The recovery from the earthquake in Haiti is showing us the value of building our physical world with sustainable reuse of materials, such as re-purposing the rubble from destroyed buildings to mix concrete for new structures.
The good news is we don’t have to rely on earthquakes, floods and fires to inspire our most innovative product designers to bring their concepts to the table. Here are some exciting trends meeting the future demands of a world that is scaling down and greening up.
Light Transmitting Concrete: Shining example of Innovation
Hungarian architect Aron Losonszi’s light-transmitting concrete is a mixture of fine concrete and thousands of tiny optical glass optic fibers, which are blended to filter views and add “weightiness and lightness” at the same time. The new material, Litraconâ„¢, forms an aggregate that is used as building blocks that can be designed in various sizes with embedded heat-isolation. Installations so far have included the Iberville Parish Vets Memorial in Louisiana, the Hungarian Embassy in Paris, two logo walls in Belgium and Hong Kong.
STRAW: The Bale Out That Works
Make hay houses while the sun shines! Resurrecting an age-old method to conserve energy and materials for neo-eco dwellings, the bales are stacked like bricks in the post and beam construction. The biggest concern: keeping moisture out, and experts say this can be accomplished with proper foundation design, roof overhang, plumbing not routed through the bales and installing moisture barriers. For green building tips on building with straw, look here.
EDIBLE GREENS: The Utopian vision of the New Front Lawn
Ask any guerilla gardener. Grass sucks in terms of water use and feeding a healthy world. With that in mind, architect Fritz Haeg’s “radical gardening” of replacing the front lawn with food we grow to eat is spreading now from his original geodesic home in Los Angeles to gardens in New Jersey, Austin, Baltimore, Kansas and elsewhere. As the Whitney Museum points out, his Edible Estates (the book is now in its 2nd edition) are reminiscent of the World War II Victory gardens with results that can be appreciated by an entire community. Go to his YouTube video and get inspired to tear out your green carpet.
CORN: High Starch, low emissions Floor Fiber
Roll out the barrel, of corn that is. Using starch’s sugar to make a new plastic for carpet offers these advantages: reduced CO2 emissions, stain-protection and biodegradable in landfills. Leading the way is Mohawk’s Smartstrand with Bio-PDO, a renewable sourced polymer which is said to require 30 percent less energy than nylon to produce along with 65 percent reduced greenhouse emissions. Another company, CornCarpet, boasts of its exceptional softness. If you must use carpet, which is not the best choice for allergies, at least corn sugar offers a better option – and a new direction that seems to be the innovator in carpet design for 2010.
RECLAIMED FABRICS: Out with the Old, in with the Old. It’s what’s new
While Knoll and other design institutions continuing their commitment to producing green certified modern textiles, sources like Modern Fabrics are launching online retailing of the best designed textiles of yore (Pollack, Pearson, Knoll, Kravet, Jhane Barnes to name a few) that once would constitute waste on the workroom floor. Instead of these to-the-trade treasures being packed up in black trash bags headed for the dump, these sources are courting designers and consumers trying to garner great upholstery for a good price (50 to 70 percent off list prices) while reducing waste. Soy, bio organic cotton and milk-based cotton may be hot in production but reclaimed is the coolest trend of all. It’s a kind of forever love the design world cannot pass up.