As a Wall Scholar, Dahmen will focus on the development of mycelium biocomposites for architectural applications. These dynamic mushroom-based materials serve needs that are simultaneously structural, aesthetic, and visceral, while contributing positively to local ecosystems over the lifecycle of buildings. His research will engage with both the technical and broader cultural aspects of mycelium-based materials through physical testing and architectural installations, advancing the cause of sustainability across disciplines.
Joe Dahmen is an expert on building technology whose research and design projects create a more sustainable future in architecture. His research provides pathways for emergent materials derived from regionally specific biological and geological processes to enter architectural practice. These materials offer new expressive capabilities to architects while positively affecting local ecosystems.
Professor Dahmen’s research tests emergent materials in two different registers. Quantitative methods measure their structural and environmental performance, while their qualitative spatial and cultural potentials are evaluated through public architectural installations. The knowledge gained is articulated through publications, speculative and commissioned design projects, and entrepreneurial activities.
Dahmen is a cofounder of Watershed Materials LLC, an architectural materials development supported by the National Science Foundation (US) and private equity investment. With his partner Amber Frid-Jimenez, Canada Research Chair in design, he runs AFJD Studio, a transdisciplinary design firm based in Vancouver. Dahmen received his Master of Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2006.
Primary Recipient Awards
Co-Principal Investigator Awards
Water to Bricks: harnessing fungal metabolism for sustainable biosolids architecture
Principal Investigators: Dr. Steven Hallam, Microbiology and Immunology, UBC; Dr. Joseph Dahmen, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, UBC
Partner Organizations: John Madden, Carole Jolly, Campus and Community Planning, UBC; Laurie Ford, Metro Vancouver Utilities Residuals Management
The project addresses two interrelated areas of industrial ecology, using biosolids produced by wastewater treatment plants as a resource from which to produce biocomposite-based structural building materials. Mycelium biocomposites, composed of mushroom root structures and cellulose, offer similar performance to polystyrene foams but require little energy to produce, cause no harmful emissions to air or water, and are fully biodegradable. Our aim is to develop a system for producing mycelium biocomposites cultivated on biosolids from wastewater treatment operations and to explore new compression technologies to produce structural building materials from biosolid samples. The project will employ emerging research to move materials engineering beyond biomimicry to programmable design and fabrication, using the inherent capacity of wood fungi to transform “water to bricks”. Project outcomes will include a public architectural installation with the blocks produced that simultaneously engages material performance and cultural significance of water consumption and treatment, as well as scientific journal papers describing key technical contributions.