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Renovating Parsons’ Executive Dean’s Office

Parsons School of Design 2019-2021

You don’t have to change your aesthetic to build healthier.

In fact, healthy design can provoke new ideas which spark innovation. When it was time for the Parsons Deans office to be renovated, the natural objective was to combine Healthier Materials with excellent design. Healthy Materials Lab was invited to work with recent Master of Architecture / Lighting Design graduate, Jordana Maise Goot, to propose a renovation that would stand for the sustainable standards and values of Parsons School of Design.

The renovation had to meet a modest budget, minimize waste while using healthier sustainable materials, and achieve innovative design and aesthetics. Working closely with Jordana Maisie Design Studio, Parsons Healthy Materials Lab chose a palette of healthier materials made by some of the most sustainably-minded manufacturers. We engaged manufacturers in the design process and they generously offered deep discounts and donations to bring this project to reality.

Reducing or eliminating adhesives was a strategy that HML proposed to Jordana in an effort to radically reduce toxic emissions in the office. Jordana used this strategy as the basis for the design of the furniture in the space. Working closely with a team of dedicated craftspeople, Jordana showed how mechanical fasteners could be used instead of glue. The end result is a delightful, intriguing, multifunctional office space.


A healthier, sustainable plywood may look and feel like regular plywood, but it is manufactured using a soy-based binder and thereby avoids harmful toxics such as added formaldehyde. The wood veneer is sourced from sustainably managed forests to ensure that the trees can be harvested for many generations.

For the walls, mineral-based paint was the choice for the interior surfaces. Made from potassium silicate, the paint hardens and bonds with the substrate on the molecular level. The result is a surface that is more granular than reflective acrylic paint and allows the light to graze the surface with a gentle glow. Mineral-based paint like RomaBio is toxic-free, odorless, and naturally mold-resistant.

Paper-based carpet was selected for the primary floor covering. It is a remarkable product that provides a soft, thin surface and does not collect dust or dirt like typical carpeting. Made from wood cellulose, the paper carpet is both recyclable and biodegradable and with its wax coating, it is more durable than most other natural fibers.

Custom Furniture pieces, custom-designed by JMDS, privilege mechanical fastening strategies over traditional, toxic lamination and adhesive techniques. Structural detailing is featured not concealed, showcasing exposed stainless-steel standoffs, washes, hex heads, and threaded rods, creating a tension system that holds the layers of ply in position. As a result, the custom pieces can be easily dismantled, the material is reusable, and the office space that houses them; healthier.

JMDS is a multi-disciplinary studio creating unique design solutions for buildings, interiors, public installations, furniture, and lighting. The studio’s Creative Director, Jordana Maisie, is a Parsons Alumni (Dual Degree: Master of Architecture / MFA Lighting Design).

Thanks to Martin Seck for the photography.

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