twill, abaca rope, the strawboard, and the mycelium foam allows the to do its job while in use.

Due to the natural components used in Radicle, we can expect decomposition to follow similar trends found in ecological scientific literature. With that in mind, Radicle is better suited for certain environments. Environments that have sufficient moisture to allow for fungal and other organismal growth will speed the decomposition when a Radicle structure is abandoned. Tropical environments, with humidity, heat, and large amounts of precipitation will work the best, while a desert environment would force the decomposition to be slow until a major rain event occurs. This decomposition, though delayed, would still take place. Temperature, too, is important. Radicle will be difficult to decompose in an arctic climate because the temperature is so cold, organismal activity will be limited. That being said, in some arctic areas the verdant spring will produce major explosions of life, including microbes, fungi, and insects, which will speed up decomposition for a time. In a coastal environment, where temperatures are more moderate, decomposition will be able to occur at a faster rate. The benefit of Radicle’s organic design is that in climates from severe to temperate, nature will find a way to absorb the structure back into the ecosystem.