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Jason F. McLennan


Joanna Gangi


Krista Elvey




Erin Gehle Michael D. Berrisford Ariana Anthony, James Connelly, Krista Elvey, Pliny Fisk, Joanna Gangi, Bernard Makoare, Jason F. McLennan, Peter Korn, Peter Weigle



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Salvage Modernism BY JA SON F. MCLENN A N


Can Manufacturing Save the World? The Living Product Challenge BY JA ME S CONNELLY

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The Craftsman’s New Toolbox BY K RIS TA ELV E Y


Summer 2015

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The Revitalization of the Constructeur,

fert munere accusamus, et vel illum fabellas. taris vel ut. Ei nonumy vivendum definitiones pri, ei his from the Martin-Fabert Foundation. The International and the Revival Randonneur Bicycle ti rationibus cum. Eius mediocrem cum ex. tantas soleat honestatis. Living Future Institute is premised on the belief dus utamur eu sed. Mea choro alienum atomoPE TER W EIGLE At invidunt deserunt necessitatibus cum, duis Pro at dictas ornatus. Qui commodo accumsanthat detracproviding a compelling vision for the future is a rbanitas sed eu. Vim at melius gubergren. Crafting at Scaleto id. Id his augue tritani. Pri iusto liberavisse et, alia fundamental requirement for reconciling humanity’s erant laoreet ex ius. Nam in vidisse menandri. Deleniti A RI A N A at. A NTHON Y lorem tractatos, qui dicam bonorum Est ad mandamus ad his, magna similique ut vel. Ei relationship eos muwith the natural world. We created Trim eligendi. Vix ei dico solum, vivendo interpre- nere diceret, ut pro melius definiebas. In mutat quodsi Tab magazine to advance this vision and provide offendit sit, sint quando meliore eam ne.


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The Seductive Ideology of Craft BY PE TER KORN

The Conceptual space Race PLIN Y FISK

Maori Carving Culture BY BERNARD MAKOARE

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7,664 LBS of wood, which is equivalent to 24 trees that supply enough oxygen for 12 people annually.

11,191 Gallons of water, which is enough water for 651 eightminute showers.

8mln BTUs of energy, which is enough energy to power the avg. household for 31 days.

679 LBS of solid waste, which would fill 148 garbage cans.

2,324 LBS of emissions, which is the amount of carbon consumed by 27 tree seedlings grown for 10 years.



raft is hard define, but it’s easily exemplified. Craft is inherent in the handmade— jewelry-making, fine carpentry, and pottery-spinning are just a few disciplines that provide opportunities to display craftsmanship. A hip-hop artist demonstrates craft in the lyrical genius of the spoken word. An architect’s craft is evident in every carefully considered line and angle transposed from draft paper to brick-and-mortar reality. A microbrewer’s craft coalesces in the combination of the technique and specialty ingredients resulting in a unique and refreshing flavor. So what is craft? It’s hard to define, but, as with other ineffable ideas: we know it when we see it. Craft is the central focus of this issue of Trim Tab: the appreciation of quality; the maker’s movement; the artist. We celebrate the essence of craft in buildings, culture, manufacturing and more. In a marketplace that offers a veritable avalanche of goods and services, where there are many unnecessary products that will become obsolete in just a few years, the importance of craft cannot be overstated. As consumers, we must begin to ask how things are made – and why. The following pages examine how Maori carving and artistry help create culturally rich communities in New Zealand; how manufacturing can save the world by flipping the current production economy on its head and focusing on practices that support economic, social and environmental sustainability; how integrating salvaged materials in a building’s design can create a harmonious aesthetic and provide an example of sustainable adaptive reuse. This edition is a collection of stories, all unified in their celebration of the artist in their craft. What is craft? Why is it more important than ever? Read on to find out.

JOANNA GANGI International Living Future Institute Editorial Director of Trim Tab magazine



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B Y J A S O N F. M C L E N N A N



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But when I look at old building materials I always get excited—the history, patina and frankly quality of materials from decades ago is often far superior to what we can find today. Every year, thousands of buildings are taken down, and hundreds of thousands of tons of still useful material is simply landfilled, a huge and disappointing waste of resources. Thankfully, there is also a growing economy of architectural salvage places with significant gems available (items are sometimes overpriced, but often good deals abound.) The key is having time to look and the means to act quickly and then to stockpile the good materials you find—and then knowing how best to integrate them into your design for maximum effect. A balance has to be struck so that materials of vastly different age don’t create a disharmonious whole.


I have never much liked buildings that pretend to be old by mimicking building styles from the past, like all the fake neocolonial and “Tudor” buildings that can be found everywhere. I guess that makes me a modernist. My belief is that all buildings should reflect the age in which they were built, and modern buildings should be true to the ways in which they are built today. materials of all types and collected a highly interesting group of materials ranging from wood, doors, hardware, lights, stained glass, terra cotta and more. With this special palette at our disposal, we began to design the buildings, which required using unique and often irregular items and thus meant some really careful detailing and planning. The project was likely one of the first to use eBay as a source of building materials, as we spent a great deal of time looking for just the right pieces in this burgeoning e-commerce hub that had just gone public and was only beginning to scale.

Our design for the Green Dirt Farm received considerable attention locally and nationally – being featured on the cover of Jennifer Roberts’ 2005 book, Redux: Designs that Reveal, Recycle and Redefine, ( a decade ago I began experimenting with signs-Reveal-Recycle-Redefine/dp/1586857010) what I coined “salvage modernism,” which is which focused on using salvage materials. The the integration of salvaged materials into mod- house also won several local design awards, ern construction such that the beauty of the showing that salvage materials can increase the salvaged object is displayed and honored. In the beauty of a project. early 2000s, my good friend Chris DeVolder and I began to design a net zero house and barn for After the successful completion of the project, I an organic farmer in Weston, Missouri, called began to think through the principles that had Green Dirt Farm. We wanted to push the heavy emerged for me, particularly one that takes this use of salvaged materials, and our client was idea to the level of a simple but elegant new devery much on board with that approach. Over sign philosophy. the next year, we shopped around for salvage

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THE SALVAGE MODERNISM PHILOSOPHY The philosophy of Salvage Modernism is one where a designer seeks to integrate substantial amounts of reused/salvaged materials as both artifact and replacement for modern materials, embedded within an otherwise modern architectural design, and using modern construction methods. What makes it modern? A true expression of materials, honestly utilized through modern construction techniques. What is salvage? Any material that was used previously on another project or for another use prior to re-use. The purpose of Salvage Modernism is decidedly not to make a building look “old” (although it can make it hard to date the building, which is fine) or to mimic historical styles, but to offer up, display and honor materials that deserve a second life within the context of a modern design. Doing so does in fact help a project feel timeless, but in an authentic way. A fake expression of materials goes against the grain of this philosophy and is replaced with the simple acknowledgement that there is inherent beauty in materials that have aged and seen prior use.

tage of our communities. Salvaged materials should therefore be found honestly—when a building’s life is truly over, or as materials are discarded because of remodeling or damage. It is also important to reuse salvaged materials from projects within a reasonable distance so as not to increase the embodied carbon of using the materials through transportation impacts. Deliberately importing salvaged materials from across the globe is inappropriate and wasteful, although using materials from afar is of course appropriate if they were taken out of local existing buildings. As a result of using local salvage in lieu of new materials, a reduction in embodied energy and resource impacts is inherent in the Salvage Modernism approach. Finding ways to use materials that have served in buildings for years, decades or perhaps centuries, instead of new ones that have to be mined, extracted or manufactured is a great thing because the carbon and other impacts have already been expended.

The philosophy of Salvage Modernism requires sufficient quantities of salvaged material integration in order to truly be named as such. A single salvaged artifact does not make a project a Salvage Modernist project. A principle tenet of this philosophy is that a new projIt is my belief that the salvaged materials should in fact ect is enhanced precisely because of the juxtaposition have a visible presence through the majority of spaces of the old and the new. New materials used alongside and facades of a structure so as to make a meaningful salvaged artifacts therefore should not be artificially contribution to the environmental footprint reduction aged or made to match the salvage materials in appearand to bring a sense of timelessness and cultural story ance, especially if the methods of making the materials to the entirety of a project. How much is enough to have changed since the original period. The purpose warrant the term? That should always be a matter of is not to use materials to make an old design aesthetic, debate, but the amount of salvage should be noticeable but rather to include the old materials within a modern throughout the project. aesthetic.


There’s a big difference.


It goes against the principles of Salvage Modernism to deliberately steal, pilfer or prematurely undermine an existing or historic structure in order to extract salvage materials. Historic buildings deserve to be saved and preserved in their entirety as part of the cultural heri-

When it was time to design and build my own house, I knew I wanted to revisit this philosophy and take it to the next level. I decided to call the house Heron Hall (as a dedication to the herons that live nearby). After I secured the property for the project, I began

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“It goes against the principles of Salvage Modernism to deliberately steal, pilfer or prematurely undermine an existing or historic structure in order to extract salvage materials.�

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searching for two years for unique and beautiful materials in which to design with. Luckily in Seattle I had access to two incredible architectural salvage places—Earthwise Salvage and Second Use Salvage. Many communities also have Habitat For Humanity Restores, which stockpile used and salvage materials. I also began to use Etsy as a wonderful place to search for handcrafted materials from local artisans who were repurposing old materials. During this time I stumbled upon some real finds, including incredible materials that had been imported many years ago and then discarded. A few examples of what’s going into the house: • Giant stained glass windows from a 1920s Seattle church. The stained glass originally came from Europe, was assembled as window units by Povey brothers in Portland at the turn of the last century and then lived for eighty years in the church. Another 100 years in Heron Hall is next! • Carved stone Foo dogs, originally from Indonesia and brought over to Seattle area for a local residence where they resided for many years before being discarded—and finally guarding the entrance to Heron Hall in a whimsical manner. • Beautiful hand carved doors from Afghanistan, also originally brought over for another project in Seattle a decade ago and then discarded. These will be integrated into the entryway as well as the master closet. • A ll the interior doors—every single one—selected from salvage yards in Seattle. Most of the doors were built between 1910 and 1940. • Several interior stained glass and divided lite windows, including a couple large ones that will provide daylight into the unconditioned bike barn. The poor energy performance means they can’t be used thermally, but as interior windows or in unconditioned spaces, they are great. • An old clawfoot bathtub…beautiful!


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Photo: Nighttime rendering of Heron Hall entry showing salvaged door.

• 100-year-old, beat-up tin ceiling, to be restored for a Building Challenge project, the use of salvaged materials also greatly simplifies the Materials Petal requirebathroom. ments of the project. • Tons of salvage wood for interior paneling—including an old redwood wine vat that will become siding, STARTING YOUR end block slices from waste wood as paneling, and lots of salvage flooring from the region! SALVAGE MODERNISM • Old light fixtures that will be refitted with LED bulbs. • Old bee skeps (wicker beehives) repurposed as light fixtures. And this is just some of what is in store.


Designing a project using the Salvage Modernism philosophy is rewarding, and the outcome can be profound. As you consider your project keep these few tips in mind: COLLECT EARLY: it can take time to find the right

pieces—expect many months of searching before you The list is quite extensive and makes up a sizeable begin designing—and keep searching as you design. portion of the house’s bill of materials, greatly reducing the embodied energy and ecological footprint of BUDGET WISELY: If you’re lucky, you can save Heron Hall. Since the project is also a registered Living greatly on materials for your project and certainly

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Salvage Modernism The artful integration of salvaged architectural artifacts in abundance, into modern design. PRINCIPLES OF SALVAGE MODERNISM 1. Salvaged materials must be used in enough abundance to be visible in most major spaces in a structure without creating a disharmonious whole. 2. Salvaged Modernism projects are prohibited from including irresponsible salvage through prematurely damaging or dismantling historic structures. 3. Salvaged materials may not be used to produce an artificial or misleading historic aesthetic that makes the overall project seem old or built in a previous era and historic style. 4. Salvaged materials should be sourced from as close at hand as possible, preferably following the Living Building Challenge sourcing requirements. 5. Salvaged materials must be integrated into new construction using modern construction materials and methods wherever possible.

Photo: Rendering for staircase on Heron Hall, a

6. Modern materials can’t be aged to match or to blur distinction between old and new. The juxtaposition between old and new is critical to the philosophy.

Photo: Salvaged Terra Cotta at Green Dirt

7. Salvaged materials can be used to introduce delight, whimsy, mystery, timelessness, art and history into a modern building—in direct opposition to traditional modernist dogma that says to remove all ornamentation. In this philosophy, the ornamentation is the salvaged items themselves. 8. Salvaged materials can be used in non-traditional ways or ways that differ from their original intended use (in fact, that’s encouraged).


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Living Building Challenge Registered Project.

Farms in Weston, Missouri.

Photo: Rammed Earth garden wall at Heron Hall.

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will have better quality material for your dollar, but keep in mind that a lot of salvaged materials take considerable labor to fix, refinish and integrate than new materials, so those savings can easily vanish, and additional costs might even accrue. ENJOY THE STORY: It’s a rewarding experience

you creative ideas. Find the best local salvage yards in your area and spend time there and talk to the employees! Also, don’t forget on-line vendors like Etsy and eBay. BE DECISIVE: It can be heartbreaking to hesitate

and lose out on some great material before you can act. to uncover the hidden stories in the materials we Since salvage materials tend to be one of a kind, once find—ultimately it creates projects with more char- someone buys it, it’s gone. Many salvage places allow acter and nuance. you to put temporary holds on material to give you time to make your decision and check if it will work. DON’T OVERDO IT: be careful not to turn your Still, be prepared to buy things when you see them. project into a junkyard (unless you’re going for that). Too many salvage materials can overpower a space, especially if the artifacts clash aesthetically. As with any design philosophy, skill matters, and engaging a talented architect and interior designer will help you JASON F. MCLENNAN is the CEO find the most elegant ways to work with salvage. of the International Living Future Institute. He is the creator of the Living Building Challenge, as well as the author of five books, including his latest: Transformational Thought.


salvage business can be immensely helpful— keeping an eye out for materials as they come in—and giving

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THE LIVING PRODUCT CHALLENGE Manufacturing and industrial production have long been the poster children for what is wrong with our current economic system. For decades, the environmental movement has been focused on battling industry to clean up its act. It is assumed that business is bad, and that economic growth is necessarily at odds with protecting the environment.

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These assumptions are not unjustified. In fact, progress in science, technology and the industrial revolution can be largely to blame for many key issues that are dramatically impacting our planet: CO2 levels continue to rise well past levels considered safe to maintain our current climate and way of living; synthetic persistent toxic chemicals can now be found in almost all life on earth, with profound environmental and public health consequences; and overdraft of water supplies is depleting geological reserves not replaceable on the timescale of human lifespans.

and economic empowerment. But that progress has come at a cost, and our ecological debt is coming due.

However, assuming that industrial production is necessarily negative discounts humanity’s capacity for innovation. We have done incredible things before—conquered space travel, cracked the atom, created a global communication network that has transformed industry and commerce. Now it is time to harness the same ingenuity and creativity to effect positive change on the environment. The Living Product Challenge puts forth a radical vision: Can we remake our global prodWhile the story of our technological progress can be uct system of manufactured goods to create a frameviewed in a very negative light—showing how tech- work in which industry works in harmony with nature nology has largely served to provide humanity the and to the benefit of society and the environment? capability for even greater, more profound and more Fortunately there are key signs that the transition to a dangerous impact on the planet. It can also be viewed truly regenerative economy is already underway. as a story of incredible progress—a series of extraordinary feats in engineering and ingenuity, with a GREEN CHEMISTRY global impact that is truly awe-inspiring. Since the The incredible rise in CO2 emissions since the InIndustrial Revolution, though we continue to lag be- dustrial Revolution has been paralleled by a growth hind a many areas of the world, we have seen massive in the production of synthetic chemicals and comprogress globally in public health, poverty alleviation pounds. This is not surprising, since petrochemical


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GREEN CHEMISTRY Design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances Applies across the life cycle of a chemical product, including its design, manufacture, and use.

Source: Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice. Anastas, P. T. and Warner, J. C

derivatives, the leftovers of fossil fuel production, are the building blocks of modern plastics and synthetic chemical industry. This also makes them artificially cheap; not only are they often waste products of fuel production they benefit from the fossil fuel subsidies.

autism,2 asthma3 and other chronic diseases are on the rise. The links between these chemicals, the built environment, and health outcomes are becoming increasingly clear.

As John Warner, widely considered the father of green chemistry, states in his interview on page 32, we must redesign the fundamental building blocks of our industrial economy if we are to create a truly sustainable future. He argues that we should design new molecules and chemical processes that are inherently They are now showing up in all life forms on earth, less dangerous and energy intensive. By starting with and the overall toxic load in human’s are increasing. the right inputs, we can create industrial processes Toxic chemicals such as Mercury are found in 89% of that actually work within natural systems, instead of children in the US, Bisphenol A in 96%, and, Haloge- degrading them. nated Flame Retardants in nearly every child,1 while Many of these synthetic materials are persistent, bio-accumulative toxic compounds that have never before existed in nature and don’t break down in the environment.

1 Little Things Matter: The Impact of Toxins on the Developing Brain, Canadian Environmental Health Atlas

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2 Roberts, et al. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2013 3


“By starting with the right inputs, we can create industrial processes that actually work within natural systems, instead of degrading them.�

Innovative companies such as Evocative Design are illuminating a new path forward. Instead of creating plastic foam derived from fossil fuels that have to be extracted, refined, coated with toxic flameretardants, and shipped across the globe, they create

foam by growing mushroom spores in an agricultural medium. Through this process Evocative can literally grow a product that can be used for plastic foam, chair backing and product packaging. Green chemistry can even offer the potential to solve current environmental issues. In an inspiring example of industrial ecology, a start-up called Blue Planet is completely reimagining the production of concrete, one of the most common building products. Concrete is composed of water, aggregate, cement and various other admixtures that influence its performance and strength. Portland cement, the most common cement, is produced by calcining limestone (CaCO3) under extremely high heat, which drives off CO2 to create calcium oxide (CaO). The energy used to produce heat and the CO2 that is released as a result of the calcination

Photo credit: Bureo skateboards


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process makes Portland cement production one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters. Blue Planet is revolutionizing this process by using calcium carbonate cement instead of calcium oxide. The calcium is derived from seawater, and the carbonate comes from CO2 harvested from the flues of coal-fired power plants, producing both cement and limestone that can be used for aggregate. Instead of generating greenhouse gases, this process sequesters tons of CO2 that would have been released in the atmosphere. As an added benefit, the process of concentrating calcium to create limestone is complementary to the demineralization of water necessary for desalination, a growing need as our water resources decline.

NET POSITIVE ENTERPRISE A growing group of companies and NGOs are now recognizing that simply reducing a company’s negative impact is not enough. Companies must also maximize the positive impact of their products and operations. In the Living Product Challenge, we not only ask companies to reduce their negative impacts of footprints, but also maximize their positive impact, or Handprints— a measure of the sum total of positive actions versus business as usual. This growing net positive movement is igniting innovative entrepreneurs and large multinational corporations alike. Jeffrey Hollander, the co-founder of Seventh Generation, states in an interview on page 32 that “net positive is the most promising and hopeful framework that I’m aware of. If pursued by business [the net positive mindset] would lead to dramatic positive impact for the planet and society.” An entrepreneurial start-up and pilot for the Living Product Challenge, Bureo Skateboards, has founded their business on the concept of net positive (or rather, net positiva). The company trains and empowers mainly unemployed women in Chile to gather discarded fishnets (nearly 10% of plastic pollution in the ocean). The fishnets are collected and repurposed into

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a resin used to produce skateboards and other highquality goods. The company also recycles a portion of the proceeds back into coastal communities. Net Positive strategies not only make good social and environmental sense, they also make good business sense. As consumers become more aware and concerned about the impact of their decision on the environment and society, sustainable products and services are becoming more valuable. A recent report from the Conference Board4 shows that growth in revenue and profit for sustainable products is significantly outpacing conventional products.

ENERGY The Living Product Challenge not only asks companies to create products that are net positive energy across their lifecycle, but also requires that the factories in which the products are produced are completely powered by renewable energy. The rapid decline in the cost of solar and wind energy is making switching to renewable energy increasingly economical. In the state of Hawaii, solar energy is already significantly cheaper than buying it from the grid. In fact, renewable energy is already at grid parity in the US as a whole, though individual states lag behind.5 At this point, it is no longer cost that is holding us back from a completely renewably powered future, but a slowmoving utility and energy distribution system that is deeply invested in the current paradigm. Innovative companies are now overturning many previously held views about how rapidly we can switch over our energy grid. Tesla Powerwall is one of those disruptive innovations. All of a sudden, utilities that have been resisting distributed power generation with backward net metering restrictions and limits on solar array sizes are facing the possibility that cus4 Driving Revenue Growth through Sustainable Products and Services: Implications for Chief Marketing Officers ( 5 Deutsche Bank’s 2015 solar outlook ( concrete-deutsche-banks-2015-solar-outlook.htm)














tomers are going to defect from the grid. As the cost of energy storage comes down, producing and storing your own energy is quickly becoming cheaper than a connection to the grid.


The Living Product Challenge asks manufacturers if they can operate within the water balance of their site and create a water handprint that is greater than the water footprint of the product across it’s Innovative companies like One Earth Designs, a pi- lifecycle. While the short-term economics of water lot for the Living Product Challenge, are develop- are not as compelling as energy, the business risks ing disruptive new technologies—in this case, solar are perhaps much larger. In fact, “68% of businesses ovens that could help the developing world leapfrog report exposure to water risk which could generate over many of the infrastructure challenges that have a substantive change in their business, operations or plagued the developed world. Just like the cellphone revenue.”6 Climate scientists now describe the ongohas eliminated the need for massive, centralized tech- ing drought in California as the beginning of a 100nology, communication and banking infrastructures, year megadrought across the American West.7 We solar ovens and renewable energy with on-site storage could make traditional centralized power generation 6 CDP Global Water Report 2014 ( systems obsolete. CDP-Global-Water-Report-2014.pdf) 7


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“Net Positive strategies not only make good social and environmental sense, they also make good business sense. As consumers become more aware and concerned about the impact of their decision on the environment and society, sustainable products and service are becoming more valuable.”

have now depleted geological reserves left over from ing business information confidential and instead the last ice age to a point where we simply can’t drill released their battery technology and patents in an or pump our way out of the problem.8 open innovation strategy so that the company can be part of a broader, industry-wide transformation. As the LPC team has been traveling across the country meeting with manufacturers to pilot the A similar transformation is underway in the way that program, it is continually surprising to see large companies approach the inventory and screening of warehouse roofs where rain is considered stormwa- chemicals used in their products. Just three years ter runoff, a nuisance that must be “managed.” Giv- ago, it was assumed that companies in the building en the business risks of declining water resources, product industry simply would not disclosure the doesn’t it make business sense to turn rain into a ingredients they were using in products under any circumstance. A whole infrastructure of proprietary beneficial resource? certification programs evolved based on this assumpTRANSPARENCY + tion, and chemical analysis screening and assessment OPEN INNOVATION was incredibly expensive, since each company had Overcoming the inertia of an entrenched industrial to analyze their own ingredients and supply chain in system with networks of sprawling supply chains and isolation. However, since the release of Declare™ and vested interests will not be easy. It took an incred- other transparency platforms, leading manufacturers ible amount of time, effort, persistence and human are now fully disclosing their ingredients, and many ingenuity to get where we are, and making progress more are following in their footsteps. in turning the ship around will require re-thinking many of the ways we have done business in the past. Transparency and open innovation are fundamental to industry transformation for two reasons. First, Consider the electric car industry. Elon Musk real- transparency gives consumers knowledge to make ized that if his company was the only one to pursue good choices about the healthiest products to use electric batteries and the infrastructure to support (as well as product designers when they are selecting Tesla’s fleet of vehicles, he could be the largest player materials). Second, transparency creates a system of in a small market. Tesla’s progress would be limited. shared learning and collaboration where the entire So Tesla went against standard practice of keep- industry can advance together through open innovation, instead of each company struggling in isolation to inventory and assess chemicals in their own 8 If companies and industries work together valley-california-drilling-boom-groundwater-drought-wells/

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to demand transparency and better materials using a common framework, we could see rapid progress. To facilitate this kind of uncommon cooperation, the Institute has created the Living Product 50 (LP50); a group of 50 companies dedicated to transforming the materials industry through collaboration, innovation and sharing of best practices within and across industries. The vision is simple: Can businesses get outside their competitive bubbles to work together to be a force for a good in the transition toward a Living Future?

“The vision is simple: Can businesses get outside their competitive bubbles to work together to be a force for a good in the transition toward a Living Future?”

workshop and tour it was easy for the Living Product and Owens Corning team to envision a future when the factory is powered completely by renewable enA select group of manufacturers drawn from the LP50 ergy, operating within the water balances of its site, currently including Teknion, Owens Corning, Bureo while providing a home for biodiversity and ecosysSkateboard and One Earth Design are actively worktem services. ing to develop the world’s first Living Products. The Living Product Team recently conducted a charrette The creativity and excitement brought by the Owens at the Owens Corning Science and Technology FaCorning team demonstrates the potential for the Livcility in Granville, Ohio, to reimagine the company’s ing Product Challenge framework to inspire the out-ofproducts and chart a path forward to Living Product the box thinking necessary to remaking our industrial Certification. Owens Corning has fully embraced system to work for the benefit of people and the planet. the concept of Handprinting in their work, and they are not only reducing the negative impact of their opCan manufacturing save the world? We have a long erations, but are now measuring and expanding their way to go, but through the Living Product Challenge, positive impact.9 we are seeing signs pointing in the right direction.


Product leaders from each one of their major insulation product lines, including XPS, Thermafiber and fiberglass, joined the workshop. Using the Living Product Challenge as a framework, each team brainstormed how they could move their product toward completely renewable, bio-based feedstocks, eliminate any chemicals of concern, and then reimagine the product, production facilities, and corporate practices to create net positive impact. The charrette was followed by a factory tour of Owens Corning’s “AttiCat” loose fill insulation facility— which produces zero waste, has dramatically lower water use, uses no chemical binders, and engages each employee as a business partner to ensure safety, job satisfaction and efficiency of operation. After the 9 Sustainability _071515.pdf 28

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JAMES CONNELLY is the Living Product Challenge Director at the International Living Future Institute.

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The sustainable products industry has garnered new traction recently, as more companies adopt sustainable practices in their operations and in the design of their products. It is encouraging to see this surge in the movement toward a more sustainable manufacturing industry. People like Jeffrey Hollender, co-founder of Seventh Generation, and John Warner, one of the founders of the green chemistry field, have participated in this movement since its inception and have been integral to its growth. Transforming the materials economy is a tall order. It is critical to focus on the creation of truly sustainable goods using both short-term and long-term thinking. The gradual improvement of products to be better than their predecessors is an important step—there are a multitude of products in the marketplace that simply


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need to be less carcinogenic. And there is a growing demand on businesses to work toward long-term systemic change in both their internal processes and product design. Simultaneously focusing on both approaches will lend itself to a sustainable products industry.

In this feature, Trim Tab talks with Jeffrey Hollender and John Warner about how business and green chemistry are using both approaches to change the manufacturing industry, and how the sustainable products industry can effectively address the social and environmental challenges we face. JOANNA GANGI: You are both founders and developers of

the first truly sustainable brands—what do you think has changed since the establishment of those brands, and how has the sustainable product industry changed? Where do you think the industry is headed in the future?

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JEFFREY HOLLENDER: I think there’s both good news

and bad news. The good news is that business, in a pretty widespread fashion, has become increasingly focused on issues of sustainability. Many companies now think about these issues in their operations and in the design of their products. That widespread concern and awareness is a good thing. At the same time, the business response and the business strategies that are in place to deal with sustainability fall hugely short of both what’s possible and what’s required to address the social and environmental challenges that we face. That gap between what is required and what is actually happening is quite dangerous. It’s


“My position is that the best path forward is for chemists to design products that would sell absent of the sustainability narrative and that the sustainability narrative isn’t required for market penetration, but is a facilitating force. The product sells itself because it does something that other products can’t do, at a cost that’s appropriate.”

not a lack of technology—in many cases, we have the terly, short-term basis. And those two things are in technology. But, what we don’t have is an economic conf lict with one another. system and structure that will encourage the sustainIf the technology were advanced enough, we could get able products industry to move forward fast enough. away with this short-term thinking. But, unfortunately JOHN WARNER: I do feel that technology’s develop- technology isn’t there yet, and we need longer R&D cyment timeline is a little shorter than we believe. The cles to develop these technologies. Also, sadly, we don’t positive thing is that the movement is growing. Fif- see this getting into the curriculum in universities of teen years ago, there was only a small niche group of the core scientists—the chemists that are inventing people demanding sustainable products. The trend is new molecules. clearly in the direction of more and more people wanting, demanding, and looking for sustainable products. The designers making products are embracing susUnfortunately, as Jeffrey said, I feel with this growing tainability, but they’re stuck with the same building demand and desire, we are not commercializing these blocks. They’re stuck with the same number of materials to design sustainable products. The chemists and sustainable technologies at an equal rate. the chemical engineers who are creating new forms of I think Jeffrey is exactly right that we are in the situ- matter are still not at the table as much as they should ation that we’re in now because the mechanism of be. The universities aren’t introducing toxicology and investment demands short-term, narrow focus of environmental mechanisms to chemists. The fundathe development of products. By definition, sustain- mental core curriculum is lacking for material scienability is looking for the opposite. So, while the de- tists or chemists. There are a few universities that are mands of sustainability are looking for a long-term, leaders in this field, but until every chemist is given whole systems [and] big-picture viewing, the mech- this training, we can’t meet these needs. anism to develop products is still looking on a quar-


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JG: : What trends do you see in transparency and toxic avoidance in the manufacturing industry? What recommendations do you have for companies that are embracing or evaluating this process?

The one note of caution and the one concern I have is that if you put all these pieces together and look at one of the most important aspects of sustainability, which is the way in which businesses and products externalize their costs onto society and the planet, I think we JW: We, at the Warner Babcock Institute, came up with still have a long way to go in terms of clearly undera technology to increase the use of recycled asphalt in standing that. paving and to reduce the processing temperature. And there have been no barriers to introduction to the mar- For much of the past decade, transparency has been ket. The product is called Delta S, and it is doing really focused on looking at the direct external implications well in the market. of the supply chain through to the manufacturing of the product. 80% of the negative impact or externality My expectation for green chemistry is a technology comes in the consumer’s use of the product. We focus a that has superior performance to an incumbent tech- lot of energy studying the ingredients, sourcing, packnology, superior cost to an incumbent technology, and aging, etc., but the vast majority of the impact comes of course is better for human health and the environ- when the consumer uses the product. ment. My position is that the best path forward is for chemists to design products that would sell absent of The next great leap forward is getting a much better picthe sustainability narrative and that the sustainability ture of the product’s use and their impact. It is critical to narrative isn’t required for market penetration, but is develop because, in many cases, we might come to very a facilitating force. The product sells itself because it different conclusions about where the product developdoes something that other products can’t do, at a cost ment priorities lie if we’re looking at the consumer use. that’s appropriate. JW: I think there is still a lot of indecision on how transSo, really the only barrier is the invention of that prod- parency is communicated. Looking at lists of ingrediuct—the barrier is that these products are not being ents and saying, “This product doesn’t have a certain invented fast enough. This creativity, this ability to go ingredient,” doesn’t really mean it’s safe. It just means from idea in the lab to marketplace is being hampered it doesn’t have a certain ingredient. There’s always a by the short-termism of how we do R&D. disconnect between the people in the labs inventing new things and the people in marketing who say that JH: Over the last decade, there has been a great increase is not what the market needs. When you factor in susin demand for transparency. That demand has come in tainability, it’s the use of the product that ultimately is part from consumers, and in part from businesses. If the most important. So, we need to invent technologies manufacturers don’t have good transparency on their where the scientists inventing it understands that use ingredient lists, they can’t make the kinds of claims and can invent to what society needs. they might want to make to their customers. This together with the aspects of transparency that are often JG: How do you think the concept of net positive is reframhighlighted in corporate sustainability reports is a ing the sustainability movement? huge leap forward. Companies weren’t talking about how much water or energy they’re using or how many JH: Net positive is the most promising and hopeful toxic chemicals they’re using. The transparency story framework, and if pursued and followed by business, has been a positive movement within the larger move- would lead to the most dramatic positive impact for the ment toward sustainability. planet and society. The challenge that we face is that the concept is so new, and most businesses aren’t fa-

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miliar with it. We have, in many ways, defined much of what sustainability is about within the context of being less bad—less pollution, less energy, less water. Net positive is a whole different way of thinking about innovation and product development, and it places challenges and requirements on business and industry. While, conceptually, it’s absolutely what we have to promote and embrace, what worries me is the gap that exists between the conceptual framework and the political and economic framework within which business and industry work. There’s a gigantic gap between what we need to do and what we’re doing. JW: My issue with net positive is the discussion about

not being less bad, but being good—my concern with that thought process is the current state of science. There are so many carcinogens in today’s products. We have products that cause birth defects. We have products that end up in the oceans and never degrade. We have problems that must be solved, and we’re not smart enough to solve them yet. I don’t want to put a wet blanket on making products that don’t cause cancer, making products that don’t persist in the environment, and making products that don’t cause birth defects. If we jump to the next level and say, “Well, that’s not good enough. We’re not going to invest in that.” We’ve got to be careful how we phrase net positive because there are a lot of problems and, frankly, I would be happy making some products less bad. There are a lot of problems to solve. The reality is that the majority of products have something that needs to be improved in the sustainability realm. Some are bigger issues than others.

it means to make things better, we’re choosing what we want to have happen. What if we’re wrong and we’ve designed products to do something that maybe nature isn’t ready for or wants? As long as we approach the concept of net positive with profound humility, it’s the right concept. But, if we cross the line and start believing we have all the answers then it can becomes the wrong concept. JH: When I look at the challenges facing us from a net

positive perspective, I look at the economic framework within which business is functioning. If we had full cost accounting, if businesses had to pay for the carcinogenic chemicals that they put into the environment and had to pay for the health costs related to that, we would see a very dramatic change in the landscape because it would not make business sense. By allowing businesses to dump their externalities onto society, we’ve allowed companies to make all these carcinogenic and toxic products and not pay the price of the implication to society. So, we need to change the tax, legislative and policy framework within which business operates. One of the reasons we don’t have more toxicologists and material scientists is because we’ve largely let business off the hook and have insisted that they pay the price for products that cause harm.

And in terms of the moral implications of making decisions about what’s good and what’s bad, I agree with John that the concept comes with great risk, and it requires great humility. But, I worry that our society is less willing to undertake that process than it used to be. I Inventing is hard enough, so I don’t want to start say- worry that the framework that governs the way business ing to those very few chemists and material scientists operates today has more to do with what the law allows who are trying to make products that are less carcino- and permits than what we believe from a human and hugenic isn’t good enough, because we certainly need to mane perspective is the right, best, moral thing to do. make less carcinogenic things. JG: Is there anything that could make this concept more When one says, “Let’s do something positive,” there is attractive to business and industry? an implication that we are making a decision of what not to do, that we are deciding what net positive is. It’s a bril- JW: Creating tax incentives or some financial incenliant concept and very important, but I want to throw tive for long-term investment would help deal with a lot of caution at it because once we start picking what the short-termism. Combining this with incentives


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for long-term research—encouraging patient investments—would help address these issues.

that forces your business to function in a way that isn’t aligned with your sustainability goals.


Second, you have to pay attention to corporate governance. We often give investors too much control and too much say over what we’re doing with our businesses. The B Corporation movement is a big step in the right direction, but it’s not even adequate to protect the mission from the often perverse incentives of the funding that comes into most startup companies. We need capital that is committed to values like net positive and sustainability.There’s a big disconnect between what most individual investors would support and what happens JG: What recommendations do you have to others in when their money gets placed in institutional hands and building a business for sustainability that also has a is invested in businesses. social mission? JG: What is holding the market back, and what can be JW: The structures that we have in place are just done to fix it? strange. There are weird, idiosyncratic forces that inhibit people from doing the right thing. For example, JH: The biggest concern I have is the fact that money a big company that is being challenged from an invest- has become such a dominant influence and is risking ment perspective because they have too much money the destruction of our democracy at this point. When in R&D and they’re not returning enough shareholder you have individuals who put $10 million into elecvalue can’t talk about long-term research. They may tions, you end up with politicians that are beholden to want to. And by definition, anything under the sus- the interests of the wealthiest members of our society. tainability umbrella is long-term research. So there The individual vote counts for less and less as more inare organizations that may want to do this kind of re- dividuals in businesses influence the outcome of the search, but they’ve got stakeholders demanding that political process. So I think we need to get money out they make a good return for the quarter. I find that the of politics. I’m worried that until we get money out of individuals want to do the right thing but when faced politics we will continue to head down the wrong road. with the current corporate structure, they feel trapped in a system they can’t control. JW: As we work on the demand for sustainable products, we need to also work on the supply of those sustainable JH: I think you have to focus on two things in order to products. We need to expand the science and chemistry not fall into that trap. First, you have to focus on your curriculum and get universities on board. If the invensource of capital. If you take capital from investors that tors of chemistry know nothing about these issues, it want to see you triple their investment over a three-year doesn’t really matter, they cannot contribute solutions. period of time or, at a minimum, return 30% compound- But, if we could get the inventors of technology to uned interest, compounded return on investment then derstand these issues, we can address them all. that’s a recipe for disaster. It doesn’t give you the time or place the priority on the kind of much needed long- Universities need to come together and share apterm development that John is talking about. You have proaches to develop a curriculum so that in the future to pay very careful attention that you don’t raise money we can have all scientists learning technologies to make sustainable and healthy products. Beyond Benign is a We can do that if we redefined the way capital gains taxes are paid. Instead of giving people a huge tax break after 12 months, incentivize them by allowing them to pay no taxes if they make an investment over 10 or 15 years. And penalize them for short-term investments by a high tax rate for a less than 12-month investment. Restructuring capital gains would have a ripple effect of making far more money available for those long-term investments that doesn’t exist today.

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“As we work on the demand for sustainable products, we need to also work on the supply of those sustainable products. We need to expand the science and chemistry curriculum, and get universities on-board.” small nonprofit pushing for this, almost 50 universities have already signed the green chemistry commitment. So I’m hopeful. But at the end of the day, we have to focus on the reality that molecular scientists, the only people in the world who can make a new molecule, are unlikely to have any training on how to make a molecule that’s sustainable.

But, we have to realize that saying “we need better products” louder and louder does not create the ability for a scientist to actually do it. And that’s where curriculum comes into play. I would love to see the Living Product Challenge incorporate education, maybe even the Living Education Challenge, where chemistry departments of universities are evaluated.

JG: How do you see the potential of standards and frame-


What excites both of you in the sustainable business works like the Living Product Challenge to transform the movement? marketplace? JW: The next generation. When I meet with established JH: I am thoroughly impressed and amazed with the organizations that have legacy issues, I am impressed initiative. The biggest thing that amazed me about it and sometimes moved by their commitment. But it’s not is that I hadn’t heard of it yet. I think that the Living universal. There are a lot of infrastructure issues that are Product Challenge is exactly the right kind of frame- pushing people back. But, when I meet the next generawork to help us make progress toward greater sustain- tion and when I speak to students and early-career scienability. The challenge we face is exactly what we’ve tists, there is a passion within them. I feel unequivocally been discussing today, which is, what kind of system hopeful that good things will happen as long as we give needs to surround a challenge like that to make it as the next generation the tools to do it. successful and impactful as possible? JH: I feel the same way. When I was teaching at NYU, JW: I’m equally surprised that I haven’t heard more the students made me feel the most hopeful. They will of the Living Product Challenge. In order to im- replace us, and their concerns and their values will prove something, you need to know how to get there. shape a very different world from the world we have toThe verb of improvement resides somewhere else. It’s day. I just hope that we have enough time for them to not the tally of the performance, but it’s how it was in- bring that influence to bear. vented and carried out, that changes things. And that’s where green chemistry and the inventors reside. So, we need clear and unequivocal measurements to know JOANNA GANGI is the Communications that we are going in the right direction to make sure we + Editorial Director at the Internatioanl are doing and accomplishing the things that we want Living Future Institute. When not workto accomplish. ing she enjoys exploring nature with her family.


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THE REVITALIZATION OF THE CONSTRUCTEUR, AND THE REVIVAL RANDONNEUR BICYCLE Peter Weigle is a celebrated custom bicycle frame builder who has received countless awards, from “Best Randonneur,” “People’s Choice” and several “Best In Show” awards. He grew up on a dairy farm in the Berkshire hills of Western Massachusetts. In 1972, a chance interview landed him in the UK to serve an apprenticeship as a bicycle frame builder. He then returned to the US to work for Witcomb USA, building custom frames for the US market.

The creative spirit needs fuel and inspiration to propel itself forward. The inspiration (catalyst) for my renewed spirit appeared in the form of a Japanese publication called the “Data Book,” technical illustrations of frame and component details of period 1940s-1970s French bicycles (example featured above). Like a portal to a lost civilization of fine bicycle details, the pages featured beautiful alloy fenders, well-engineered luggage racks and lighting systems.

Witcomb USA closed in 1977, and his love for the craft propelled him to continue to build custom frames ever since. He also was a competitive cyclist for several decades, which allowed him to do performance tests in real world conditions and make refinements along the way. The following is an illustration of how he has harnessed his prowess and love of craft to revitalize the French randonneur bicycle.

After World War II, cars and fuel were scarce, so these bicycles were used as daily transportation, but also for cyclotouring events on the weekends—they couldn’t just look good, they had to perform. By the year 2000, most of the celebrated constructeurs had passed on and there wasn’t much demand for this type of bicycle; but I had to have one. I wasn’t interested in building a reproduction or replica, but instead I wanted to build a traditionally inspired, modern machine. 

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My first constructeur style bike gained its first exposure at the 2003 Cirque du Cyclisme show in Greensboro, NC. Most of the vintage bikes were high-end examples of Italian and British race bikes. My unique entry garnered a lot of attention and received “Best Neo-Classic” and the “People’s Choice Award.” It was the only bike of its type at the show.

current day cyclotouring activities. A portion of their mission is to test modern constructeur bicycles in realworld riding conditions, and bicycles must meet very demanding requirements to receive high marks. If the bicycle doesn’t handle well, or perform brilliantly, then all of the art is for naught.

Other frame builders in the United States took notice, and now the style is undergoing a revival. Instrumental in the revival was a publication called Vintage Bicycle Quarterly (VBQ ), which chronicled the wonderful history of the constructeur machines and how they were used back in the Golden Age of cycling.

PETER WEIGLE is a custom bicycle frame artist that has won numerous awards for his craft.

With so many new builders adopting the style, VBQ changed its name to Bicycle Quarterly. The magazine continues to chronicle the past, but it also reports on

Photo credit: John Watson the Radivist


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Bottom Left: Aquamarine 650b randonneur at the Philly Bike Expo Right: Randonneur crown brazed with brass for strength Bottom Right: Example of a lug shape. “I don’t sketch or draw anything; the tools are guided by my hands and eye, and the shape emerges.” Bottom Center: Classically-inspired front rack is light, elegant and strong. Rack holds a French canvas and leather handlebar bag and the head light.


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My friends and I are happy-hour regulars at an upscale restaurant on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Dinner prices surpass our budgets for a typical Tuesday meal, but the specials are delightfully within our means. One evening, while we were perched at our usual bar stools, an older gentleman with a large cardboard box entered and made his way to the end of the bar near the open kitchen. A hostess beckoned for the head chef, who eagerly came to greet the man. He began to gingerly remove a couple smaller boxes, one overflowing with a rare variety of matsutake mushrooms, and the other with vibrant, orange-yellow lily blossoms. The chef spoke with him as she judiciously selected her choices from each batch. She noticed our curiosity and told us that the man was the restaurant’s elected forager, and she handed us a sample of his latest findings.


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I was so charmed by this exchange—the chef ’s dedication to unique, flavorful dishes and the support of local artisans. Seattle has a robust food culture, so each eatery must strive for integrity and distinctness. The notion of craft for fine cuisine is not unlike the craft of a building, a sculpture or a tool. Craft is amorphous. Concepts and final products surely differ, even between each project and craftsman,

but the sentiment of quality prevails as a common thread. The food and beverage industry has exploded with artisanal products (see the craft beer revolution, the droves of food trucks that are giving fast food chains a run for their money, or the proliferation of specialty grocery stores), but the resurgence of the true spirit of craftsmanship in the products realm is just beginning to blossom.

ing a new type of relationship between artist and consumer, currently their products are just a drop in the bucket of the entire products spectrum.

What can designers and manufacturers do to merge social justice, environmental stewardship, and effective design? For the sake of our species, it is beyond advantageous to make more intentional purchases, share resources, and rekindle our appreciation for How can we merge the essence of craft with the goods that are built to last—it is a means of survival. necessity of industry to produce meaningful prod- Craft does not need to remain an elitist preference, ucts that offer a great consumer experience, and are but it can be an accessible means to experience the also healthy for humans and the environment? In world more intimately and with the best of intention. this age of cheap, mass-produced goods, the deck is stacked against the small-batch craftsman. However, The consumer culture has become morbidly obese, the foreshadowing of planned obsolescence’s self- and its attire is bursting at the seams. As a result determined fate is coming to call. Services such of the consumer indulgence, we have depleted reas Etsy and Amazon Handmade are facilitat- sources, produced unfathomable hoards of waste and

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introduced dangerous chemicals into the environment. Fortunately, the human spirit can thrive in the face of adversity. We are becoming more thoughtful. We are learning faster and creating new tools that will help us forge pathways toward a world of intentional design.



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The Maker’s Movement is a reference to the wave of people who are reintroducing the importance of tangible skills to the public. Made up of people who are more than hobbyists or craft fair junkies, this movement has great cultural significance. With skill-shares and tool libraries popping up in most major cities (and in many smaller ones), the art of learning trades like metalworking and woodworking, once reserved for dedicated apprentices, is now readily available to the masses—literally putting design in the hands of the consumer. Of course, not everyone is interested in being a tinkerer or tradesperson. Even those who don’t want to learn the intricacies of creation have an opportunity to guide the final outcome. Participatory design (or cooperative design) is the process of including all stakeholders in the beginning stages of design.


“Artisanal” has made its way toward the top of the list of most commonly used buzzwords; usage has continued to spike since the 1960s. In its exuberance, the word is often used as a marketing ploy for companies to charge exorbitant prices for underwhelming products, rendering the word nearly meaningless. While the artisanal concept may seem trite, if you peel back the façade that advertising has constructed, you can see the word for its true meaning; high-quality, handmade goods created by a skilled person. The appreciation of quality and the pursuit of improvement are not marketing fads, but timeless human sentiments.

This practice is being celebrated across a wide array of disciplines, ranging from architecture to technology. In a similar way, cooperation between small businesses is framing a new perspective on competition. Local goods may never defeat the Wal-Marts of the world, but entrepreneurs don’t need to look any further than a local brewery to find die-hard craftsmen who are taking a united stand against big business. In order to maintain their authenticity and their distinct portion of the beer market, craft brews must be of a consistent caliber across the board, from one brewery to the next. This means that breweries are working together to earn regulatory approval and commandeer an even greater market share. The general rapport between individual brands is known to be quite congenial. Craft breweries’ voluntary cooperation is fueled by their common goals to compete with Big Beer (a common enemy) and to create a consistent, highquality product. Practical cooperation has served the

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craft beer industry favorably—it is well positioned to continue at a steady incline, and perhaps even eclipse Big Beer one day. The resurgence of the Maker’s Movement and cooperative design/business practices are promising signs of collective ideas to raise the bar for craft, and to interact with the world in a more thoughtful manner. NATURE’S DRAFTING TABLE

Designers have been emulating natural forms throughout recorded history, but biomimicry has emerged as an innovation approach to create longerlasting, sustainable products. With this design strategy, scientists are invited to the table, as well as other stakeholders who normally wouldn’t be in the room. Biomimetic design draws inspiration from nature’s flawless architecture, and respectfully appropriates those concepts to render them applicable to human



The internet abounds with articles that either reproach or glorify the millennials; a large generation known for their technological acumen, choice of “useful” over “cool” and affinity toward charitable causes. It’s easy to roll your eyes at some of the faddish tendencies (often labeled as “hipster”), but there are some very positive trends that highlight the seductive aspects of sustainability. These include: engaging in DIY projects; repurposing used objects; living simply; working remotely; and creating new relationships between age-old trades and modern technology. Maybe these trends are evidence of a shift in values; a cultural redirect away from hoarding mounds of cheaply made stuff. The face of simple living has morphed from the austere to a new type of urbanism. While tiny houses or microhousing are exploding trends, hopefully simple living is a way of life that catches on for the long run. When you only have 250 square feet of living space, nothing is frivolous and everything serves multiple functions. While it might not be a catch-all solution, possessing fewer, better-made things is surely a sustainability strategy.


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systems. This appropriation is a new expression of craft: solving problems with efficient, beautiful and lasting designs, and with nature as the muse. It’s a method of merging human technology with an¬ extensive inquiry of the naturally-perfected systems that have been propelling life for billions of years. The end goal isn’t (or shouldn’t be) to mimic nature in the most profound way, but to take a real problem and look through the lens of nature’s genius to devise a sustainable solution. TOOLS: DIGITAL + ANALOG

The differentiation between product and service has taken on a new meaning. For many years, intangible products were limited to items such as insurance or health care. Today, intangible products have expanded to mobile apps, many of which are blurring the lines between product and service. In many cases, technology cannot replace the practicality or value of a physical product. This is particularly true in the realm of buildings and infrastructure, areas that are grounded in their visceral qualities. The digital and physical realms can have a complimentary

squandering of resources to produce. We need to embrace the craftsmen. We must frame the daunting problems that face us as boundless opportunities for creating necessary goods that foster positive good. We can create more intentional and authentic design, Craft in the 21st century is a new venture that is well and we can do so while still making a profit. The two seasoned with tools of the digital age. Before the In- ventures need not be mutually exclusive. dustrial Revolution, products were built mainly out of necessity. Today, we are flooded with products and are drowning in our own artifacts. This notion adds a new component to sustainability—we must ask ourKRISTA ELVEY is the Assistant Editor selves why. Why something needs to exist or what of Trim Tab and Communications problem it seeks to solve. Coordinator for the International relationship. The potential for information exchange and prototyping in the digital realm can guide the most efficient means of utilizing physical resources and space.

Living Future Institute.

Craft is now more relevant than ever. We need more goods that are well made and don’t require a wanton

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CRAFTING Etsy, the online global marketplace for creative entrepreneurs, has partnered with the sustainable design leaders at the architecture firm, Gensler, to create their own one of a kind, bespoke masterpiece. The result, which is still being developed, is a manifestation of the company’s vision and culture. Next year, Etsy will move its headquarters to a new, 200,000-square-foot building in DUMBO, Brooklyn—where the company has been based since


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AT SCALE 2009—to adequately house its rapidly growing team. The publicly traded company currently has over 700 employees, with the majority working from its Brooklyn headquarters.

By testing out a series of large design ideas, Etsy hopes to realize this vision. For example, by optimizing the spaces to focus on improving employee health and well-being, they hope to create a place people will look forward to working in and that celebrates their Etsy’s vision in building out the new space is to create unique company culture. The innovations aren’t just a physical representation of the company’s overarch- on the inside. ing values and mission, which are rooted in the understanding that its long-term success is dependent on a Using a concept called “biophilia”, which states that complex ecosystem made up of its employees, the com- human beings innately seek a connection with namunity of buyers, sellers and partners, and the planet ture, the space also is emphasizing the relationship to that sustains them all. the outdoors by incorporating urban agriculture, us-

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We will continue to tell this story in future issues of Trim Tab as the synthesis of craft, sustainability, and smart design takes shape in the realization of Etsy’s new office.


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ing natural materials, and converting an old objects into a sunwashed example of sustainable adaptive reuse. Following the ethos of the artists on their site, the Etsy space will have a special focus on the handmade, using healthy, one of a kind, reclaimed items from local sources.

“Etsy’s vision in building out the new space is to create a physical representation of the company’s overarching values and mission, which are rooted in the understanding that its long-term success is dependent on a complex ecosystem made up of its employees, the community of buyers, sellers and partners, and the planet that sustains them all.”

To achieve this vision, Etsy is working with several organizations, including the International Living Future Institute, the Forest Stewardship Council and Gensler, to create a space that demonstrates the company’s commitment to thriving and regenerative communities, inspiring craftsmanship, micro-manufacturing, and practices that support economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Gensler. “The design not only proves that handmade can scale and crafted spaces aren’t limited to boutique environments, but Etsy also taught Gensler, the largest design firm in the world, about the power of partnerships and how value alignment creates the most impactful designs. Firms today can’t defy expectations Together, the design team built an inclusive and edu- simply by collaborating with their clients; you really cational process to overcome traditional barriers for must invest in co-creation and believe in what each small makers to meet commercial building timelines other are trying to achieve.” and sustainability standards. The process of creating a large-scale office space while coordinating with many Over the next several months, Etsy and its partners small-scale makers and manufacturers has been both a will continue to work together to create a beautiful, challenging and a rewarding experience for Etsy and its one-of-a-kind, sustainable office building, showcasing building partners. It’s been a practice in genuine part- how handcrafted items and micro-manufacturing can nership, in which every player is working together to work (and thrive) in projects of any scale. reach a collective goal by tackling the project’s unique challenges together, rather than through pure delegation or going it alone. ARIANA ANTHONY is a PR Specialist The project has been incredibly influential for its design firm, Gensler, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. “The relationship between Etsy and Gensler goes far beyond the usual boundaries of client and designer partnerships,” said Amanda Carroll, Senior Associate and technology practice area leader at

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for Etsy.





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Editor’s Note: The following piece is an excerpt

from “Why We Make Things and Why It Matters,” by Peter Korn. In his thoughtful exploration, Korn seeks to uncover the underlying drivers that impel humans to create. With over forty years of experience as a

woodworker, Korn draws from his autobiography

to carefully extrapolate how craft can influence both personal and societal growth. Images courtesy: Peter Korn

IDEOLOGY of CRAFT My entry into craft was an intensely singular experience. But whether I was rinsing mung bean sprouts in the kitchen sink with Joni Mitchell’s captivating soprano on the stereo or out in the barn shaping the arm of a red oak rocking chair with a coarse Nicholson rasp, I was very much a product of the historical moment. It was no accident that a young person in 1974 was searching for a meaningful and fulfilling way to inhabit adulthood, nor that he would turn to craft. The culture of my time and place poured through me like water through a weir. Craft was a concept that lodged in the netting. In furniture making, beginnings are critical. For a simple frame-and-panel cabinet door to stay flat over the long haul, and not become too tight in summer or overly gapped in winter, success starts with the choice of timber. Not just what species or which plank, but also from which part of the board one saws the stiles

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and rails, how dry the wood is, the method by which it was dried, and how it was stored and handled. All this before the actual work of milling the timber flat and square, laying out and cutting the joinery, making and fitting the panel, assembling, trimming, fitting, hinging, latching, and finishing.


Throughout the entire process, the quality achievable at each stage is utterly dependent on the care with which the craftsman has accomplished every previous step. Likewise, as someone trying to write about the nature and rewards of craft, it seems important to construct a sound foundation by being precise early on about what I mean by craft. The word is a chameleon. It is both verb and noun. It is used to impute quality to everything from one-of-a-kind handmade objects to mass-produced industrial products. It is closely linked to equally amorphous offshoots such as craftsman, craftsmanship, and the less gracious crafter. A lawyer may be said to craft an agreement with all the grammatical correctness with which a potter is said to craft a teacup. An actor practices his craft on the stage as readily as a blacksmith practices his at the forge. There is high craft, low craft, reproduction craft, and conceptual craft. There is craft in legacy materials such as wood,


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clay, fiber, metal, and glass, and there is anything-goes craft made with plastic, concrete, and duct tape. Specifically, I am writing about craft as it is practiced today by professionals and amateurs throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and other industrialized nations—countries where manufactured goods have almost entirely supplanted handmade products in meeting the material needs of society. In these countries, contemporary craft items stand in sharp contrast to preindustrial objects that we also designate as craft. Premodern craft was made to satisfy culturally prescribed, functional purposes. A hatbox held a hat, a snuff box held snuff, a clothes press held clothes. Contemporary craft, being economically marginal, is created primarily to address the spiritual needs of its maker. As a result, it often lacks utility and its practical disposition may be left to the whim of the purchaser. Wandering the aisles of a craft show today, you are likely to find everything from sturdy, utilitarian coffee tables to abstract wall decora-

Throughout the entire process, the quality achievable at each stage is utterly dependent on the care with which the craftsman has accomplished every previous step.

tions, with the middle ground occupied by chairs that are too angular for comfort, teapots that drip, and jewelry that threatens bodily harm to the wearer. This is not a criticism of nonutilitarian craft. Dysfunction, handled competently, generates significant emotional power.

chestnut tree. Our contemporary notion of craft, whether as a form of production or a type of object, originated with the flowering of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain, a mere 130 years ago.

Prior to the Arts and Crafts Movement, the English It would be a pleasure to offer a concise definition of word craft was used predominantly to indicate a cacraft. People often assume it is either a timeless category pacity for shrewdness and manipulation. (Think of of human endeavor (such as religion and marriage) or coinages such as witchcraft and statecraft. 6) Then, in of manmade objects (such as tools and dwellings). But the turbulent wake of the Industrial Revolution, craft when it comes to definition, craft is a moving target. was given new meaning by the founders of the emergLike its cousins art and design, craft is a cultural con- ing Arts and Crafts Movement. Foremost among them struct that evolves in response to changing mindsets were John Ruskin (1819–1900) and William Morris and conditions of society. (1834–1896). These early socialists took three strands of nineteenth-century thought—the applied (or decIn fact, the concept of craft as we know it is a recent orative) arts, the vernacular, and the politics of work invention. Weavers and potters in the Middle Ages, —and wove them into a single, compelling, counterwoodworkers and goldsmiths during the Renaissance; industrial narrative that they labeled craft.7 Fifty-plus cabinetmakers employed by Louis XV in the Age of years later, that narrative would powerfully inform the Enlightenment—none of these practitioners thought of rise of the studio craft movement, my craft movement. their work as craft. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow did not think his village blacksmith was practicing a craft in The best way to understand craft, I believe, is to think 1840, when he placed the fellow’s forge under a spreading of it as a conversation flowing through time. Or, more

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Like its cousins art and design, craft is a cultural construct that evolves in response to changing mindsets and conditions of society.

That Christmas of 1974, my first woodworking books —Charles Hayward’s Woodwork Joints and Rafael Teller’s Woodwork—brought me deeper into the conversation of furniture making. But more profoundly, my hands began to discover the nature of tools and materials for themselves. Naturally, it wasn’t long before I started to hold up my end of the discussion. Sharing sharpening tips with a carpenter friend, or displaying a rocking chair in a gallery, I began to actively inform precisely, as a recent eddy in a broad conversation about other people’s ideas about objects and making. object-making that began at least 2.5 million years ago, when our hominid ancestors were making tools in the Over ensuing decades there would be an explosion of Olduvai Gorge, in Tanzania. Since then, the making of communication among neophyte woodworkers like tools and objects has progressed to increasingly effec- myself. Fine Woodworking magazine began publication tive techniques, endlessly more inventive forms, and in 1975 and was soon joined by a half dozen similar pubfantastically elaborate functions—from the chipped lications. Through their pages—and books that would chert axes of the Stone Age to the flying stone but- be published, schools that would be founded, crafts tresses of Notre Dame, the Indiana limestone–clad shows that would proliferate, and galleries that would Empire State Building, and the silicon computer chips open—we became what is now called an open-source in the machine at my fingertips. The increase in so- community. A brief trip through the Fine Woodworking phistication has not resulted from any biological evolu- collection in our school library graphically illustrates tion of our species; instead, it illustrates the evolution the rising tide of refinement. Within a generation we had of culture. Knowledge gained through experience has bootstrapped our collective skills to a level of knowledge accreted from generation to generation (along with be- and proficiency that arguably surpassed that of the eighliefs, values, and aesthetic ideals), passed on by exam- teenth-century French and German ébénistes whose seple and explanation. This flow of information through crets we had presumed lost forever. millennia is the conversation of object making. We participate in it every time we make an object and, to a The conversation of object making has coursed lesser extent, every time we interact with one. through the emergence and decline of civilizations. New voices have interrupted it, new technologies have When I began to make furniture in November of 1974, influenced it, and changing economic and political I was working in a partial vacuum. The craft of furni- circumstances have reoriented it, but the conversation ture making had been largely eradicated by industri- never abates. The currents we label craft, art, and dealization. Like many woodworkers of my generation, I sign entered only yesterday in the time scale of history. was on my own, feeling my way in the dark. Nonethe- As they evolve and, eventually, dissipate, the conversaless, long before I picked up my first chisel I had spent tion will no doubt continue undiminished, for we are my youth being informed by the built environment. I an object-making species. had internalized a rich vocabulary of materials, forms, functions, proportions, and emotional associations THE AXIOMS OF CRAFT that strongly influenced what I would choose to make When I was seduced by woodworking in my early and why I chose to make it. And when I did finally grasp twenties, I had never, to my knowledge, met a craftsa chisel, I became the instant beneficiary of countless man. Furniture makers, potters, glassblowers, smiths, generations of accumulated experience in tool design weavers, bookbinders, and all their kind were thin on the ground. Then, when I was finally introduced to and metallurgy.


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a skilled furniture restorer, on Nantucket, I couldn’t credit him as the real thing. He was a defeated alcoholic whose life was a shambles. In no way did he match up to the Hallmark-card image of the craftsman I carried in my head. I had never consciously thought about it, but I expected a real craftsman to be a skilled tradesman, secure in the knowledge of his hands and the strength of his character, calm at his workbench, pursuing a simple, peaceful life in idyllic surroundings. More like Carl Borchert, had he built furniture instead of houses. Where did that burnished image come from? It was a direct legacy of the Arts and Crafts Movement, a distillation of the three main ingredients—the applied arts, the vernacular, and the politics of work—from which the ideologues of the movement had concocted the idea of craft. Right through the late Middle Ages there had been no historical distinction between fine and applied arts. Sculptors belonged to the same guilds as stone ma-

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sons; painters associated with gilders and saddlers. All of their trades were accorded relatively equal merit. Only when the Renaissance began to elevate the life of the mind above the life of the body, approximately six hundred years ago, did hierarchical distinctions begin to emerge. The imposing rampart between the fine and applied arts that Ruskin and Morris confronted (and that many contemporary craftspeople continue to assault or lament) was long in the making. Three hundred years after da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, the Enlightenment finally provided strong enough mortar. This was the philosophy of Cartesian dualism, which formally divided mind and matter into separate and unequal camps. Art happily snuggled into the category of mind, while all other types of object making were associated with the body, branded as “applied arts,” and banished to lesser estates. The concept of the vernacular was a nineteenth-century invention, a reaction to the social dislocation of


the Industrial Revolution. It surfaced as a nostalgia for objects and customs that appeared to have risen directly out of folk tradition, untainted by the artificiality, venality, or complexity of contemporary life. Within the Arts and Crafts Movement, it led to an idealization of rural, handmade production. Today, the notion of the vernacular remains firmly entrenched. I don’t consider myself to be particularly sentimental, for example, but when I see a wooden pitchfork with graceful steambent tines, a birchbark canoe, or a centuries-worn Windsor chair, I can’t help but read it as a message from a simpler, more poetic age.

As it turned out, though, the Arts and Crafts Movement never realized its ambition to transform society. It foundered on two rocks. One was financial: The workshops set up by Morris and others could only succeed by creating fashionable consumer goods for the wealthy few. Work organized along the lines of craft simply could not compete economically with mass production. The other was the cataclysm of the First World War, which transformed the cultural landscape in ways that made the concerns of the movement seem irrelevant. The Arts and Crafts Movement failed to deflect the juggernaut of industrialization in any noticeable way —either in regard to means of production or conditions of labor. Nonetheless, it left a lasting imprint on the conversations of design and object making. The aesthetic ideas of Ruskin and Morris would influence the Bauhaus in Germany, de Stijl in the Netherlands, art nouveau in France, the Wiener Werkstätte in Austria, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School of architecture in the U.S., among other notable manifestations.

The third strand in Ruskin and Morris’s concept of craft, the politics of work, was inherent to nineteenth-century political philosophy. Primary concerns were the nature of work, the moral welfare of the worker, the health of society, and the causal connections among them. Karl Marx (1818–1883) was the most famous theorist to travel this road, but others included Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) and Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929). Ruskin famously wrote about the The ideology of craft continued to inform the con“degradation of the operative into a machine” in The versation of object making throughout the twentieth Stones of Venice, where he went on to say: century. It shaped the ways in which people thought about what should be made, who should make it, how It is not that men are ill fed, but that they have no plea- it should be made, and why it was made. Although the sure in the work by which they make their bread, and Arts and Crafts Movement petered out, the discussion therefore look to wealth as the only means of pleasure. it inaugurated continued to reverberate, until finally It is not that men are pained by the scorn of the upper the concept of craft so permeated the public mind that classes, but they cannot endure their own; for they feel the making of most non-art, nonmanufactured objects that the kind of labour to which they are condemned is throughout history came to be called craft in retroverily a degrading one, and makes them less than men. spect. Certainly, for my generation of craftsmen, the theories of Ruskin and Morris were pivotal, whether or Ruskin and Morris welded the ideas of the applied not we had ever heard mention of their names. arts, the vernacular, and the politics of work into a theory of production intended to counteract the evils of industrial capitalism. Their craft worker would PETER KORN is founder and executive make objects of aesthetic merit from start to finish director of a nonprofit woodworking in salubrious surroundings, with personal responsischool in Rockport, Maine, the Center bility for quality. Such improved conditions of labor for Furniture Craftsmanship. would promote psychological health and produce better citizens.


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Transforming the craft of architecture since 1939.

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission HQ |



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The future ain’t what it used to be. - YOGI BER R A

THE CONCEPTUAL SPACE RACE The Center for Maximum Potential Building systems, established in 1975, is a non-profit education, research, and demonstration organization specializing in development of over 40 prototypes in the material science and building system arena, 12 protocols for measurement of these diverse prototypes and clientele and have been significant contributors to 6 city, state and national policies initiatives. For more information, visit This article will explore a few of the Center’s 12 protocol methodologies, which were conceived to steer human interventions in a way that helps create a planetary system of self-evaluation so that evolution can continue over the long term. The article’s primary focus is on the protocol referred to as the “Conceptual Space Race.”


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What is conceptual space? To quote the architectural psychologist Dr. Alton Delong, “Conceptual space is defined as the values, roles and codes which permit increasing population size to process complex amounts of information and retain social and environmental contacts.” The race is expressed by the fact that the limits of Nature’s capacity as a global ecosystem will soon be reached, while the potential of the human brain sees no boundary. The Conceptual Space Race describes this quandary: Will the carrying capacity of earth be exceeded before we can realize a state of convergence between the biosphere (the living planet) and the noosphere (the sphere of human thought)?

First we build the tools, then they build us. - M ARSHALL MCLUHA N

set of scholars say that the ecological carrying capacity of the planet is only possible at a maximum of 9.5 billion people, or approximately 1.4 acres per person. In other According to some experts in population dynamics words, global communication will be falling short beand others in the evolution of communication tech- fore it finally takes effect. So the race is on; how do we nology, someday there will be point where all humans close the time/communication/space gap soon enough everywhere will communicate effectively with each to avoid a global carrying capacity catastrophe? other. This moment might happen early in the 21st century and herald a globally sympathetic mindset for the This race is so prevalent in the Center’s core mission that human condition and hopefully for nature’s needs as we have committed multiple methods to addressing the subject, underscored by two overarching themes: well. It is hopeful, but will this shift be too late? Our approach recognizes this critical gap and utilizes important brain space-time behavior to help resolve it.

According to extrapolation, human population will be • Create a framework firmly grounded in the ecological close to 17.5 billion when massive communication techdesign and planning sciences to more effectively renology and population will converge. However, another spond simultaneously—bottom-up and top-down—

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1. Don’t limit ourselves to the primitive brain, that part of the brain most associated within the biophilic design movement. This slower-thinking, • Augment the designer’s toolkit to identify ways to more nature-synchronized part of the brain evolved utilize land areas not considered possible by previous over an early geological time versus the “revolved standards and thereby increase the quantity of develneocortex brain”—now dominating the nature / opable physical space that we can work with. human conflict. from the public to private sectors using a multifaceted approach.

In 2006, I worked with an exemplary group of people 2. The neocortex brain has the power not only to act brought together by Stephen Kellert and Judith Heersingularly but to use our vast brain-to-brain network wagen. Our task was to define and bring biophilic princapacity to crowdsource our collective performance ciples into the design realm. My job, as it turned out, relative to global issues and our role within them. was to propose a bridge between the dichotomy of the biosphere and the noosphere, with an ultimate purpose 3. The value of the immediate experiential environof publishing our findings in a book, Biophilic Design: ments we create are potential portals of connectivthe Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to ity to much larger world issues and the basis of comLife (Wiley, 2008). parison to success or failure as well. I took on my usual provocateur role and pushed the lim- 4. T he simplicity of the cycle of life (not LCA) as a its of what I knew and what others were willing to even fundamental structure for comparative behavior discuss. In the end, these ideas were included in a chapworks and can produce a rapid-fire, feedback-reter of the aforementioned book, in which I outlined four ward system that excites the neocortex. precepts of the Conceptual Space Race protocol:


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As the group sat in a serene and bucolic atmosphere in Rhode Island, disconnected from the world as it actually exists for an increasing majority of the world’s population, I could not help but think of the immense density of some of the more prominent global cities, and of the millions of people with little access to nature. I realized there was a need for a kind of “biophilia on steroids,” a way of bringing the processes of nature into every facet of life’s existence regardless of where people resided. I claimed that perhaps sustainable architecture was happening because the brain loved it: sustainable architecture was miniaturizing what I call the cycles of life more quickly than the cycles that nature provides, and that this might be a basis for a new design language.

stated that if we did not understand more fully the connection of nature to the brain, “we would get nowhere.”

When Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, discussed his work with nature and children, I explained a project I had worked on in 1985, the Camp Fire Kids of Texas master plan and building design. It presented a framework about designing with resource cycles, paralleled with behavioral cycles that were set up to eventually measure resource-use results. Within this framework, the cycle of life boundary was first explored from the aspect of a child’s body. At the next scale, the dining hall was a cluster of food cycle spaces within spaces. The campus became a village of life cycle events using whole-building and land areas, all micro-to-macro experiences (clustered á là Russian As I explained the differentiation between the primi- nesting dolls) to imagine cycles within cycles. But this tive brain and the neocortex brain, I felt that I might was still so idealistic and assumed to be a somewhat have gone far beyond the topic at hand until E. O. rural getaway procedure—but was there the kernel of Wilson, who was part of the assembled group, plainly


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something else—perhaps something scientifically ro- could do in this arena was to create an RFID-activated bust but so fundamental that it was almost pedestrian. model of life event activity spaces within a modular building system. Students made the model operational Twenty years later, another opportunity arose with the to the extent that event or life cycle functional spaces, 2007 Texas A&M Solar Decathlon entry. Technology when accounted for in the community planning proand resource issues had become exponentially more cess, would be found to be complete or incomplete robust—we could now locate graphic activity icons when measured in a cyclical graphic shown on a big at the various event locations, embedded with RFID screen as the community game was being played. As in (radio frequency identification) communication chips gaming, the routine quickly turned to play, play turned that connected to receiver watches used as activity re- into inventing, and soon transactions between individminders. This revolution in technology with spatially ual and group cycles began to be either cooperative or connected information could reveal what state of “bal- a kind of cyclical monetary system as new, unintended ance” a home was functioning at as the everyday ac- relationships occurred and cycles of life became an entivity patterns for resource balancing were completed. tire ecosystem of webs that revealed more and more Depending on their use of resources, occupants could integration, and thus more stability. share, barter, or sell life cycle performance to someone At the Center, these design science efforts became else in the community and receive life cycle “credit.” methodological procedures for testing whether buildThe great test was the possibility of extending this con- ings could function as extensions of human metabolic cept to the community scale. The best we at the Center needs in a world predicated by net balance and net

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positive. In the context of the community game, these procedures were integrated into a wide spectrum of resource issues. In essence, they became protocols of individual or group behavior patterns, with the hope that they might eventually become societal policy initiatives working together to evolve into a new state of synchronicity with the cycles of nature.

global, fostering a mix of visitors from foreign delegations to local practitioners.

We have gone as far as developing what we call our own kind of potentiometer (as a kind of metaphorical maximum potential machine that cultivates the force needed for change)—at all three levels of prototype protocol and policy without any emphasis on hierarWe now present three interconnected approaches: chy; in other words, you can enter the system to trigger prototype (a built example that has a broader pur- action anywhere you have the capacity or connections pose than just an individual building design; protocol to do so. (which sets up a method of measurement; and policy (a level where there is a societal acceptance to proce- A total of 42 eco-interventions have been presented at dure that is common practice as in codes for accepted our facility and at the 2015 Austin Earth Day celebrabuilding practice). At our community open houses we tion. At these events, concepts are spread, feedback focus on expanding the minds of attendees—a kind of begins, and a collaborative mind space develops be“protoScoping operation” that gives all participants a tween fellow commotion-makers, eventually involving feeling of a freedom to investigate change with little the city council representative, then the mayor, then emphasis on ownership or restrictions, and that nur- county officials, etc. As the event also becomes a comtures the public’s ability to absorb, create and promote mercialization platform, it even provides the basis for at all three levels. Some call it a think tank; others call intellectual property, daring attendees to become coit a viral experience where concepts are local but also horts and part of the future.


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“A total of 42 ecointerventions have been presented at our facility and at the 2015 Austin Earth Day celebration. At these events, concepts are spread, feedback begins, and a collaborative mind space develops between fellow commotion-makers.” Two protocols are set up to push these global mind space boundaries from two angles, the Conceptual Space Race and Meta Max, a protocol that primarily identifies mega-scale cycles (such as sewage systems and water reclamation) that need significant pro-activity due to their significant impact on global ecology. Coal, cement, and saline water intrusions map a world of trouble on every continent and in every air- and water-shed, spreading toxins through air, water and soil. However, the Meta Max protocol demonstrates possible improvements. A brief description of two projects will provide a glimpse into how Meta Max and Conceptual Space Race work together.

The advanced desert technology we proposed was significant, but even more significant was the proposed social structure and reward system that enabled the city to become net positive in water, energy and materials. We proposed a currency called “sustain-a-bills,” which was based on the completion of cycles that balanced resource use and were also fundamentally necessary to create the abundance that the word “plenitude” suggests. Resource use was accounted for so that excess could accrue to the next scale of societal organization, from individuals to households to neighborhoods, and so on, all the way to the city–region boundary that was clearly identified by the limit of a gravity tower-based transportation system. Although the city of Plenitude was never built due to complications stemming from the Arab Spring uprising, the plan provides a good framework to expand habitable desert space. This new ecology evolves from the simultaneous prospects of opportunity and disaster—which are sometimes bound together, as is the case in Texas.

Texas is struck by more disasters than nearly any other state in the US. As we overlay soil loss, expansive soils due to extreme temperature swings, saline water intrusion, tornados, flash floods, hurricanes, fire hazard, extreme drought, rising sea levels, and the loss of ecological diversity, there is precious little land left that is safe The meta-city of Plenitude was developed as a chal- for humans to inhabit—unless we develop ways and lenge that began with an interview with CNN in 2007 means to actively work with, avoid and counter these and resulted in an invitation from Morocco, to reme- trends of disaster with opportunities that we create. diate the massive (millions of acres) phosphate mines near Marrakesh, and to responsibly use the byproducts One way we’ve responded to disaster areas that threatof the mining process. Our proposal was a large-scale en to be uninhabitable is to turn them into opportunibioremediation project using a halophyte and myce- ties by looking carefully to see what is happening. We lium landscape in the surface mines, with the leftover map the locations, record disaster results and create phosphate mixed with magnesium oxide (MgO) that alternative building systems that can adapt to many, if has been separated through saline water processing. not all, disasters. This approach has created a new level The resulting cement, magnesium phosphate, became of building system protocols that are buildable by evthe fast-setting basis for the city’s desert structures, all eryone so that they can become policy. Here are some of which mimicked the Bedouin architecture and were of the protocols that have sparked people’s imagination located beneath basalt fabric shade tents emanating in Texas (to the extent that we are now selling homes before they are built): from the Atlas mountains.

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“Instead of focusing on the limits of the ecological footprint and the daunting constraints of our increasingly limited spatial footprints, I propose that we shift our focus to Conceptual Space footprints: these are the footprints of hope, and of the opportunities that dot the globe.” 1. Create an integrated, highly protected community a Waterfall House with large rainscreens and a cistern to centralize communication and facilitate the ex- foundation that loves ample rain; a Cave house that is change of energy, water, and other resources. a gabion-retrofitted stone vault able to withstand 200 mph winds; a nest with continuous green walls and 2. Simultaneously adapt to wind and fire by creating roof; a Dune that is a monocoque form, smooth inside a shape, form and material type that never fights and out, built with saline water-derived cement. Imagthese forces but enables them to occur without ine a biophilic community of caves, nests, dunes and harming people or environment. waterfalls—what could be better? 3. Respond to flood and soil expansion by replacing the soil with a cistern foundation.

Instead of focusing on the limits of the ecological footprint and the daunting constraints of our increasingly limited spatial footprints, I propose that we 4. Share resources at the community level as a built- shift our focus to Conceptual Space footprints: these in principle, so no individual home is taking on the are the footprints of hope, and of the opportunities extreme pressures that climate change is forcing that dot the globe. We need to identify what we have to do, rather than what we cannot do. We estimate upon us. that it might be possible to handle that inflection 5. Do not sacrifice the fact that family is changing as point, Earth’s capacity of 17 billion. The tools for a much as the environment by creating a highly flex- conceptual space paradigm can substantially increase the useful space on earth and give us hope by fueling ible interior environment. the creative mind. Our goal is to create places of op6. Increase equity by offering opportunity independent portunity all over the planet, where the brain is set to of income through a responsive pay-as-you-grow maximize the potential in all of us. type of financing system that is more closely related to the reality of responsible debt-free procedures. 7. Create a love-of-life theme, where nature dominates and the healthy biophilic environment is the overarching objective. The above protocols are part and parcel of a cost-effective building system that creates a community of diversity and well-being for humans and living things. A world of options is possible, including what we call


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PLINY FISK is Co-Director and CoFounder for the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems

So Too Can We A Poem of Regeneration BY JASON F. MCLENNAN

Just as we cut down all the trees, so too can we plant them back Just as we dammed the rivers, so too can we tear dams down Just as we piped the streams, so too can we bring them light Just as we drained the ponds, so too can we fill them back Just as we plowed the plains, so too can we leave them fallow Just as we polluted the air, so too can we filter and clean it Just as we stripped the soil, so too can we compost and return it life But for those species we have lost, forever gone, their songs are silent So too can we mourn their loss and honor their passing with silence

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Editor’s Note: The prevalence of Maori culture and traditions in modern-day New Zealand is unparalleled to many of the world’s indigenous cultures. Like the majority of the world’s indigenous peoples, the Maori were plagued by the effects of colonization. But the resiliency of the Maori people is exceptional, and many of their cultural traditions are celebrated today. A fundamental way this is done is by art and carving. Many carvings are integral parts of buildings, specifically in meeting houses or the Marae. The art of wood carving and the beautiful and intricate details in the carvings preserved genealogical history. Wood carvings stand as symbolism in meeting houses, creating a culturally rich place that is connected to the ancestors and the land, helping to establish a deep sense of community. Below are thoughts from a Maori artist explaining the significance of craft in the fabric of Maori culture.

MAORI CARVING CULTURE Maori art and especially carving, are derived directly from the Polynesian practice of honouring genealogy and priority given to remembering history as a vital element of heritage. Maori art and artistic forms provide creative and extraordinary methods of incorporating history, the recollection of places, and the feats of heroes and villains from the past. Often the recollection of historical deeds and events are symbolised into motifs and patterns inspired by nature. These motifs are often


Summer 2015

interpreted by skillful artists in ways that become signature symbols of tribal and individual identity; therefore, the knowledge of history, relationships and the environment are essential prerequisite skills for aspiring carvers and Maori artists.

Maori art is not merely aesthetic. The function and reason for the work and the materials used to create a piece of art is just as important as the artwork. When work is considered to have a “take,” a or valid reason or rationale, the appreciation of the work in the final analysis is more likely to be much greater than a work deemed to be “koretake” or without reason.

as experts and renowned for the quality of their technical execution when producing their work. Experts who are renowned for the way they produce their work by definition add mana to the overall result of what is aimed for. For example, a meeting house is more likely to be well received by people and therefore better able to perform the function of a hapu or tribal meeting place with honour and heritage when the carvings and Maori art, especially when done in the hapu or iwi con- indeed all the artistic decorations and embellishments text, should be reserved to those who are recognised are well executed by someone of renown, than if it were

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“Experts who are renowned for the way they produce their work, by definition add mana to the overall result of what is aimed for.” merely adorned in a mediocre way by unacknowledged negotiation. A trusted advisor who appreciates the cultural aspects of these considerations is essential to carvers or artists. work toward a successful outcome and the right conCarvers and artists of acclaim develop particular siderations given at the proper time will save time and distinctions and traits to their work, which become resources later in the project, and will ultimately build sought after over time, such as the production of par- to an extraordinary outcome. ticular designs or patterns and the use of unique forms and styles. Even the penchant for particular materials Another feature of Maori cultural artistry that is not can be combined to create the reputations of particu- fully appreciated by the mainstream is what happens lar carvers and artists. In time, according to the vital after the work is completed. The significance of hericonnection that the carver or artist has with their hapu tage and the environment means that work completed and iwi, these respected patterns, designs or forms of- by a renown artist or practitioner will be, once comten become known as tribal styles or distinctions. The pleted, appreciated as part of their body of work and acbest historical examples of this are Raharuhi Rukupo cording to the artist’s connection or clarification with or Rongo Whakaata of the East coast and Wero Taroi their hapu or iwi, may also form part of the heritage of or Ngati Tarawhai of the Rotorua district. Both were the people from whom the design’s motifs and forms active in the early to mid 19th century and used steel originate. Furthermore, the use of natural resources for projects suggests the replacement of those natural chisels exceptionally skillfully. resources by planting trees or plants to be used by fuIn summary, the significance given to the “take” of a ture artists and projects. project should also follow to selecting an artist of the renown and reputation to complete the work well. FurBERNARD MAKOARE is a wellthermore, appreciation of history, genealogy and the respected Maori artist and carver in environment should be combined within the design New Zealand. and production of the work. These are my simple assessments of Maori designs and appreciating these elements into the design of contemporary projects requires some careful “takawaenga,” or planning and


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Net Zero Utility Net Zero Future When Seattle City Light teamed up with NBBJ to power Seattle and the booming South Lake Union neighborhood with a new substation, it saw a chance to inspire its customers too. When completed in 2018, the LBC registered Community Meeting Space and Energy Inspiration Center will produce more energy than they use.

When print quality matters.

Margaret Montgomery |

eco-printing | offset | digital | mailing | large format

McGilvra Place Park, Seattle Designed in tandem with the Bullitt Center

The first “Living Park� certified under the Infrastructure & Landscape Typology of the Living Building ChallengeTM Landscape Architecture

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In a world littered with mass-produced goods, Morgan

The Portland-based group Real Economy Lab is constructing

known for Super Size Me, provides a window into the lives

theory, focusing on connecting disparate groups to create

Spurlock, the American documentary filmmaker best

of artisans, from potters to restaurateurs. Spurlock’s new

short film, Crafted, highlights the essence of craft through the lives of people who embody the concept.

THE EMPHASIS OF “WHY?” Product design is vastly expanding in its meaning; evolving to the digital, interactive realm. As consumers hone their aesthetic capabilities, how can designers stay ahead of

elevating expectations? Fidelity isn’t the same as concept. Good design is a translator of ideas.

LEAVE THE LIGHT ON Today, environmental groups and clean energy companies have a huge opportunity to bring clean energy solutions to developing countries in Africa and Asia. With devices

ranging from solar lanterns to solar mini grids, organizations

are working with developing countries to forge a path toward economic prosperity: a path that could give millions access to energy while reducing climate change.

an online hub for collaborative research on new economic

a stronger, more interconnected economy. To present their research and work in an easily digestible form, they have

generated a “mind map” that visualizes various networks, relationships, and data points around the Portland area. With so many people and interests in the world today,

Real Economy Lab hopes to help everyone become better connected, visually and professionally.

IMAGINE A WORLD OF LIVING PRODUCTS During this year’s NeoCon, the annual furniture and interiors trade show in Chicago, the Living Product Challenge made

a significant impression. On a mission to “set a bar that’s an ideal,” the Living Product team seeks to create momentum

within the design world toward net-positive products: products that are net-zero energy and water, contain locally sourced materials, are free of toxic chemicals, and are made by

companies that treat workers equitably. It might sound like a

lofty goal, but as LPC director James Connelly says, “You put a bar out there, and people will go for it.”

MAKING PROGRESS? Do you have a lead on cutting-edge green building progress in the region? Contact with “Moving Upstream News Lead” in the subject line.


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Alaska’s Kodiak Island, the second-largest island in the United States, was once shackled to an annual diesel bill of $7 million—but today, Kodiak Island has proven that reaching 100% renewable energy is both possible and financially rewarding. 99.7% of the island’s energy comes from wind and hydro, and islanders have seen their electricity rates go down by 2.5%—along with an increase in construction, the creation of even more jobs (including an expansion in the fishing industry), and a rise in tax revenue.



Good branding essentially creates windows into the personalities, interests, and goals companies and the people who work within those companies, so the creation of brands requires care and patience. Helms Workshop, an independent, strategic brand design studio, seeks to reinvent the building of company brands by instilling distinctive character and personality through careful, handmade designs. Their portfolio is filled with work that people can connect with because they can see personality and unmistakably human quality pulsing through the words and images.

FWD: READ THIS! If you have something that should be included here please send it to us at

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In a world littered with mass-produced goods, Morgan Spurlock, the American documentary filmmaker best known for Super Size Me, provides a window into the lives of artisans, from potters to restaurateurs. Spurlock’s new short film, Crafted, highlights the essence of craft through the lives of people who embody the concept.



The Malofiej Awards, considered the Pulitzers for infographics, are given out to recognize brilliance and advancements in infographics. Named after Alexander Malofiej, the Argentinian cartographer and pioneer in infographics, they recognize both his career and the careers of future cartographers. You can learn how to better present your ideas by attending their professional workshop “Show Don’t Tell!” or the annual Malofiej World Summit in Pamplona, Spain.



Orkney Island, just off the coast of Scotland, is also showing that achieving 100% renewable energy is possible. In fact, their combination of wind, solar, and energy sources produce a combined output of 104% of their energy needs. Look up the Orkney Renewable Energy Forum to learn more about their path toward 100% renewable energy.



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