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June 20, 2018

Healthy Materials Lab at NYCxDesign

Allison Sloan

The Lab kicked off the event on May 16th at the opening of Wanted Design on the factory floor at Industry City in Brooklyn with their “living forest” walkway. The exhibition welcomed guests to the event by creating an entryway of living columns covered in micro-plants. The columns were wrapped in hemp felt supplied by the company Grow-Tech, http://grow-tech.com. Grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers the hemp was the perfect surface for growing micro-plants and the perfect way to bring an element of nature into the built environment. The lab hung a banner above the living columns reading, “We are the first generation to spend 90% of our time indoors.” For some this is a shocking fact and it was impactful to have this sentiment hanging above the entrance of the event.

“We are the first generation to spend 90% of our time indoors.”

Next, the lab participated in an event called the “Zero Waste Bistro.” Wanted Design and the Finnish Cultural Institute teamed up with chefs Luka Balac and Albert Franch Sunyer from Restaurant Nolla https://www.restaurantnolla.com to create a zero waste restaurant. The food, the flatware, the table and the architecture of the space itself were built with a zero waste philosophy. The Lab’s directors Alison Mears and Jonsara Ruth devised their own table conversation showing the relationship between ingredients used to make building products and those used to make food.

The menu consisted of ingredients that are both buildable and edible. Flax crackers, seaweed cakes with milk, enoki mushroom tarts, coconut and kombucha were served as delicious snacks while Mears and Ruth talked about how these ingredients have the potential to change the way designers approach the built environment. What we eat goes into our body and effects our biological systems. In the same way, the environment around us gets into our bodies and effects our biological systems. Being conscious of what we eat, including where the ingredients come from and how they are used is imperative for our health. When we realize that we are eating something that is full of chemicals, we usually take pause. Similarly, if we realize that we are breathing or absorbing in harmful chemicals, we want to change the situation. The ingredients for the food at the zero waste bistro was carefully chosen because of their health benefits and the fact that they are all used to make healthier building materials.

When we realize that we are eating something that is full of chemicals, we usually take pause.

The flax in the crackers is also the primary component in Linoleum (Marmoleum), Linen textile, Linseed Oil Paint and finish, linen insulation and flax board. The mushrooms in the tartlets can be used to grow mycelium tile, mycelium foam and mushroom leather. The seaweed was the same kind used to create seaweed insulation. The milk in the desert is used in milk paint, casein (80% of milk protein is casein) and clear wood finishes. The honey in the desert makes propolis board and beeswax finish. And, the coconut in the desert can be made into hydroponic cocomat.

The centerpiece was the bespoke communal table and table set made of Durat Palace’s https://www.durat.com/home 100% recyclable materials containing 30% recycled plastic and natural minerals.The natural pigments used in this board are processed by a working windmill in the Netherlands dating back to the 1700s were produced in Finland using 100% renewable energy.

The archway architecture of the space is rewall material’s http://www.rewallsolutions.com naked board, a material made 100% from tetrapak waste.

During the meal and conversation two Jazz musicians, Solomon Gottfried and Jasper Dutz, played music to bring the concepts of art, design, community and food together. The musicians would each take a bite of a seaweed crisp or a flax cracker or a sip of the kombucha and then they would play improvised interpretive jazz based upon the emotions they felt biting into the food. It turned the afternoon into a full experience.

The musicians would each take a bite of a seaweed crisp or a flax cracker or a sip of the kombucha and then they would play improvised interpretive jazz based upon the emotions they felt biting into the food.

Finally, the lab participated in “A Materialistic Afternoon,” a panel discussion focusing on sustainable materials and the steps designers must take to educate themselves, demand transparency and avoid chemicals of concern. The panel consisted of hyloh https://hyloh.com, Ensad-Paris https://www.ensad.fr/en, Genspace https://www.genspace.org, GROW.bio https://grow.bio, Danielle Trofe Design http://danielletrofe.com, Grant Goldner http://www.idsa.org/members/grant-goldner and our own Alison Mears and Jonsara Ruth. The panel discussed the fact that there are 80,000 unregulated chemicals currently in use in the United States and addressed questions such as, “should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future of healthier materials?”, “Is it our responsibility as designers to make changes or is it the government’s responsibility and which is more efficient?”

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