March 04, 2024

First Northeast Regional Bio-Based Materials Summit

About the Summit

It was a privilege to give a keynote and participate in the first Northeast Bio-based Materials Summit. The event in November 2023 established a peer network of leaders to revolutionize the building industry and accelerate decarbonization. New FrameworksMASS Design Group, and Ha/f Climate Design convened over 150 leaders in the building industry to participate. The first meeting was held at MASS Design Group offices in Boston, with a virtual follow-up in January 2024. 

Representatives relevant to the bio-based materials lifecycle were invited, including raw material suppliers, material manufacturers, educational institutions, designers, architecture firms, developers, and policymakers. The goal of the collective is to address how regionally produced renewable building materials can be scaled and brought to market to address climate change. HML Co-founder and Design Director Jonsara Ruth spoke at the inaugural event, highlighting the promise of bio-based materials to remove toxics and embodied carbon from our buildings and interiors. 

How can regionally produced, renewable building materials be scaled and brought to market?

Why Bio-based Materials?

Bio-based materials are healthier alternatives to the petroleum-derived chemicals and synthetics persistent throughout our interior landscapes today. The collective aims to replace toxic materials with hemp, timber, straw, wool, mycelium and earth. The integration of bio-based materials on a large scale within the building industry can reduce greenhouse gas due to less intensive processing and local sourcing. Some materials can sequester and store carbon, making them carbon neutral or net-negative. If harmful additives are not combined, bio-based materials are healthy and biodegradable. The use of biomaterials will also transition the building industry from a linear waste model to a circular economy, where materials can be reused or go back to the earth at the end of their useful life. 

Bio-based materials are healthier alternatives that can reduce carbon footprint and biodegrade.


The Northeast Bio-Based Materials Summit in Boston.

The Challenges

The group discussed the issues involved in expanding the use of regional bio-based materials. These challenges include communication, knowledge, policy barriers, financing, and supply chains. To accelerate progress, new systems, case studies, education tools, and building codes need to be developed. It is important to develop bio-based materials within a local context, to consider labor equity, and assure sustainable harvesting to achieve a vibrant, bio-based materials economy.

We need case studies, educational tools, new supply chain systems and revised building codes to accelerate progress.

Momentum Towards Solutions

New mindsets and systems for bio-based value chains need to be established via a strong peer network. Participants discussed how new decentralized economic models could provide the most benefit when working with regionally grown materials and regional manufacturing. Partners from seemingly separate supply chains such as farmers, small scale forestry groups and agriculture experts will collaborate with designers and material manufacturers to reconnect buildings with their local landscapes. The regional nature of bio-based materials will support local economies and workforce development.  


Jacob Deva Racusin, Co-CEO of New Frameworks leads a brainstorming discussion at the Northeast Bio-Based Materials Summit.

Next Steps and Upcoming Happenings

The summit participants are forming working groups to make progress toward the goals outlined during the day-long summit. Another summit is planned for the end of 2024. As educators and advocates for healthier bio-based materials, we are excited to be active partners in this initiative. Through this collaborative interdisciplinary network, we are planting seeds to revolutionize the building industry. 

Learn more about one of the summit organizers, New Frameworks, at our event,  From Field to Form: Straw. The event is in partnership with The Architectural League of New York and will be held on April 29th at 6:30pm ET. We will dive into the life cycle and architectural implications of straw. 


EcoCocoon Straw Construction System.

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