TOMORROW’S ANSWERS TODAY THE AKZONOBEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 2
Mixing talent The new AkzoNobel Too often we hear it would be impossible. That it cannot be done. That someone’s tried it before. At the new AkzoNobel, we believe the future belongs to those smart enough to challenge it. That’s why we love developing new ideas, like the micro-surfacing emulsiﬁer we’re supplying to rapidly growing Asian cities, which allows roads to be repaved in half the time. Like asking if painting boats with a coating as smooth as whale skin would improve fuel economy – and then creating the product to prove it. This is the kind of ambition which deﬁnes us. This is why we come to work. To deliver Tomorrow’s Answers Today.
To see our complete brand portfolio please visit akzonobel.com
The A team
WELCOME JOHN McLAREN It was Oscar Wilde who said “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisﬁed with the best.” It’s a ﬁtting way to welcome you to this second edition of A Magazine, because I must confess to having a certain afﬁnity with those famous words uttered by the Irish playwright, poet and incorrigible wit. Why this sudden diversion into the literary realm? Well, I’m delighted to say that A Magazine recently won a coveted Bronze Cube, awarded annually by the inﬂuential Art Directors Club in New York. Regarded by many as being the Oscars of the design world, the distinctive cubes are notoriously tricky to win, so naturally all those involved with our launch edition in October last year are delighted to have been recognized with such a prestigious honor for creative achievement. The whole team worked extremely hard to ensure that we met the highest possible standards. But that was only the beginning and hopefully this second edition will prove that we intend to keep on pushing ourselves to bring you the best possible quality in all areas. Because when it comes to communication, only the best will do. That, after all, is what providing Tomorrow’s Answers Today is all about. So what can you look forward to in this second edition? We’ve loosely themed the content around color, so many of the features take that as a starting point. We also hear from AkzoNobel CEO Hans Wijers, who explains the fascinating concept of creative destruction. Shipwrecks, frozen seabeds and Barbie also get a look in. It is, dare I say, a cocktail that even Oscar would have gone wild over. Enjoy the issue, there are some great stories and visuals, and remember that free subscriptions are open to everyone via akzonobel.com/A
Chief Editor David Lichtneker AkzoNobel Design and Art Direction Pepe Vargas AkzoNobel Design Consultancy Angus Hyland Pentagram Corporate Director Communications John McLaren AkzoNobel Head of Corporate Branding Berry Oonk AkzoNobel Trafﬁc Manager Sarah Roozendaal AkzoNobel Publisher Akzo Nobel N.V. The Netherlands Editorial address A Magazine AkzoNobel Corporate Communications PO Box 75730 1070 AS Amsterdam The Netherlands E-mail A@akzonobel.com Printing Tesink, Zutphen The Netherlands
Corporate Director Communications
Additional photography Getty Images, Coca-Cola, FriGeo, The Vasa Museum You can subscribe to A Magazine and download digital versions by visiting akzonobel.com/A Opinions in this magazine do not necessarily represent those of AkzoNobel, and AkzoNobel accepts no responsibility for these opinions. While the information in this publication is intended to be accurate, no representation of accuracy or completeness is made.
Giving deforestation the bird The story of a reforestation project thriving in the unlikely concrete jungle of Sao Paulo.
Now itâ€™s personal How personal expression has evolved into a sophisticated art form, including an interview with design visionary Bruce Mau.
Sea change Several industry experts evaluate how close we are to harnessing the power of the oceans.
Turning a blind eye The color-blind are rarely catered for in society, but the situation could slowly be changing.
Appetite for destruction AkzoNobel CEO Hans Wijers shares his thoughts on the seismic theory of creative destruction.
Women strike back A Dutch artist, a top executive and the age-old problem of women battling for career equality.
The curious case of the depolymerizing warship How science is helping to unravel the mysteries hidden in the wreck of a 17th century warship.
Identity crisis We highlight a new study which aims to bring color back into our cities.
Building the future The world might well be in a recession, but Asia continues to grow and attract investment.
Leader of the pack Admit it. Youâ€™ve rarely given the humble can a second thought. Allow us to enlighten you.
The big freeze A new method of removing contaminated material is giving pollution the cold shoulder.
The big picture Find out why two world class performers joined forces to push the boundaries of technology.
WORDS Jim Wake
A special project is underway in Brazil dedicated to restoring and protecting the native ecosystem of a forest right in the middle of one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
This seven-color tanager bird is the TangarĂĄ Reserveâ€™s mascot, a species which inhabits the forest around the MauĂĄ site. [Photography by Arthur Grosset; arthurgrosset.com].
AkzoNobel employees and their families are playing a role in the tree removal and reforestation process
The feasibility study identiﬁed 1,600 eucalyptus trees per hectare, as opposed to the recommended average of 400 native trees per hectare
The Tangará project is one of the biggest urban reforestation projects in Brazil
Permanent monitoring of the new forest (both ﬂora and fauna) is in place to ensure no environmental damage is caused More than 80 species of birds live in the forest, while there are more than 160 varieties of ﬂora
Look beyond: reservaTangará.com.br
razil’s sprawling megalopolis of Sao Paulo is home to nearly 20 million people, who inhabit an area of about 8,000 square kilometers. And within that urban tangle, the municipality of Mauá houses more than 40 00,000, crowded onto just 62.6 square kilometers – more than 6,500 people per square kilometer. Suc ch a high population density obviously means that there is not a whole lot of green space, but on the south west co orner of the city, a small 100 hectare oasis has escaped tthe fate which has befallen most of the rest of the surrounding land. A fo ormer plantation, it just happens to form part of the site occ cupied by decorative coatings manufacturer Tintas Coral. T The actual production facilities, however, take up just 30 of the e 100 hectares. Most of the rest is occupied by dense eucalypttus forest, planted in the middle of the 20th century. Thatt, in principle, is a good thing. But eucalyptus is not an indigenous tree. In fact, all along Brazil’s Atlantic coast, the indigeno ous Atlantic Forest which once predominated over more tha an a million square kilometers has been devastated to make wa ay for both industrial agriculture and urban settlements. Less tha an 10 percent of these valuable ecosystems have been preserve ed, and much of what remains is under threat from further e encroachment. But on the Tintas Coral site, a project is now und derway to restore the original Atlantic Forest. Tinta as Coral became part of AkzoNobel following the acquisition of ICI in 2008. The brand has a long tradition of social e engagement and a strong commitment to corporate social rresponsibility, highlighted by the various programs launche ed for the benefit of employees and the surrounding commun nity. The proposal to restore the native ecosystem of the forest surrounding the site originated in 2005. The head of the Attlantic Forest Foundation – an organization which had previoussly worked with Tintas Coral on environmental education projjects in the community – was visiting the site, and he suggestted a plan of action. “Whe en he saw the size of the forest the idea of launching thiss project was born,” explains Sueli Freitas, former AkzoNo obel Decorative Paints Corporate Communications Manage er for Latin America. “We thought it was a great idea and invitted the University of Sao Paulo to conduct a feasibility study. T The results indicated that we have almost 300 plant and anim mal species on the site, including many that are rare or endan ngered.” The forest also includes a small lake which supplies the currrent AkzoNobel Decorative Paints plant with water. It turned d out that the eucalyptus trees were not only putting
a strain on the watershed which fed the lake, but also putting excessive demands on the fragile balance of the site’s soil and subsoil. The environmental conservation project therefore has an additional business angle. Eliminating the dry eucalyptus forest will also reduce the risk of fire. “The plan,” continues Freitas, “is to gradually replace those eucalyptus trees with native trees of the Atlantic Forest and create a reserve, which we’ve named the Tangará Reserve after a brilliantly colored bird which is native here. It’s a pioneering project,” she adds. “All over the world, people are destroying native forests and planting them with soy beans and other crops, but here, we are reversing that process by taking commercial wood and replacing it with native species.” Biologists at the University of Sao Paulo – Brazil’s leading environmental studies institute – are playing a major role in the project, offering advice on how the restoration project should proceed and monitoring its progress. The 70 hectares to be restored have been divided into three tranches, with the first tranche having been cleared in early 2007. Planting of socalled “pioneer” trees followed several months later. The first trees to be planted were fast-growing trees that will provide the shade to allow other trees and secondary plants to follow. Fruit trees will also be introduced into the new forest to attract birds and bats. Of course, a forest doesn’t grow overnight. Experts say that the return of a forest environment will be evident in about five years. Within ten years, a dense forest should take hold. A relatively mature forest will take another ten or 15 years. Such has been the impact of the initiative that officials from the Sao Paulo State government have also taken an interest in the project. They think it could serve as a model for other projects to safeguard water supplies, with a particular eye on a lake which supplies water to a significant portion of the Sao Paulo region, which is also surrounded by a non-native eucalyptus forest. One of the unusual features of the Tangará project is that, at least during the first several years, it will be self-financing. The costs to clear the old forest and re-plant with indigenous species should be covered by the proceeds realized from the sale of the recovered eucalyptus wood, which will be sold primarily for pulp. There is also more to the Tangará Reserve project than environmental restoration, as it will be open to communities and schools for educational and recreational purposes, as well as being made available for study by the scientific community. “We are a kind of oasis here, surrounded by cities,” concludes Freitas. “Our thinking is that this project can be a valuable gift to the local community.”
WORDS David Lichtneker
There was a time when expressing your individuality meant doing something extreme like dying your hair several colors or tattooing your tongue. Those options are still available, but in the style conscious 21st century, personalization has become something of an art form.
hen Henry Ford uttered that immortal phrase about customers buying his Model T in any color they wanted – as long as it was black – the concept of personalization was virtually alien. It was the 1920s, a time when being an individual and expressing your personality was hardly the rage. One glimpse at photographs of the time proves the point, because it wasn’t just Ford’s fabulous automobiles that all looked strikingly similar. People also looked alike, mainly due to the fact that there was almost no difference in their clothes, hats, or even their facial hair come to think of it. Times changed, however, and individual expression gradually started to have more influence on how people lived their lives. The 1950s, for example, saw popular music begin to heavily impact fashion and youth culture, a trend which has continued every decade since. So for more than half a century, it’s been hairstyles (beehives, Mohicans, quiffs, bubble perms), shoes (platforms, Doc Martins, beetle crushers) and clothes (hotpants, flared trousers, mini skirts) that have mostly allowed people to really give an outward sign about who they are on the inside. While considered too extreme for most, the ancient art of tattooing also warrants a mention, along with body piercing, which is a more recent – yet often just as outrageous – form of self-expression. Other industries were also quick to catch on, realizing that personalization wasn’t restricted to outlandish clothes, hair and make-up. Cars are a classic case in point. Manufacturers were soon offering customers new models, different colors and optional extras, so Ford’s mantra didn’t last long. This more customer-oriented approach to selling and marketing goods rippled rather than snowballed, with some industries being more suited to embracing various degrees of customization and finding it far easier to introduce than others.
Fast forward to the 21st century and one sector which has lagged behind somewhat where personalization is concerned is finally starting to shift into overdrive. The market for personal electronic equipment has exploded over recent years, with sales of mobile phones, handheld devices and laptops reaching unprecedented levels. But while the technology behind them has also been accelerating at a frightening rate, the focus on certain aspects of their design has been less intense. For example, you don’t have to think back too far to remember when all mobiles were black (Ford would have been pleased) and all PCs were that incredibly bland cream color. Then a spark was ignited and suddenly mobiles were available in different colors. “Skins” started to appear and the possibilities for pimping your phone became endless. Now, the age of the fully customized computer has dawned. The plug has well and truly been pulled on all things vaguely magnolia colored. Laptops no longer have to be that dull slab of tombstone grey. Your computer can become an extension of your personality. It was Michael Dell who broke the technical mould when he started building PCs to order from his dorm room. He soon dropped out from university as a teenager and went on to set up his own company, which is now the mighty Dell Inc – the number one PC provider in the US and the number two worldwide. Following their CEO’s lead for offering groundbreaking personalization, Dell recently entered the customized design arena with a bang, a transformation which has been led by a man specifically hired to make Dell’s computers look irresistibly cool and desirable. “Our industry has gone over a tipping point whereby for most people the days of the utilitarian PC are dead,” explains Ed Boyd, who is Vice-President of Design at Dell’s Consumer Products business. “If you think about it, ten years ago, to have a PC in the home was something special. It was almost a
Look beyond: dell.com/designstudio
luxury if a family could afford to buy a PC and use it. The products have now evolved from that utilitarian phase of ownership to a level where they are devices that you use frequently every day. The new day has dawned – the birth of the truly personal device that people take with them wherever they go. And it’s not just a nice to have, it’s become a necessity. There’s this need to make it fit your style, to tailor it to your needs, because it’s with you everywhere you go. If you look at related markets, such as the automobile, cell phone and fashion industries, you see this trend as well, so it only makes sense that it’s happening now in the PC industry.” The customization of Dell’s portfolio has been evolving ever since the company was established – last year their consumer group doubled the number of products it offers. But the real evolution is taking place in the area of design, specifically the ease with which customers can now stamp their own mark on new personal equipment, such as having a design printed on the lid of your laptop. “We’ve spent a lot of time redesigning our products so that they are more hip and relevant and are more directed towards different consumer groups,” continues Boyd, an industrial designer who used to conjure up ideas for new sunglasses and shoes for Nike. “Carrying on Michael’s tradition, we’ve also added a high degree of personalization into each of our platforms so that you can truly customize the products to suit your liking. Whether that is color, software or content, all aspects of the product are being considered. We feel that it’s a natural extension from our inception as a company and we’re pretty excited about it.” Dell isn’t the first manufacturer to offer a personalized design service for laptops. The desire to be different has fueled a huge surge in demand, so much so that it has now
gone mainstream and is no longer the preserve of the young and streetwise. But even though Dell wasn’t the quickest out of the blocks, what it does offer is unique within the industry. Via their jazzy online Design Studio, customers can select customized artwork from a dizzying gallery featuring exclusive work created by some of the world’s most renowned artists, including Mike Ming, Bruce Mau and Tristan Eaton. Orders are then processed individually, remaining faithful to Dell’s philosophy of creating truly personalized products. What’s also special about the design service offered by Dell is the method used to apply the artwork to the laptop. Many companies use stickers, transfers or supply predesigned computers which are decorated and manufactured in huge batches. Dell however, takes a different approach. Using pioneering technology and products supplied by AkzoNobel, their on-demand service employs a hi-tech diffusion process which is easy to use, allows laptops to be customized to order and produces stunning results. “The finish and quality we are achieving is amazing,” says Boyd. “The strong collaboration we have with AkzoNobel has enabled us to make great strides and build the on-demand customization that we now offer. When the artists see the results and the level of quality we are producing they’re absolutely thrilled. It took a long time for us to build the on-demand capability from an operational perspective, but now we’re ramping that up, things are getting very exciting.” Alex Maaghul, head of AkzoNobel’s Specialty Plastics business – which supplies Dell with the products and technology used to apply the personalized designs – agrees that customization is gathering momentum. “Personalization is getting stronger,” he notes. “In the world of consumer electronics,
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everything is getting smaller and more personalized. Everyone is coming out with personalization per region, per gender, per culture. With the pace of technology slowing down, appearance and how products make people feel is becoming increasingly important.” The first customized laptop Dell produced using the AkzoNobel technology was an ultra-cool World of Warcraft special edition. But now any laptop in any of Dell’s consumer groups can be personalized via their Design Studio, which offered more than 100 unique pieces of spectacular art in its first incarnation. The second generation version will offer considerably more, with artists from all over the world now keen to get involved. “Artists are discovering that this is a great way to get global exposure, because obviously we sell products all over the world,” adds Boyd. “So they are regularly
approaching us and the level of creativity we’re seeing is overwhelming. We’re realizing that the possibilities are infinite, particularly when we unleash the talent that we are now working with.” Such has been the success of Dell’s move to personalized design – they customize more than 20 million laptops a year – that laptops are only just the beginning. “Why stop at laptops?” Boyd goes on. “You will see personalization on our desktops in the very near future, as well as on our smaller, more mobile devices. So the level of customization we currently offer will also be available on a much broader array of products. Ultimately you’ll be able to do pretty much whatever you want to do.” It makes you wonder though. If he’d been alive today, what color would Henry Ford have chosen?
PIXE EL PE PERFECT Although Dell uses several AkzoNobel products across its portfolio, the on-demand personalization service offered by its Design Studio relies on very specific technology. There are various ways of applying designs to laptop lids, but none as flexible, versatile or effective as Pictaflex. Part of AkzoNobel’s Specialty Plastics business, Pictaflex is the name given to the company’s digital imaging transfer technology, which uses a process known as diffusion. The whole process – which is carried out at Dell’s own facilities or supplier factories using materials and equipment supplied by AkzoNobel – only takes a matter of minutes, with the added bonus of no topcoat being required once the process has been completed. “There are other technologies being used within the industry, but none of them allow for the on-demand production of one-off items, or lot size one as it’s known,” explains Alex Maaghul, head of the company’s Specialty Plastics business. “That’s one of the distinct advantages of the Pictaflex technology which gives us a real competitive edge. Plus the results it produces are stunning.”
Its use isn’t restricted to laptops, however. Pictaflex can be used to decorate and customize items as large as desktop computers, while AkzoNobel is already supplying the technology to Logitech for use on their mouse range. Work is also ongoing with a number of major OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in the wireless and consumer electronics markets. “There’s a very big potential market for us,” adds Maaghul. “Demand for customization is growing at a tremendous rate and there are many areas for us to explore.” Pictaflex is just one of the many products and services provided by Specialty Plastics through its own design center. Based in Belgium, its work encompasses far more than simply supplying coatings and related technologies. “It’s great having cool technology such as Pictaflex, but we also take a design approach to everything we do,” says Maaghul. “We do a whole range of work for our customers, including graphic design, product design, color design, styling, textures and trend analysis. We lead the industry with our color and styling forecasts and a large
percentage of the colors and special effects out there in the marketplace actually come from us.” Maaghul also points out that they are starting to get involved with customers and their products at the design stage. “We’re doing a lot of work on color, styling and graphics, particularly during the early phases of product development. Because I believe that product design and color design influence each other. You can have the best color design on one product, but on another product it just won’t work. So you have to get it right as early as possible.” As for the future of customization, Maaghul reckons the possibilities are endless: “I don’t think there’s an end to it. Technology isn’t like what it used to be, on computers especially, it’s starting to slow down. The value, therefore, is in the entire package. It’s all about the appearance and how people feel, and I think it’s going to continue. It’s going to get stronger because that’s where they will achieve their main marketing edge. In my opinion, personalization can continue to advance far more than technology.”
Humanity stands on the verge of an unprecedented period of possibility. The tools at our disposal to progress and innovate and distribute solutions around the globe are greater than at any time in history. So says design visionary Bruce Mau, whose burgeoning international reputation is outpaced only by his expansive drive to make the world a better place. Born in Canada, Mau is widely regarded as a master of his art, having combined creative genius and unconventional thinking with a self-confessed upstart sensibility to secure his place as one of the most sought-after designers on the planet. So he was a natural choice for Dell when they went looking for big names to produce something unique for their online Design Studio. He’s also precisely the right person to quiz about the rise and rise of personalization. “I think it’s a response to the super-saturated condition of distribution we now have, which means you can virtually find everything everywhere,” observes Mau. “For example, I can go into a Gap store in Capetown and it’s got exactly the same
stuff in it as a Gap store in Santa Monica. That creates a situation where people are looking for a unique kind of expression. They want to find their own voice within that context.” However, work carried out by his studio for Prada highlights the fact that it’s not just the consumer electronics industry which is tackling the personalization issue head-on. “I did some work on their strategy for dealing with ubiquity,” explains Mau. “They had got to the point where they had hundreds of stores around the world, but no matter which one you went into, they were essentially the same. That culture of branding produces a weird kind of placelessness, where you travel to Milan and have more or less the same feeling you’d get in Toronto. It’s kind of dishearteningly similar. What developed out of the work I did was the notion of the epicenter. The idea that you can make distinctive experiences in different places. So the Prada epicenter in Tokyo became radically different from the Prada epicenter in New York or LA.”
Photography: Robert Harshman / robertharshman.com
Look beyond: brucemaudesign.com
Mau’s creation for Dell’s Design Studio came via a linkup with (Red), an organization which has tapped into our collective power as consumers and transformed it into a financial force to help others in need. “What (Red) has done is terms of innovating the approach to charitable work is brilliant,” states Mau. “We have done a lot of work ourselves on how people are collectively confronting global challenges and what they are doing is really inspirational.” As for the actual design created for Dell (called Healing Patterns), the idea behind it had joint influences. “We looked for a link between what Dell does and what (Red) does,” continues Mau. “There’s a kind of informational interface in terms of the scientific work that’s being carried out by them, so we used that as our starting point.” Established in 1985, Bruce Mau Design almost defies categorization. The homepage of their website perhaps best sums up their philosophy: “It is not about the world of design, but the design of the world.” It’s clear then, that this is no ordinary design studio. For a start, its whole reason for being is based on a so-called Incomplete Manifesto, described online as “an articulation of statements exemplifying Bruce Mau’s beliefs, strategies and motivations.” The man himself elaborates: “We knew we were doing something very different to the way most design was being conducted. So it was important for us to send as clear a message as possible about what our intent was. We want people who come to work for us and with us to know exactly what we are trying to do and we want them to be excited by it.” That excitement level went up several notches when in 2004 – just a year after setting up the Institute Without Boundaries education initiative – Mau launched Massive Change. Originally devised as an exhibit on the future of global design for the Vancouver Art Gallery [pictured opposite and on the previous spread], it became a runaway success, spawning a book, a website and an ongoing project with a clear goal of “exploring the legacy and potential, the promise and power of design in improving the welfare of humanity.” Adds Mau: “Massive Change really changed our lives. We initially set out to answer a question and produce an exhibition
Back cover: New Tokyo Lifestyle Think Zone by Bruce Mau
about design. It was quite a straightforward project. The question was: what is the future of design? In the process of exploring that question and trying to find an answer, we developed a methodology which has really changed the way we live and work. Essentially, what happened is that we spent about 20 person years of research trying to answer that question. In the course of answering it, we met several hundred of the world’s great innovators. We looked for people who are changing the world and we looked for people who are solving problems that in some cases have vexed us since the beginning of time. We tried to understand what they are doing and how they are doing it. It was a really radical, eye-opening experience.” He goes on: “We saw that contrary to a general mood of pessimism and cynicism, what was actually taking place was one of the most cultural and scientific transformations in human history. We talked about what we called the revolution of possibility, distributing tools and power to people around the world. We discovered that we’re witnessing an acceleration of possibilities. In the course of doing all that, we realized that as designers, the capacity we have to integrate new possibilities for science and technology into culture is just staggering. Once you see that, you can’t go back.” One of the key learnings Mau took from Massive Change was the fact that design and innovation is a collaborative activity, it’s not about a singular solution. “Take the Pictaflex technology AkzoNobel supplies to Dell,” he notes. “It must have a whole team behind it. They probably come from a whole range of disciplines and creative practices and collectively they were able to develop it. Individually, they couldn’t possibly have made it happen. So we shouldn’t think of design as a singular enterprise.” But what of that future that is so integral to Massive Change? When he looks back on his achievements, how will Mau know if he’s fulfilled his ambitions? “In many ways I still feel like I’m just getting started. But in the long run, I hope that we will have engaged our possibilities. That when I look back and talk to my children about what we did, I hope I can say that we were in the game. That we were fully committed and were doing the best that we could.”
WORDS Jim Wake
Anyone who has ventured into the surf knows just how much power the sea packs. But so far, it has not been converted into any viable marine energy projects. The tide, ďŹ nally, seems to be turning.
ast your mind back to the 1970s. The industrialized world was suffering from the effects of the oil crisis set off by the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the ensuing Arab oil embargo. Oil prices had skyrocketed and the economies in the industrialized west – Britain in particular – were in disarray. A young South African engineer named Stephen Salter had taken up residence at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and assembled a team around him to explore a promising alternative to petroleum – wave energy. He experimented with several technologies and ended up designing a device which bobbed up and down as it absorbed the energy from waves and could convert the up and down motion into electricity with remarkable efficiency. The device became known unofficially as Salter’s Duck (officially, it was the Edinburgh Duck). Salter, still an emeritus professor at Edinburgh, recalls that it was a very exciting time. But despite the device’s ingenuity and the promising results during scale model testing in wave tanks, Salter’s Duck never made it out of the lab. Salter and many others claim that wave power was sabotaged by vested interests in the mainstream power industries, especially in the nuclear industry. “The better we made it, the less they liked it,” he says. “We realized pretty early on that there was a great deal of politics in the background and that we had opposition.” State funding for the Duck was withdrawn in the early 80s, ostensibly because it was not deemed a viable and cost-efficient technology. But much of the argumentation against the Duck has since been proven at least flawed and, some would argue, quite possibly deliberately inaccurate. Thirty-five years later, Salter still believes in the Duck, and in marine energy in general (a variant on the Duck idea is now getting serious consideration as a desalination device. So why is it that so much attention and so much money is directed towards wind and solar, while wave and tidal energy schemes get very little attention or funding? “Well, one of the reasons is that you can start the others on a small scale,” Salter explains. “People could make their own water heaters, put them on a roof and all you needed was a ladder and a screwdriver. With wind turbines, you could have a school kid making something that would turn around then put it up in the garden. The first step is very much smaller. For marine applications, the first step is embarrassingly expensive. It might get easier later on, but your first big jump is hard.” He says that the most efficient technologies need to come down in cost by a factor of two to be competitive, but adds that this is not actually very much. In fact, the likely increase in the cost of traditional energy should help to make wave and tidal options more attractive. Salter additionally points out that wind energy has been exploited for thousands of years. Solar energy, to a lesser extent, has also been exploited, if only in
designing buildings to take advantage of the heat from the sun. Of course, tidal energy has been exploited on a small scale over the years, but very few large-scale projects have ever been constructed. In fact, around 75 years ago, the US government actually built a small town to develop a project in northern Maine to exploit the enormous tidal range of the Bay of Fundy (up to 17 meters), but the project was abandoned. In the 1960s, the first large-scale tidal power plant was completed on the estuary of the Rance River in Brittany, France. The plant, which traps the tidal flow behind a dam and then uses traditional hydropower technologies to turn turbines, has a capacity of 240 megawatts. The same tidal forces that the Americans hoped to harness in the 30s in Maine were finally exploited in nearby Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, in eastern Canada in the 80s. Only recently have less traditional tidal power schemes started to crop up all over the world. In 2003, for example, a prototype turbine was installed at a depth of 50 meters in Kvalsundet off the northern coast of Norway, near Hammerfest. Last year, a company named Verdant Power installed a turbine in New York City’s East River (actually another tidal channel) after two embarrassing failures when the turbine blades broke. The demonstration project is delivering power to a local supermarket, but the company hopes to eventually create a “field” of turbines that would generate 10 megawatts and power 8,000 homes. A company called Marine Current Turbines has also installed a tidal turbine in the Strangford Narrows off the coast of Northern Ireland which generates 1.2 megawatts. They have plans to develop a 10.5 megawatt project off the coast of Anglesey in Wales. There appears to be at least as much activity in the field of wave energy, with a wide range of schemes under investigation. Some float on the surface, some are fixed to the seabed. But as Salter notes, the start-up costs are enormous, and the harsh marine environment has always been a serious obstacle to cost-efficient exploitation. In Scotland, which has a long tradition of industrial innovation (think James Watt), as well as enormous potential as a producer of wave and tidal energy, a test center called EMEC (European Marine Energy Centre) was established in 2004 in Orkney. Its aim is to provide the considerable infrastructure that developers require to “get wet as easily as possible,” as EMEC’s Managing Director Neil Kermode puts it. EMEC has developed both a wave test site and a tidal test site with support from the UK Department of Trade and Industry, the Scottish government and the European Union. Leading marine energy firms can hook their devices up to electrical cables plugged into the power grid to test their efficiency, as well as their resilience. “We’ve set a couple of world records,” states Kermode with some pride. “EMEC was
the first place ever to generate energy to the grid from a deep water wave energy machine. We’re the first place in the UK to have generated energy from the tides and we’re the only accredited laboratory for testing wave and tidal machines in the world.” One of the machines tested at EMEC was a long, narrow, articulated device called Pelamis – named for a common type of sea snake which it vaguely resembles. Pelamis is tethered to the seabed but floats on the surface and more or less rides the waves. The bending of the joints drives pistons that pump high-pressure oil through hydraulic motors, turning the generators to produce electricity. After successful testing in Orkney, Pelamis Wave Power installed the first deep water wave farm in the world off the coast of Portugal in 2008 and began generating power to the Portuguese electrical grid. The company has recently had a run of bad luck. The Australian infrastructure firm Babcock and Brown – the operators of the Portuguese project – collapsed as a result of the global financial crisis, while the Pelamis machines suffered from “technical issues”, as Business Development Director Max Carcas delicately puts it. “They are nothing that wouldn’t be expected in a project of this nature and we’re in the process of addressing them.” Carcas adds that the company is also in discussions with “interested parties” to take over the project from Babcock and Brown. In the meantime, Pelamis is set to test a larger and more robust version of the original device and has signed an agreement with utility megacorp E.ON to provide these second generation “P2” machines for a wave farm off the northern coast of Cornwall in south-west England. The wave farm could eventually use as many as seven Pelamis wave power generators for a capacity of 5 megawatts. EMEC will also be providing the facilities for the testing of several other wave and tidal generators over the next few years. One of the most promising is a machine called Oyster, developed by Scottish firm Aquamarine Power. Unlike Pelamis, each Oyster unit – with generating capacity of 300 to 600 kW – would be fixed to the seabed at a depth of ten to 12 meters. As its name suggests, it opens and closes in response to waves. But instead of generating power on board, the movements of the huge hinge drive a hydraulic system which powers onshore generators via lengthy hydraulic lines. Testing is scheduled for later this year. Salter fears that firms could be in too great a hurry to go to open sea implementations of technologies that are extremely complex, expensive and subject to huge forces and extreme conditions. “What I’d like to see is a component test raft, where you’d have sub-assemblies and bearings and seals and bits of cables and belts and hydraulic rams. You’d anchor the raft to give you the right chemical and biological exposure. Open sea testing is very good way to prove that you have got it right, but not the way to find out what you did wrong.” Whatever differences there may be about approach, the big question remains, can marine energy really become a major component of our energy supplies in the future? Carcas, who obviously believes it can, says that government has an important role to play in creating the financial incentives to
encourage development and investment. “Even if the will is there to access the resource – and we have a large-scale resource which is virtually untapped – you still have to invest to produce. There’s no reason for people to be early adopters unless the politics are such that there’s an equivalence of return to give energy companies a financial basis for investing.” Kermode says that – at least in Scotland – the political will does exist. “There’s an absolute determination from the Scottish government to make the most of the marine energy that’s here around Scottish waters. It looks as though Scotland could obtain four or five times its own electricity needs from wind, waves and offshore tides.” One way the government is encouraging investment is by issuing extra Renewable Obligation Certificates – which work in a similar way to carbon trading rights – to wave and tidal energy producers. Conventional energy producers have obligations to increase their renewable energy production in the coming decade, and their support of marine energy through the purchase of the ROCs would count towards meeting their obligations. If Scotland can succeed in developing its marine energy resources, it will mean that when the country’s North Sea oil runs out, it will have an alternative export. Kermode adds that it’s not just energy that can be exported, but expertise as well. “The government recognizes that there’s been a lot of high-powered and well-paid jobs in the oil industry selling expertise gained in Scotland, and they wish to do exactly the same thing with marine energy skills. There is also intellectual property associated with the technologies that make these things work, so there’s a definite recognition that there’s a unique and time-bound opportunity here.” When the oil crisis of the 70s faded, much of the momentum to develop alternative energy resources was lost. Whether, as Salter believes, because of those with vested interests sabotaging alternatives, or simply because of economic realities, is unclear. Now, with global warming aggravated by the burning of carbon-based fuels, growing demand from developing countries, and the stark realization that oil and gas supplies are finite, there are more reasons than ever to seriously explore and exploit alternatives – and not even the skeptics deny the huge potential of marine energy. “I have no doubt that we’ll be operating in a variety of conditions and niches in ten years’ time,” insists Kermode. “And I’m quite sure that 50 years from now, we’ll have much bigger machines which will be the equivalent of the ‘whispering giants’ in wind energy – exploiting slower currents and bigger, longer ocean swells.” Whether Salter’s Duck will be part of the mix is not at all clear, but Salter himself eventually exited the field of marine energy saying he’d “wasted too much time” on it. He now is working on methods to reduce global warming by increasing the reflectivity of clouds over the world’s oceans. He looks back at the years he spent in marine energy research with more than a little bitterness. “We had enough money for about six years, but the rest of the time we were fighting a sort of miserable underground rearguard action and were always worried about whether we could pay the bills for the staff.” Given adequate support, he remains convinced that “we really could have had it ready to go.”
WIND D OF CHANGE The economic footprint of the energy industry has always been enormous. Entire societies rose and fell on the backs of industries such as coal and oil, and each new development in energy has had huge spin-off effects in terms of supporting industries and technologies. Through our Marine and Protective Coatings (M&PC) business and its International Paint brand, AkzoNobel has been one of the leaders in providing coatings to support the offshore oil and gas industry, as well as developing advanced antifouling coatings for the shipping industry. It’s no big surprise then, that we are playing an active role in providing coatings in the rapidly growing field of renewable energy. “The most prominent alternative energy field at the moment is wind energy,” says Worldwide Protective Coatings Power Market Manager Jamie O’Brien. “International Paint is very active in the market. We are certainly in the top two in the world.” As more and more wind farms
are being constructed offshore, he adds that customers are looking for more durable coatings, and M&PC is well positioned to meet their needs. “Because of our history of association with oil and gas exploration, we’ve got a huge amount of experience in marine coatings and offshore environments,” he explains. “And for immersed structures, we’ve obviously got proven solutions. International basically built its reputation on marine vessels, and in the protective coatings side of the business, in offshore oil and gas installations.” It’s clearly not a very large step then to the wave and tidal energy markets, and M&PC is already a major player in a fledgling industry. “With wave and tidal, you have concerns about bio-fouling, where fouling equipment reduces efficiency and the viability of a system. At International Paint, we have foul release coatings which prevent the build up of algae, barnacles and other organisms without the release of toxic materials into the environment.
Our Intersleek® range of products fit the green profile of these marine energy technologies and we’re actively promoting the line for these applications.” In fact, AkzoNobel is providing coatings to both Pelamis Wave Power for its Pelamis Wave Energy Converter and to Aquamarine Power for its Oyster Wave Power system (see main article). The Pelamis P2 machine is 180 meters long and four meters in diameter. Typical wave farms consist of an array of Pelamis machines. “If things develop as we hope,” says Pelamis Business Development Manager Max Carcas, “this should be a very interesting business stream for AkzoNobel.” That may be an understatement. With Europe, the US and China all setting ambitious targets for renewable energy by 2020 (Scotland has set targets of 31 percent renewables by 2011 and 50 percent by 2020, including 10 percent from marine energy), there’s little doubt that the entire renewables field should remain a growth market for many years to come.
When we think about generating energy, we usually think about large public utilities and giant power stations that are connected to the electrical grid. But many leading alternative energy advocates favor a radically different approach – local networks and even self-sufficient independent systems. Probably the most outspoken supporter of small-scale energy is Amory Lovins, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Rocky Mountain Institute. He’s been arguing for alternative energy and alternative energy policies since the 1970s. Originally viewed by many as a brilliant but annoying crank, he has doggedly continued to push for sustainable energy policies, winning over many critics and skeptics who dismissed his views when he first came to prominence with a paper called Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken back in 1976. Lovins advocated “soft” technologies, which he hastened to insist did not mean “vague, mushy, speculative or ephemeral, but rather flexible, resilient, sustainable and benign.” In particular, he argued for energy supplies that were renewable, diverse, flexible and relatively low-tech, appropriate in scale to the needs and scale of the energy users and matching “energy quality” to end-use needs. By that, he meant not burning coal at a plant 1,000 miles away from the end-user, converting the energy into electricity, losing much of it along the way, and then using it eventually to heat a home – which, he said, was “like cutting butter with a chainsaw.” Lovins says that the most promising energy technology of all is energy efficiency – machines and houses that use and waste less energy. But he remains a strong believer in decentralized systems and technologies such as small-scale wind turbines and co-generation which have, by definition, a very local component. Lovins even has mild praise for
George W. Bush who, as governor of Texas, signed into law a provision which encouraged the installation of rooftop solar cells by making it easier for homeowners to sell any excess electricity they produced to the power grid. Another strong advocate of distributed energy systems is Bill McKibben, who wrote early on about the dangers of global warming, and has been a frequent critic of “big oil”. McKibben says that in the US in particular, in addition to its environmental impact, the oil economy has had serious social consequences. “Cheap oil has eroded communities,” said McKibben in a recent interview. “We’re the first people with no practical need for each other. Everything comes from a great distance through anonymous and invisible transactions. We’ve taken that to be a virtue, but it’s as much a curse.” Americans, claims McKibben, have half as many friends today as they did 50 years ago, but because they are so spread out (among other reasons), they use twice the energy that Europeans do. “That level of disconnection,” he told a TV interviewer in 2007, “turns out to have been a mistake and one of the ways to remedy that is to rebuild those kinds of economies that cause us to depend a little more on each other, and at the same time cause us to use a hell of a lot less fuel and deter global warming as well.” Lovins’ Rocky Mountain Institute says that small is not only beautiful, but profitable. “Centralized electricity systems with giant power plants are becoming obsolete. Smaller, decentralized electricity supply sources are cheaper, cleaner, less risky, more flexible and quicker to deploy.” Both McKibben and Lovins also point out that the failure of a large system has much greater consequences than when there is an isolated failure in a distributed system.
WORDS Brian Guest
Grass isn’t green, blood isn’t red. Welcome to the forgotten world of the color-blind. Millions of people around the world suffer from the condition, but their visual impairment is rarely taken into account. Occasionally, however…
ay back in 1993, the eminent neurologist and writer, Oliver Sacks, traveled to Micronesia. He was drawn by intriguing reports of an isolated community of islanders on the Pacific atoll of Pingelap who were born totally color-blind. In his compelling and highly engaging book, The Island of the Colorblind, he describes life in this colorless world for a group of islanders afflicted by achromatopsia, an extremely rare congenital disorder affecting more than 5 percent of the population on Pingelap and the neighboring island of Pohenpei. Often unable to read or discern fine detail, the islanders were effectively banished from a life outside in the sunlight because they were painfully sensitive to bright light. But Sacks found that they had developed acute compensatory skills;
a highly evolved language based on the perceptions of tone, luminance and shadow, and lived fulfilling existences, albeit in a virtually heightened state of reality. A literary success, Sacks’ account chronicled the lives of a tiny group of visually-impaired people afflicted by a rare inherited disorder – one in 100,000 people are affected – known in medical terms as rod monochromacy. This group represents the truly color-blind because they’re only able to see life in black and white. Although primarily an anthropological study, the book’s popularity turned the spotlight on the far larger, but often invisible, group of less acutely color-impaired people known in the public mind as “the color-blind”. A group who, according to Dr Rafael Caruso, MD, are ill-served by common preconceptions about the condition.
“Let’s begin by putting one thing straight,” he explains from his National Eye Institute office at The National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, in the US. “The term color-blind is a misnomer. Most people called color-blind have more or less normal color vision, only it’s defective in some way or other. They can discriminate between hues, but not in the same way that people with normal color vision do.” About one in 20 people are color deficient – in the US that is 11 million people in a total population of 310 million. Color deficiency is either congenital (it affects 6 to 8 percent of males), or it is acquired. Most of those afflicted, however, are born with the defect. If a man is born with a color deficiency – which is normally inherited from the mother – he will pass it on to his daughters, who will be carriers. The human eye is able to see normal color vision when light stimulates the millions of receptor cells in the retina known as rods and cones. “Color vision is mediated by three types of cones in the retina,” adds Dr Caruso. “The cones allow us to perceive color during the day. The rods mediate night vision, but cannot distinguish color.” There are about 130 million of these receptors, of which seven million are involved in color vision. The three types of cone essential to normal color vision respond either to short wavelengths of light (blue sensitive), medium wavelengths of light (green sensitive) or long wavelengths of light (red sensitive). Color deficiency – or as it is commonly known, color-blindness – occurs when there’s an imbalance in the combination of the three. Of the congenital deficiencies, more than 99.9 percent involve an inability to discriminate between red and green. Daltonism, as this condition is known, is named after John Dalton, a leading 18th century chemist who famously described blood as bottle green, considered a laurel leaf a good match for red sealing wax and generally was known for the faulty application of color in his work. Paradoxically, red and green sensitive people can often discriminate objects that normally sighted people cannot. Color defective pilots are often able to see camouflage that normal color vision pilots fail to see. The second category, or “acquired” color deficiency, is primarily due to common retinal diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular disease and optic nerve disease. The aging process, which leads to a yellowing of the lens in some people, is another common cause of color deficiency. Looking ahead, Dr Caruso doesn’t expect any seismic developments in the treatment of people with common color deficiencies, although gene therapy looks promising with trials ongoing in Philadelphia and London for a possible treatment for an inherited retinal disease that may pave the way for treating common red/green color deficiency. For the moment though, the medical world is relying on new technology and techniques to help improve the lot of color deficient people, as well as raising public and industry awareness about these conditions. “Filters and other aids can help the color defective see things better, but they’re not cures,” says Caruso. “So obviously we’re looking for industry and the professions to think long and hard about the ways that they can make life easier for these people, either in the processes they use, the products they make, or the designs they come up with. We would
just like to see a more inclusive approach regarding what are essentially very common conditions.” It’s this clarion call for help that AkzoNobel’s Sikkens® brand has responded to. Sikkens – a global player in architectural coatings – in cooperation with Blind Color (a Dutch advisory bureau), has devised a revolutionary new tool for architects, designers and anyone else involved in the design process to reference the selection of color on the color-blind at the design stage. The Color Blindness Converter, which uses two simple disks with various displays, enables design professionals to immediately gauge whether selected color combinations represent a problem to people exhibiting red/green deficiency, as well as providing designers with a guide to which color schemes can easily be distinguished by people with the same condition. The man behind its development is former Global Brand Manager at Sikkens International, Frans Boumans. Two years ago, he was approached by Meinhard Noothoven van Goor, director of Blind Color. His mission (being severely color-blind himself) is to change attitudes among designers, architects, engineers and civil servants regarding the obstacles that face color-impaired people in their everyday lives. This could involve simple things ranging from the design of traffic lights, maps, logos and train signals to urban street signage and coherent directions in public buildings. Blind Color suggested working together and Sikkens was immediately interested. “If you claim to be the leading color authority in the country, then you have to stand up and be counted when this type of request comes in,” says Boumans. “This is particularly the case when it concerns a group of stakeholders who are actually being disadvantaged because of color choices. It also came as a big surprise to us that so many people were affected by the condition, so it represented a real opportunity for us as a brand to do something for people who are actually disabled by color.” Adds André Koster, Communications Manager at Sikkens Paints: “We targeted architects and designers because they are at the beginning of the design process for color schemes for construction projects such as buildings, hospitals and airports. We’ve had a positive response from architects, but what really took us by surprise was that most of them had never really thought about considering people who might have a color impairment in their designs. If you pardon the pun, it was a real eye-opener for them.” For Sikkens, the introduction of the Color Blindness Converter – which has been distributed to architects and designers in Europe and the United States – achieves two goals. First, it sends a message to all its stakeholders that as a business it’s not afraid to embrace all the issues confronting its customers around the subject of color deficiency. At the same time, the converter provides Sikkens with a tool to help customers improve their businesses and deliver better products that they will ultimately be more satisfied with. “People with a color deficiency are customers too,” concludes Koster. “It’s true the tool has a strong corporate social responsibility element to it, but one thing we’d like to emphasize is that it was not designed for people with some kind of handicap. No, there’s a very positive element and that concerns clarity and aesthetic choice for people with a minor impairment to what is otherwise normal sight.”
THE TOP TEN DA ANGE ERS FOR R THE COLOR-BLIND
Fire extinguishers The red and green pressure signals on ďŹ re extinguishers are invisible to the color-blind
Emergency stop buttons Generally speaking, emergency stop buttons in trains, escalators or on any piece of heavy or dangerous equipment are red. Operators are rarely, if ever, tested for color blindness, which could have serious consequences
Mountain or skiing siignage The color-blind need to take extra care if they are keen mountain climbers, skiers or hill walkers. Red cross signs against a mountain to warn of an abyss are actually invisible against a green backdrop. Likewise, the red ďŹ‚ags used to warn of the end of a ski piste are similarly invisible against any trees that might be in the background
Car dash hboards Critical red signals used on black indicators such as the fuel tank, speed, engine temperature or oil gauge are imperceptible to the color-blind
Brake and tail lights These vehicle lights, especially on certain eastern European trucks or on vintage cars, are completely invisible
Cycle lane markings For some color-blind people, the red street markings that denote cycle paths are visible as grey
Trafﬁc lights s With the color-blind unable to differentiate between red and green, even the most routine trafﬁc maneuver represents signiﬁcant risk when approached under neon streetlights, or against green shrubbery
Central heatting systems Each domestic boiler seems to have its own ideas as to where the red “off” and green “on” buttons should be placed. Without any kind of universal code, where say red is always at the top, this represents unnecessary danger and confusion to the international color-blind community
Railway crossings In certain countries such as the Netherlands, the red lights used at railway crossings are invisible, unless LEDs are used. Also, red lights are not always at the top, unlike trafﬁc lights, which again makes them very hard to distinguish
Medical pills No hard and fast rules exist for the color coding of pills, which for the color-blind adds a whole new level of danger to every trip to the medicine cabinet
WORDS Hans Wijers PHOTOGRAPHY Shinichi Maruyama PORT TRAIT Maarten Corbijn
It was Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter who popularized the theory of creative destruction. But what is it and why is it so relevant today? We asked AkzoNobel’s CEO – a former Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs and ﬁrm believer in the concept – to explain.
reative destruction is basically a kind of cleaning mechanism in economic life. It means that innovations from the past have come to an end in terms of adding value to society; they have been overtaken and replaced by new approaches and ideas. It’s simply the natural end of something which used to be very good. History has shown that creative destruction occurs in cycles or waves. The concept assumes that from time to time, a new major trigger will drive growth. A new technology emerges which substitutes previous ones. A simple but effective example is what happened with horses. At one time, man relied heavily on physical horse power. Eventually, they were replaced by cars and other forms of motorized transport. We still use horses, obviously, but for very different things. The story of the encyclopedia is another great example. Selling them used to be a ﬂourishing business and buying a new set was a big family event. When the age of the home computer dawned, Microsoft created a simple CD version which was often given free as part of a software package. The publishers of the printed encyclopedias weren’t too impressed with the quality, so were not unduly worried. But they misunderstood the market. They didn’t realize that people were no longer bothered about having this beautiful row of books. The CDs offered exactly what they wanted, access to knowledge. The publishers completely missed the potential of the technology and the real needs of the consumers. So creative destruction is driven by competition and entrepreneurial thinking. Innovations are the source of creative destruction. Which means it’s inevitable, because there’s no progress without constant renewal. In many ways, you almost need an economic recession to really see the concept at work. What’s happening now, during these times of global economic turmoil, is that we are seeing weaknesses within some institutions because they are exposed to completely different circumstances. Weaknesses that have been hidden by a favorable climate. But things won’t change overnight. There is always a phase of chaos. The old institutions may collapse and die, but the new ones are not fully developed. So there’s generally a period of stagnation while the new solutions and approaches prepare to take off. If we use the example of the automotive industry again, suppose cars were to be powered by electricity. You’d need a completely different infrastructure to “refuel” them. Because the necessary scale in manufacturing certain solutions would be lacking, they would be far too expensive. Which means they would not be as accessible for the mass market as the old technology. Hence this period of chaos as the new technology establishes itself. This does, of course, mean that large companies have to ask themselves important questions. Do we have technologies somewhere that could actually cannibalize the key technologies on which we base our current organization? Are we involved in those? Do we have the mechanisms in the company to make sure that we have our antennae in the right direction? I think the big question for a company like ours is to ask if we really
understand the deep needs of our customers. Are the technologies we have that are different, better geared towards their needs than current products? This approach requires a very open mind, which is why it’s so important that AkzoNobel has values such as having the courage and curiosity to question and embracing entrepreneurial thinking. It means we have a climate in our company where people have their antennae out and are investing time in networks other than the ones you would expect them to be active in. To be honest, history has shown us over and over again that it’s quite a challenge for established companies to grasp these opportunities. If you look at current market conditions and dynamics, we know that one of the big drivers for the future will be that all the technologies we have used in the past that require a lot of energy, that are not geared towards using less natural resources and do not facilitate full recycling or minimization of waste will come to an end. Therefore, as the situation begins to improve and the economy starts moving again, we will experience major problems with regard to carbon dioxide, water supply and certain raw materials that will no longer be around in sufﬁcient quantities. Which raises another question about survival. If creative destruction inevitably means some things will die, how do you ensure your own survival? One thing is clear. Scale is not enough. It may be a necessary condition for success in global markets, but it is not a sufﬁcient condition. A sufﬁcient condition in addition to scale is being ﬁt. And ﬁt has a very speciﬁc meaning in this context. You need to be able to adjust yourself quickly to different needs and opportunities. If the consequence of scale is large bureaucracies carved in stone, you may feel comfortable by being large. But you may actually be doomed to fail. If your company wants to be a positive source of creative destruction in the sense that you want to be the one who embarks on it, you have to have entrepreneurship in your organization. In the end, it’s all about innovation. Which creates interesting organizational questions for companies like ours, because you need the scale in order to be a global leader, but you also need to be ﬁt for the future, which means you have to be able to adjust, so you need to have entrepreneurship. The key is to strike a balance between creativity and destruction, continuity and change. I suppose you can draw parallels with Darwin’s evolutionary theories. It’s not the biggest, but the ﬁttest that will survive. Why? Because they are able to read the changes in the environment. They adjust and adapt. If you don’t, you might be very big, but you’ll become a dinosaur. I suppose you could argue that some of the very large ﬁnancial institutions are the dinosaurs of the phase of the economy we are seeing today. Some of the automotive giants clearly are, and there will be more. In the end, it all boils down to progress. There is renewal within certain paradigms, but from time to time you need a paradigm shift, otherwise things level off and you have no evolution. There will be no innovation if you don’t destroy the things that were the solutions of the past. Which means creative destruction is unavoidable.”
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY David Lichtneker
Statistics suggest that the number of women in top jobs is falling. Fast. Things could easily change, however, especially if the female population comes to realize they can do something about it.
id you know that it would take a snail 212 years to crawl the entire length of the Great Wall of China? This rather obscure nugget of trivia was unearthed by a somewhat unlikely source – the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). It helped them drive home a rather more startling statistic. Apparently, 212 years is just slightly longer than the 200 years it will take for women to be equally represented in the UK Parliament, at the present rate of progress. The snail analogy – and it’s an effective one – highlighted a number of disturbing findings in the EHRC’s latest Sex and Power report. Published annually, the study focuses on women in positions of authority and influence, and the 2008 survey results make for uncomfortable reading. Because while it won’t take two centuries for women in the UK to achieve equality in all areas, they’ve still got a good few decades to wait before they start claiming anything close to equal status in many of them. For example, according to the report, an adventurous snail could inch its way from Land’s End at the south western tip of England to John O’Groats at the very top of Scotland – and halfway back again – in the 73 years it will take for equal numbers of UK women to reach the pinnacle of FTSE 100 companies. The desperately slow pace of change is further emphasized by yet another molluscan metaphor. It’s claimed by the EHRC that a snail could crawl around the M25 encircling London a total of nine times in the 55 years it will take women in the UK to achieve equality in the judiciary. “We always speak of a glass ceiling. These figures reveal that in some cases it appears to be made of reinforced concrete,” says Nicola Brewer, Chief Executive of the EHRC. “We need radical change to support those who are doing great
work and help those who want to work better and release talent. Britain cannot afford to go on marginalizing or rejecting people who fail to fit into traditional work patterns.” The Sex and Power report has appeared five times now and the 2008 survey showed the biggest number of reversals (fewer women holding top posts) since publication began. Put in a global perspective, the UK certainly seems to have some catching up to do. The report highlights women’s representation in parliament as a classic example. The UK ranks 70th (with 19.3 percent of its Parliament made up of women). This compares somewhat unfavorably with the likes of Rwanda (first with 48.8 percent), Sweden (second with 47 percent), Argentina (fifth with 40 percent), Afghanistan (29th with 27.7 percent) and Iraq (35th with 25.5 percent). “Younger women’s aspiration is in danger of giving way to frustration,” adds Brewer. “Many of them are now excelling at school and are achieving great things in higher education. But workplaces forged in an era of ‘stay at home mums’ and ‘breadwinner dads’ are putting too many barriers in the way, resulting in an avoidable loss of talent.” One person who doesn’t necessarily agree with these comments is Jennifer Midura. Recently appointed as AkzoNobel’s Director of Corporate Strategy (having joined in 2008 following the ICI acquisition), Midura is one of the company’s most senior female employees. But while she admits to not knowing exactly why women are struggling to make it to the top, she contests some of Brewer’s views. “I’ve worked in the US, the UK and now in the Netherlands, in very traditional workplaces. Not for a minute have I felt like I haven’t been getting good opportunities because of the work environment. There is clearly a problem achieving equality of advancement, and I must admit I have difficulty
understanding why no real progress is being made, but in my personal experience, traditional workplace environments have not been a problem.” Many people have tried (and obviously failed) to come up with solutions, but one area where Midura thinks a positive impact can be made is in the hiring of new talent. “There are certainly things that can be done to radically change the recruitment approach. You could go to different places to recruit, for example, or perhaps target your advertisements in different ways. More women could also be trained as interviewers, or you could insist that any headhunter shortlists include at least one woman. And you shouldn’t immediately assume that a woman is going to have children and won’t want to travel, or that because she already has children, she won’t want to travel. There’s a whole issue with people’s mindsets and interviewer training which definitely can be addressed.” With seven years at one of the world’s largest global management consulting firms on her CV, as well as seven as head of strategy and performance at the former ICI, Midura has climbed the career ladder at two industries with a reputation for not exactly throwing doors open to the fairer sex. “When I worked as a management consultant, people were worried about how our clients in the industrial environment would react to dealing with a woman,” she reveals. “Then you get to a certain point in your career when you’re successful and those concerns stop. To be honest, I think there were many circumstances when clients actually found me easier to deal with precisely because I wasn’t a man. I’ve heard similar things during my time in the chemical industry. That because it’s largely male-dominated, customers don’t want a woman to be sent out to speak to them. But in my experience, that simply isn’t the case in the vast majority of situations. Customers are not all the same and the vast majority don’t think like that.”
Look beyond: equalityhumanrights.com
In an effort to at least ensure the right environment exists internally, AkzoNobel is in the process of developing a Diversity and Inclusion action plan. Supported by the Board of Management, the initiative is targeting two main areas – gender and cultural ethnicity – with Midura installed as a member of the project team, which is led by Silke Heitmann, another of the company’s very successful female executives. The process is still in its early phases, with a workshop having being staged in December 2008 and the Board having approved a number of recommendations. The clear objective is to become a more diverse and inclusive company, and AkzoNobel Supervisory Board member – and former member of the UK Parliament – Virginia Bottomley, who addressed the December meeting, is in no doubt about the benefits of the program: “The most successful companies are those that are committed to fostering diversity and inclusion,” she told the delegates. “Diversity makes excellent business sense.” Midura is also convinced that the program will make an important difference, particularly when it comes to changing people’s attitudes. “One thing that surprised me during the December event was the number of times the younger women in particular talked about being concerned about special programs for career development for women,” she observes. “They felt it would undermine them if they were seen to be getting special treatment of any kind because they are women. I think a very fundamental attitude change is needed, which says why shouldn’t people get special treatment because they are women? Other people have other advantages because they’re men, so why shouldn’t you get ahead because you’re a woman? Maybe there are some jobs you won’t get because you’re a woman, and maybe there are some jobs you will get. I just think women need to stop making excuses and putting themselves down and looking gift
horses in the mouth. I really would like to start having more open conversations about this kind of thing.” Perhaps one of the most memorable – and frightening – women of recent times who knew the true meaning of power and influence was Margaret Thatcher. British Prime Minister for more than 11 years, she became the first woman to lead a major western democracy and won three successive General Elections. She was one of the dominant political figures of 20th century Britain and Thatcherism, as it became known, continues to have an influence. A woman who once famously quipped: “If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman,” she earned the nickname the Iron Lady for a reason. Yet, love her or loathe her, she still looms large over a Conservative Party which has lacked a leader with her sheer presence ever since she stood down in 1990. But what was it about her that made her so successful and can today’s careerminded woman learn anything from her achievements? “I have to say that in general I disagreed with Margaret Thatcher’s political position on many things,” admits Midura. “But I admired her resolve to do what was right, even if it was unpopular or difficult. She seemed like a really good leader of people. She brought in everyone’s views; listened to the facts without panicking or shrinking from reality; tried to build a consensus view whenever possible, and when consensus wasn’t possible, took a decision herself. If decisions didn’t work out the way she intended, she never shirked from it or tried to pass things off as someone else’s fault. She also demonstrated some degree of class in stepping down from her position when it was clear that she no longer had the support necessary to do her job. So although I would not like to be known as the Iron Lady myself, and while I hope that I am more approachable and likeable than she is – and have a better haircut and dress sense – I think there’s a lot to admire and learn from.”
Words: Jeanette Gerritsma
DRAWING G FROM EXPERIENCE
When it comes to girl power, few female icons have remained at the peak of their powers longer than Barbie. Having recently turned 50, to some she remains little more than a child’s toy. But to others, like number one Dutch artist Marlene Dumas for example, she’s an ideal subject for thought-provoking and often controversial expression. Considered to be one of the most fascinating artists working today, Dumas’ approach – merging issues of race, sexuality and social identity with personal experience – has been greatly influenced by her background. Born and raised in South Africa under the Apartheid regime, she was surrounded by turmoil and now calls on those defining experiences to create her own unique, hard-hitting perspective on the world. Widely regarded as being one of the world’s most profoundly feminist contemporary artists working today, she focuses on the human figure and paints the human condition as she sees it. Stripped bare of the niceties of moral consolation and anecdotal detail, her portraits are direct and cruel renditions of reality. Often sexually
explicit, her work portrays a disturbing honesty and she cleverly questions the viewer’s individual morality, ethics and adherence to ideological convention. As she says herself: “My best works are erotic displays of mental confusions (with intrusions of irrelevant information).” Having moved to Amsterdam in 1976 to continue her art studies, Dumas hit the headlines in 2005 when her 1987 painting The Teacher (sub a) sold for $3.34 million at Christie’s in London and she became the world’s most expensive living female artist overnight. Nevertheless, the response to her work remains divided between those who admire her earnest theatricality and those who deplore her theatrical earnestness. Barbie [pictured left] – part of the AkzoNobel Art Foundation collection – is one of her less visually explicit works, but still represents Dumas’ passion for unraveling social and racial preconception. Barbie the doll might well be the ultimate role model for the perfect, white, morally flawless woman, but Dumas comments on these socially correct features by rendering the blue-eyed beauty with a somewhat
black complexion. She finds an eternal beauty not in immediate pleasure, but in the timeless gap between the cherished and the unspeakable. World renowned and much in demand, she has staged solo exhibitions at the Tate Gallery in London (1995), the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt (1998), and the MUHKA in Antwerp (1999), while her travelling exhibition Measuring Your Own Grave (2008/2009) has been resident at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Menil Collection in Houston. Dumas, however, has never really been pre-occupied with her career. On the contrary, being somewhat modest and loyal to her first studio, she does not like to travel and was in no hurry to exhibit her work in the US. In fact, her first exhibition of paintings was staged as late as 1985 at the Galerie Paul Andriesse in Amsterdam – her Dutch representing gallery to this day – showcasing only nine portraits. Quality therefore prevails over quantity, both then and now.
Art: Barbie 1997, numbered XVII/XX, lithography, 50 x 38 cm Look beyond: akzonobel.com/artfoundation
WORDS Jim Wake
Seafaring history is awash with stories of epic battles and heroic adventures. In Sweden, they tell a strange tale of a mighty vessel which sank just minutes into its maiden voyage. Four centuries later, the ancient wreck is now resting in a museum. But it continues to hide secrets, even though scientists are trying to unlock its many mysteriesâ€Ś
Left: The Vasa in its permanent home at a maritime museum in Stockholm, Sweden
compounds, there was serious concern that the problem might be sulfuric acid eating away at the wood with such ferocity that the ship could fall apart in almost no time. So it was only a slight exaggeration to describe our tale as a detective story. One of those involved was Gunnar Almkvist, a chemist who Summer, and it was cool and rainy. The royal gunship was was beginning work on a doctorate at the Swedish University berthed in its familiar spot in Stockholm harbor. To the casual of Agricultural Sciences. “At first it appeared to be more of observer, there was no reason to be alarmed. But all was not a surface problem,” he recalls. “The surface precipitations of right in the world. Something malevolent was taking place, iron-sulfur compounds scared the Vasa curators, because unseen at first, slower than molasses in January, slower the surface is not only important to how things look, but even than old-fashioned, solvent-based paint drying, as slow, also contains within it vital historical information.” Almkvist’s in fact, as crystals forming. And then, this malevolence was adviser, Ingmar Persson, had his own suspicions – that the apparent to those who bothered to look. The very substance sulfur was less a problem and more a symptom, and that the that had sustained the ship for hundreds of years had been real culprit was iron. “As we got into our analysis of the wood, compromised. On the surface of the ship, so lovingly restored we could see more and more that iron was not only situated and so greatly admired, this malevolence manifested itself on the surface, but was actually doing more harm deep in the – as scaly sulfur-iron precipitates – a disfiguring pox on the wood, as the initiator,” continues Almkvist. great Swedish beauty. What was at hand, and how could it And so, like all good stories, this one had a dramatic twist. be stopped? Because if iron was the culprit, it could mean that the wood No, A Magazine is not participating in the annual Bulwer- structure itself was degrading – depolymerizing to put a techniLytton Fiction Contest for bad writing. Nor have we given cal term on it – and depolymerized wood is not really wood anyover to filling these pages with gothic mysteries. But we are more, and loses its structural integrity. For his PhD research, reporting on a mysterious affliction which threatened one of Almkvist studied the chemistry of the Vasa, mainly analyzing Sweden’s most popular tourist attractions, the Vasa. A 17th small core samples taken from the ship and the site of the century gunship, it was raised from the seabed in 1961 and wreck. He then examined possible remedies to halt the process. then restored to much of its former grandeur in the succeeding The research confirmed that the iron which had penetrated decades. The problem was that during the summer of 2000, deep into the wood of the ship – most likely from the 5,500 iron unsightly precipitates began to appear on wooden surfaces, bolts that had originally held the ship together, but totally rusted and although some experts had suspicions about what might away during the years on the seabed – was causing an oxidabe causing this blemishing, no one could be certain. tion process which was breaking down the wood. The salts Of course, when you have a 400-year-old wooden ship, which had appeared on the surface and had originally raised you can’t just go and tear it apart to find out what the source the alarm that led to the investigation were then no longer of the problem is. But because the deposits were sulfur-iron viewed as a threat, but rather as a cosmetic problem.
In which h a mysterious afﬂiction presentss itself
The logical conclusion Almkvist drew was that if the iron could be removed from the wood, that would significantly reduce the threat. To do so, he immersed some samples in a bath containing chelating compounds – chemicals which form bonds with metal ions. Chelates are frequently used in agriculture to add iron and other metals to poor soils. They are also used in the pulp and paper industry to remove metal irons from the pulp during the paper manufacturing process. In this case, the goal was to use the chelates to “capture” the iron and remove it from the wood by diffusion. In this tale, AkzoNobel plays only a supporting (though certainly heroic) role, as the provider of two chelates, EDDHMA – or, for the chemically aware reader, ethylenediimino-bis(2-hydroxy-4-methylphenyl)acetic acid – and DTPA (diethylenetriamine penta-acetic acid), marketed under the name Dissolvine®. The company donated the chelates for the study. Almqvist published his findings last year, showing that the chelates could successfully remove a very substantial percentage of the iron from the wood, and concluding, as researchers are wont to do, that “further research would be necessary.” Those studies would determine if the “re-wetting process” which would be required in applying chelates to the Vasa might itself involve risks. But the efficacy of EDDHMA and DTPA had clearly been shown.
In which the generral ﬁn nding is applied to speciﬁﬁc ca ases Meanwhile, a few hundred kilometers to the south, off the Swedish island of Gotland, a strange object was discovered on the seabed. It was large and elongated, and clearly not of the natural world. Further investigation revealed it to be an iron cannon – still connected to a wooden carriage – encrusted with all manner of maritime life. Once raised, the cannon and carriage were transported to the Studio Västsvensk Konservering (West Sweden Conservation Studio) in Gothenburg, where archaeological materials conservator Inger Nyström Godfrey examined them. Not surprisingly, it turned out that iron from the cast iron cannon had penetrated the wooden carriage. After meticulously separating the fragile iron gun from the wooden carriage – accomplished, says Nyström, by chipping away the “concretized” marine life by hand with hammers and chisels – the carriage was immersed in a fresh water bath, to await Almkvist’s conclusions. “After Gunnar finished his dissertation, he came down to discuss with us what we
could do,” Nyström explains. “We took some core samples and studied the iron and sulfur species to try to determine what and how much chelating agent to use, and decided to use DTPA at a pH of 7.” This preventive approach to ironinitiated depolymerization using DTPA and EDDHMA is a new, and potentially quite valuable, development. Nyström notes that Almkvist’s studies have also contributed significantly to a better understanding of what problems iron causes below the surface of a wooden artifact. As we went to press, the process of iron removal was beginning in Gothenburg. Nyström expects it will continue for about two years, with the solution changed at regular intervals. The iron cannon will undergo its own process of stabilization to remove corrosive salts, and then the carriage and cannon will be returned to Gotland to be displayed at a local museum. Nyström, who divides her time between Gothenburg and the Museum of Western Australia in Fremantle, near Perth, is also about to begin a project there to remove the iron from a “deadeye” (pictured), a wooden and iron device which was an essential element of ship rigging. In addition, she and a colleague will be carrying out a study to compare the performance of EDDHMA and DTPA under a range of controlled conditions. Dozens of shipwrecks dot the western coastal waters of Australia, and the study should provide valuable information to the materials conservators at the museum on how to best preserve a fragile heritage. “I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of discovering the story that these objects tell,” reveals Nyström. “As a conservator, it’s always important to work closely with archaeologists. Conservation doesn’t stand alone if you want to get the most out of the object and get the story and truly see its beauty. It’s a wonderful experience to be able to actually touch these artifacts. In a way, this job is a mixture of professions – part doctor, part detective and a little bit of being a cleaning lady too. We do a lot of preventive work, like doctors or dentists, and active care to keep objects in good condition. But sometimes it’s also detective work, where you have a metal object which is so corroded, you don’t really know what it is. And when you do discover something, it’s very exciting. That’s the fascinating thing with this work.” As for the ancient Swedish beauty berthed in Stockholm harbor, Gunnar Almkvist offers some reassurance. “I’m continuing to study the Vasa, looking at the basic chemistry of those degradation processes in the wood relating to mechanical stability. We want to see if the degradation which takes place will affect the whole ship mechanically. I think in some way it will, but what the time span will be, we cannot say. Of course, nothing will last forever, but we don’t know if it’s decades or centuries. At least it won’t happen in the very short term.” The story continues.
WORDS David Lichtneker PHOTOGRAPHY UNStudio / Christian Richters
The worldâ€™s cities are being suffocated by the dreary overuse of drab concrete, glass and steel. A new lease of life is needed, and as a recent study has revealed, all the urban landscape needs is an injection of color.
Left: Casa Confetti in Utrecht, the Netherlands
ow would you feel if your home town was described by two influential guide books as the sort of place you only visit if you need help in quickly getting somewhere else? That’s exactly what happened to the inhabitants of Sortland in Norway. Summed up as having “little to offer but an overnight stop or a petrol station to help you move on,” the small northern outpost had been largely anonymous before its date with the pages of destiny. Then a local artist decided to do something about it and really put Sortland on the map. Stung into action, Bjørn Elvenes worked with the municipal government and hatched a plan to paint the entire town center blue. It took several years and around 50,000 liters of paint (supplied by AkzoNobel), with the company even being called in to devise a color palette in order to resolve some local differr ences of opinion. But the transformation was a huge success, with 17 blocks being painted in various shades of blue which now vividly reflect Sortland’s maritime and fishing heritage. What happened in the far north of Norway isn’t just a tale of how tourists were persuaded to linger a little longer than the time it takes to catch a bus. It’s an ode to identity, pride and heritage. But more than that, the Sortland story proves that the introduction of color into urban environments can have a hugely beneficial impact. For a more famous example of how color has been used to radically improve a major population center, you have to travel to the rather unlikely destination of Tirana, capital of Albania. When unconventional mayor Edi Rama was elected into office in 2000, he immediately set about transforming the city’s drab architecture and decaying infrastructure. Grim concrete façades were painted in a blaze of color and decorated with a riot of abstract designs. The city became a blank canvas, and while some naturally objected, Rama’s controversial approach proved to be a catalyst for social change. Sidewalks were repaired, street lights were installed, waste was removed and open green spaces started appearing. Tirana suddenly took on a new lease of life. But despite these obvious success stories, introducing color into urban areas still remains taboo. Modern architecture in particular largely steers clear of color, concentrating more on shape and form and relying on the lifeless hues generally of-
fered by concrete, glass and steel. Color is therefore very much a second class citizen when it comes to contemporary urban planning and design. But are people happy in these surroundings? History would suggest the answer is no. Take a look at ancient towns such as Portofino and Positano in Italy, St John’s in Newfoundland, or the old fishing village of Polperro in Cornwall, England, and the buildings are bursting with color. These are bright, cheerful places, radiating with life and energy. There isn’t a drab, soulless façade in sight. This is clearly how people once chose to live. So why have things changed? Where has all the color gone? Is there still a place for it in modern urban society and if so how should it be used? Recently, internationally renowned Dutch architectural firm UNStudio was commissioned by AkzoNobel to conduct an independent research study into the use of color. They were essentially asked to look at what cultural, societal, aesthetic, technological and economic barriers are preventing a more widespread and meaningful use of color in contemporary architecture. The studio – co-founded by highly respected architect Ben van Berkel – has already delivered its pre-study conclusions, which state that there can be no doubt about the important role color can play in the urban environment. “The effect and influence that color has is profound and as architects we are privileged with the opportunity to be able to include color within our design tools,” says the official research document. It also reveals that there are various issues that need to be addressed. Challenging the homogeneity of the modern city, for example. “Global access to building materials and construction methods has encouraged the uniformity of the ever-expanding modern city,” notes the report. “The danger of repetitious standardization of building elements is that it can lead to monotony and in turn lack of place, with the result that nothing unique, nothing distinguishable marks the environment upon which to orientate yourself.” The research adds that another barrier to progress is the fact that the historical value of color has diminished, often being relegated to secondary status, leaving strong architectural form to dominate. Three themes have therefore been proposed for further investigation: color as a cultural connector, color as a social activator and color as a public attractor.
One recent UNStudio design which incorporates all three of these themes – and then some – is the color palette they designed for the Agora Theater in Lelystad, the Netherlands (pictured on page 48). The vivid colors – which sparked controversy among some of the town’s residents – mimic the effect of light reflecting off water onto low-lying clouds. This bold use of color still provokes strong feelings locally and the theater is a regular topic of conversation in the Netherlands. But such has been its impact that the colors used in the Agora project – part of a major revamp of the city center – are now being incorporated into Lelystad’s official crest. They have become part of the city’s very identity. “When you see daring buildings like this, whether people in the city like it or not, it becomes a focal point in the urban landscape and I think it’s great,” says Myron Belej, an urban planner from Edmonton, Canada, who for years has been passionately championing the reintroduction of color into modern cities. “There’s a timeless quality involved here. For example, you can look at a paining by someone like Picasso or Van Gogh and you just stand in awe of it. I think this sort of quality is present in the Agora Theater.” As well as simply making places look better, color has long been shown to have numerous positive effects, particularly when it comes to influencing people’s moods. Belej highlights its ability to get a reaction (the Agora Theater), to bring out our emotions and make us feel alive. “It also has the benefit of being able to sanitize or modernize a space,” he adds. “Color makes places exciting, it brings people together and can also touch us spiritually.” He mentions Boulder, Colorado,
in the US and Curitiba in Brazil as just two examples of cities that have recently made a big effort to use color to liven up the local environment, particularly within their mass transit networks. The Heidelberg Project in Detroit, Michigan, has used art and color to completely revitalize one of the area’s more run-down neighborhoods, even turning it into a tourist attraction; the subway system in the same US city features color in the form of murals to inspire tourists and citizens alike by sharing the city’s history of manufacturing in the auto industry. When asked how his home city stacks up in terms of urban color, Belej only says that “Edmonton, like most North American cities, could be doing a lot more to incorporate it.” An expert in big picture planning, Belej has traveled extensively. In his professional capacity, he gives lectures on the subject of color and why it needs to be introduced more into the urban landscape. One of the most recent was at a major event late last year, which was attended by planners from across the province of Alberta. “The use of color typically isn’t legislated in municipal permitting or development approval processes,” he points out, “so it often isn’t debated or discussed in the initial designs. Hopefully the UNStudio study will help to change that mindset by encouraging planners and architects to make color more than an afterthought. This study is a fantastic initiative and certainly has the potential to challenge our design practices. For AkzoNobel to invest in something like this says a lot about the company’s determination to lead change and I believe it will help start more conversations about moving our cities in the right direction.”
RAINBO OW WARRIORS
Claiming that the urban environment Cla needs more color might sound like an obvious thing for the world’s leading coatings and paint manufacturer to say. B ut you’d be wrong in thinking that AkzoNobel’s motives for delving deeper Ak into o the reasons for modern architecture’s ’s apparent aversion for anything vaguely ely vibrant are purely commercial. Because se the company’s decision to commissio sion an urban color study wa was mainly drive ven both by a desire to o sstart working closs ely with architects ts again and a nagging g need to disco cover why color has gone eo off the urb rban radar. “We have a history his y of o successfully collaborating with a architects such ar as Richard Meier, er, Sir Norman Foster and Rem Koolh olhaas to o develop color collectionss and a thought ht it was about time we followe wed that up,” explains xplains Anne van der Zw Zwaag, ag,, Manager M of AkzoNobel Deco corative Paints’ nts’ Aesthetic etic Cent Center. “But once we started looking, look it proved difficult to find architects who ho we were really using color in a very specific way. In modern architecture, e, color co just isn’t applied very much.” This preliminary research eventual ntually led the company to the famed UNStudio in the Netherlands. Renowned for being very expressive in their use of color, they were asked to conduct a study into why color has all but been abandoned. “If you know what causes the lack of color in the modern urban environment, then hopefully you can start doing something about it,” continues Van der Zwaag. “Several of our coatings businesses are active in the field of architecture, design and construction, so we felt it was
important to get et some s answers. Asking UNStudio to do the research was significantt because b not only is it the architects cts themselves who are making the rec recommendations, but it also proves that hat we as a company want to be p rogressive and are willing to invest in the future.” She adds that the pre-study results need to be viewed from two different perspectives – the theoretical outcome and the proposals. First the theory. History shows that color in architecture used to be very popular. Then industrialization happened. Key building materials such as concrete started to become available worldwide and everyone began using them. The dawn of modernism and an obsession with white simply compounded the problem em of color disappearing. With all the detective work disappear now done, it’s time for the proposals to kick in. “The UNStudio study proves that the use of color olor in th the urban environment can make a difference,” says ays Van der Zwaag, who reveals that her own favorite color lor is red. “What we have to do now is look at the future ure and a consider the different ways in which color or co could be applied. We want to use u color in a meaning eaningful way, which is why it’s t’s great g that we are working work with Ben van Berkel erkel and his team, becaus ecause they have a vision n about abo color. A lot of architects use color ass a kind k of personal or aesthetical expression and d do don’t think about what color could really mean n in a certain environment, or how it relates to the context of a certain building. The good thing about UNStudio is that they do. They conduct a lot of research
thems emselves into color and locations and, based on that research, they make their decision ons.” Giving color or a specific function, she points out, is one way in which color can meaningfully be introduced ced by architects and urban planners. She menti entions the example of a German firm who try to t give color a functional use – such as designing a fire station in different reds – and also refers to an ongoing project in the slums of Venezuela. “I recently met some people from an architectural firm based in Caracas who only operate in the favelas. We talked about color and they were saying that color is essential in these areas. If you think about these enormous slums, a lot of people can’t read. So the best way to help them find their way around isn’t to use language, but color co wayfinding. They can simply follow colored colore routes to help them locate the hospital orr water wat pump, for example.” The results of the e pre pre-study, combined with the further rese esearch due to be carried out based on the report’ port’s recommendations, should prove invaluable. luable. But the findings will not only be used by AkzoNobel’s obel’s various vari coatings businesses. They will also be used d to try and kickstart an interest in color among the global community of architects and urban planners. “What’s crucial is that UNStudio appeals to architects and designers,” stresses Van der Zwaag. des “Because use they compiled the study, they can trigger and inspire i people within their own profession to use color for more than just aesthetics or personal nal ex expression. It can hav have a huge impact in so o man many positive ways.” ys.”
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THE COM PANY’ N Y S F UN U NC N C TI T IO O N AL AL
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WORLDWIDE MA M A R K ET E T DE D EM E M AN AND
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AND RU R UN N NI N I N G I N 20 2 0 10 .
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THIS WILL B E FO F OL L L O W ED E D BY
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Photography: Tony Burns / shootingtheworld.com
WORDS Rebecca Parsley
Most homes have them. We’ve all used them. They’re so ubiquitous we hardly notice them. The humble can, however, is full of surprises.
o into your kitchen and take a look inside the cupboards. What do you see? Tuna, soup, tinned vegetables, beer, fizzy drinks? Well, yes. But the common denominator in all these might not even occur to you – metal cans. This ubiquitous packaging material is not only one of the most widely used around the world, but its green credentials are also unparalleled in just about every area. It’s a fact that Beverage Can Makers Europe (BCME), an organization comprised of three major can manufacturers, is keen to promote. Let’s start with the issue of recycling. Reduce the amount of packaging that goes to landfill and, so the argument goes, you reduce CO2 emissions. By using metal cans, you’re not just cutting the amount of waste – you’re eliminating it altogether. “There’s no limit to the number of times metal can be recycled,” explains John Revess from BCME. “Each time a can is recycled, fewer CO2 emissions are produced in the material production process and the amount of virgin metal used drops. In fact, between 1980 and 2002, the food and beverage can market’s net CO2 emissions dropped by half and the use of virgin metal has fallen by around 40 percent.” Put simply, most of the metal packaging you see on the shelves is making a return visit. You drink your soda, for example, and take the empty can to the recycling bank – or have it collected, if you’re lucky enough to have a local curbside scheme. Just 60 days later, that drink can has re-emerged, chameleon-like, and could already be back on the shelves. Another big issue today is that of food waste – something with a grossly under-estimated impact on the environment. Discarded food is a major producer of methane in landfill, a greenhouse gas which is 23 times more powerful than CO2. But it has taken the global credit crunch to bring the problem into sharp focus – both consumers and retailers recognize that one of the best ways to cut costs is to reduce the amount of food that’s thrown away. Enter once again our hero, the metal can. Beer and soft drinks cans have a minimum shelf-life of two years, rising to
three years for food cans. The contents remain perfectly preserved for longer as cans provide total protection against light and oxygen and, being hermetically sealed, harmful microbes are unable to get in. More than a quarter of discarded food is still in its packaging, often unopened and past its sell-by date, according to the UK’s Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association. So, if you want to extend shelf-life and reduce waste, the can is a good place to start. Simply put, says the organization, a metal can is the safest food packaging method around – and with each household wasting around £420 (€466, $618) of food every year, according to recent reports, possibly the most economical too. Another very environmentally sensitive area is storage and distribution. Here, yet again, the can wins against its packaging rivals. The phrase “pile ‘em high” has never been so apt. Lightweight metal cans are extremely robust and can be stacked without causing serious damage to either packaging or product. Strength is one of the humble can’s greatest assets and contributes hugely to its sustainability credentials. It reduces the need for extensive secondary or transport packaging – much of which could itself end up in landfill. This in turn means more cans will fit into the available space, and transporting more product in one go reduces the number of delivery journeys. As a result, there’s a positive knock-on effect on the environment. It also means less fuel consumed and less road congestion. As well as taking up less space, cans are kept in ambient surroundings. So no refrigeration or freezing is required in many cases, reducing the amount of power that needs to be used to keep products in optimum condition. “Everything about a drink can underpins its environmental benefits,” concludes Revess. “Infinitely recyclable – and with the highest recycling rate in the world – and offering a long, safe shelf-life, as well as promoting energy efficient storage and distribution, cans really are the sustainable choice.” When it comes to packaging, it seems we can have confidence in a can.
A THIRST FOR INNOVATION With the world’s population growing all the time, it’s probably no surprise to learn that the food and beverage can market grew by 57 percent between 1980 and 2002. But you might be amazed to hear that, over the same period, the use of virgin metal in this area has dropped by around 40 percent, and the packaging industry’s net CO2 emissions have fallen by 50 percent. Lowering your environmental footprint on this scale needs the pioneering research and groundbreaking
innovation that has driven AkzoNobel Packaging Coatings to the forefront of the metal packaging industry. The business is currently number one in the global beer and beverage cans market and number two in the food cans market. One of our newest products is Aqualure™ 915, which is helping the beverage can industry become even more sustainable. Around 50 billion steel and aluminum cans are produced each year in Europe alone, and most are 100 percent recyclable. But as these cans become thinner
and use less metal – known as “light-weighting” – so more demand is put on the coatings used inside them. These perform a dual role, protecting the beverage from the metal and vice-versa. Aqualure 915 is an ultra-pliable lacquer which flexes with the new lightweight steel cans while maintaining a perfect barrier tow protect the liquid inside. This high level of protection is becoming increasingly important, especially as more flavor-sensitive products – such as iced teas and isotonic drinks – are coming onto the market.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK The exact amount of CO2 emitted when transporting drinks packages can now be tracked thanks to a model launched by the Can Makers, an organization representing drinks can manufacturers in the UK. A study by independent consulting and research company Incept found that 49 percent less CO2 per liter was emitted in the transport of 33cl cans than in 50cl PET bottles. For beer, the reduction in emissions for transporting 44cl cans compared with 33cl glass bottles was 44 percent per liter.
Emission levels were analyzed throughout the supply chain of carbonated soft drinks cans, beer cans, PET and glass packaging, from the factory to retail outlets. The model can be used by retailers to assess their own transport emissions by entering their own data. It’s sensitive to vehicle mix, distance for each leg of the journey, vehicle utilization and fuel consumption. Vince Major, chairman of the Can Makers, said: “If your packaging choice is more vehicle-efficient,
emission reduction and cost savings through reduced fuel consumption could be really significant.”
Look beyond: frigeo.org / sakab.se
WORDS David Lichtneker
How do you safely remove harmful material from the seabed? It’s a conundrum which takes some solving. But as it often does, science has come to the rescue, with a little help from Jack Frost.
ontamination is a dirty word in anyone’s language, but cleaning up polluted areas – commonly known as remediation – can be a time-consuming, costly and complex process. Often the subject of contention and controversy, the vital removal of hazardous materials has evolved to the point where science and technology have become essential. Usually accompanied by lengthy discussions about who’s to blame, if you put aside the legal issues, it’s the actual remediation work itself which can cause some of the biggest headaches. So one can only imagine the size of the migraine brought on by having to clean up around 2,700 square meters of seabed lying up to 60 meters from dry land. This is precisely the challenge AkzoNobel was confronted with recently when maintenance divers discovered mercury in a cove close to one of the company’s multi-sites at Stockvik in Sundsvall, Sweden. The pollution was a legacy from earlier occupants of the site who used to produce PVC plastics in the 1950s and 60s. Mercury was used in the integral vinyl chloride process which was run until 1968. During the production period, mercury found its way into the soil and, via the sewers, into the nearby ocean.
“We did not cause the pollution but carried out remediation work on the soil about three years ago to ensure a safe working environment for our employees,” explains site HSE Manager Peter Sjögren. “When mercury was then found in the cove, we again agreed to initiate a clean-up, even though we were not responsible for the contamination.” The mercury in the seabed was discovered by divers who were performing maintenance work on a sewage pipe. Samples from the sea bottom were taken and analyzed, and following discussions with the authorities, a remediation project was agreed which AkzoNobel organized. Three possible options were considered, the safest and most eco-effective of which proved to be the relatively new method of freeze-dredging. Incredible as it might sound, this literally involved freezing large sections of the ocean floor, lifting it up and then carrying the material away to be properly disposed of. Ideal for employing in areas where large equipment and machines are difficult to use, the process was pioneered by Swedish company FriGeo. As well as offering more precision, the technology is mobile, can be adapted to the specific conditions of a site, and because the contaminated sediments are frozen, the risk of further spreading is virtually eliminated.
FROZEN SEA WATER
CONTAMINATED GRAVEL AND SAND
“We tested the process first during a pilot trial and it proved to be extremely effective,” continues Sjögren. “Because it involves freezing there is hardly any disturbance in the water, which is unavoidable if you use other techniques such as digging or sucking.” Contracted by hazardous waste disposal company SAKAB, the Stockvik remediation project was FriGeo’s biggest to date. Special plates measuring five meters by two meters were lowered into the water from a crane stationed on a former car ferry. Accompanied by an adjacent vessel, the procedure involved circulating a salt solution through the plates which dropped the temperature of the metal surface in contact with the seabed to around minus 25 degrees Celsius. Twelve hours later the plates were reeled back in, taking with them layers of frozen ocean floor measuring ten to 20 centimeters thick. Both the temperature and the length of time the plates were left in place were varied in order to precisely control the thickness of seabed which was frozen and extracted. “The contaminated mud we picked up was stabilized on site,” explains FriGeo’s Erik Maksimainen. “Because the ground was frozen, there was no stirring of the material from any digging – which can happen with other procedures – so
there was no risk of the material spreading. The authorities initially wanted us to put up boundaries to prevent the surrounding water from becoming contaminated, but when they came and saw how effective this method is, they allowed us to carry on without them.” Once removed, the frozen slabs became the responsibility of SAKAB, who handled the proper disposal of the extracted layers. Subsequent testing has revealed that the cove is now free of any mercury. Although still very much in its infancy, the use of freeze dredging to remove contaminated sediments is likely to become increasingly popular. Already used to remove around 28 tons of material from a lake in the sub-Arctic region of Sweden – as well as more than 300 tons of mercury-containing sediments during the project at Stockvik – the technique is attracting more and more worldwide attention. “It certainly generated a lot of interest within AkzoNobel,” notes Sjögren. “I explained the process during an internal conference late last year and people were fascinated.” He adds that a short film is now being produced which will further explain how the Stockvik project was carried out.
Photography: Doug Jackson / dougjacksonphotography.com
THE BIG PICTURE Innovation doesn’t move quicker than in the world of Formula 1. The speed of change in grand prix racing means that technological boundaries are constantly being pushed to the limit in the pursuit of excellence. Which is why two world class performers, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and AkzoNobel, recently joined forces. The company’s Car Refinishes business is now the official supplier of paint solutions to the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team. It’s a partnership which highlights
AkzoNobel’s commitment to developing custom-made products and services, no matter how demanding the requirements. For the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-24, we are supplying a sophisticated, state-of-the art system of Sikkens® products which helps to optimize performance, while at the same time producing the striking, all-important chrome finish. “Pushing technological boundaries is a key part of our product development and we’re delighted to have provided Vodafone
McLaren Mercedes with a superior system which matches their need for performance, speed and precision,” says Jim Rees, Managing Director of AkzoNobel Car Refinishes. He adds that both parties will continue working together on further innovations to investigate coating possibilities for cars used by Vodafone McLaren Mercedes both now and in the future.
An eye on the future The next generation of products in personal care and cosmetics needs to be both powerful and gentle. Dissolvine® GL can do the job: Boosts the performance of preservatives more than other chelating agents Chelates calcium and transitions metal ions which helps to enhance the shelf-life of creams Helps to stabilize and avoid discoloration in liquid and soap products Free from genetically modiﬁed raw materials Not irritating to skin or eyes.
National Authorities regulate the use of chemicals in Cosmetic & Personal Care products. Dissolvine® GL is listed under INCI as Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate and is readily biodegradable.
We’re the largest global paints and coatings company and a major producer of specialty chemicals. We supply industries worldwide with quality ingredients for life’s essentials. We think about the future, but act in the present. We’re passionate about developing sustainable answers for our customers. Based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, we have 60,000 employees working in more than 80 countries – all committed to excellence and delivering Tomorrow’s Answers Today. © 2009 Akzo Nobel N.V. All rights reserved. “Tomorrow’s Answers Today” is a trademark of Akzo Nobel N.V.