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NUMBER 28, 2010
Signs Environments Graphics Designs
The Sustainability Issue + Design for a Living World + Green Depot + Portland Transit + Design for Good
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How Green is Green? Life cycle analysis and green ratings systems provide the framework for setting—and reaching—sustainability goals in EGD projects. Design for a Living World A landmark exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt focuses on materiality and casts designers as champions of conservation.
40 Green Depot
Engaging (and sustainable) graphics help Green Depot guide its customers toward wise life choices.
Making the Train Portland, Oregon’s TriMet transportation system engineers a third-generation sign system with sustainability in mind.
Value Engineering: The New Reality Value engineering is not just for cost-cutting. It can also be used to drive sustainability goals.
60 Green All Over Again EGD firms are finding new and innovative ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Living in a Glass House An eco-communicator tests sustainability in his office and finds surprisingly easy, cost-effective ways to make dramatic changes.
68 Due Diligence An exhibition of rare Chinese calligraphy serves as the model for sustainable design approaches.
Design for Good It’s a win-win situation when pro bono and “low bono” work matches EGD firms with social causes.
Columns 8 11 13 15 20 24 78 79 80
From the Editor by Leslie Gallery Dilworth Hot ReadsA Special “Green” Edition Book Review Do Good Design, by David Berman Short List Verdant Walk, Chattahoochee Nature Center Up Close Emily Pilloton, Project H Viewpoint A Green Roundtable Design Marketplace Ad Index Get Lost
On the cover: Design for a Living World examines materiality and conservation through the eyes of 10 world-renowned designers. (Photo: Paul Warchol)
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Contributors The SEGD Sustainability Forum Gary Anzalone Kelly David Tom Horton Craig Johnson Dave Miller
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From the Editor
The Sustainability Issue What is the down side of living in better harmony with our natural environment?
we’ve launched a new website, greenresourceguide.segd.org. We invite you to contribute your own research and insights to our community’s collective knowledge base. As Michael Reed, principal of Mayer/Reed and a former member of the SEGD Board of Directors, said recently, “It’s time to ratchet up the dialogue around sustainability and EGD. No, it’s not easy, and it’s not clean. But it’s the right thing to do and we need to be thinking about it every day, in every project, not just the quote ‘green’ ones.” Sustainability is not just about specifying that hot new “green” product with recycled content, he adds. “How much material are we using? Is it necessary? What is its longevity? How easy is it to maintain? These are the technical and material issues we should be looking at if we want to design responsibly.”
Leslie Gallery Dilworth, FAIA firstname.lastname@example.org
Native Americans used the seventh generation as their guiding principle. In the little independent country of Bhutan, high in the Himalayas, the natural environment has the same standing as humans when the impacts of industrial and development decisions are being weighed. Unfortunately, Western societies have espoused a “multiply and subdue the earth” approach. There are few absolutes when it comes to designing with sustainability in mind. Perhaps only one: the fact that everything you design or create has an impact on the natural environment. (Yes, including the paper and energy resources we’ve used putting this issue together.) Identifying and minimizing those impacts seems like a full-time job. It demands that you research a dizzying array of environmental claims and carefully navigate material and process choices, weighing their potential environmental impacts against factors such as longevity, energy use, life cycle, and cost. We can’t provide all the answers. They change every day with every project. But we do believe the answers are worth pursuing, and that is the genesis of this issue. Since its publication of the SEGD Green Paper in 2007, the SEGD Sustainability Forum (formerly known as the Green Committee) has worked to identify sustainable design approaches for environmental graphic design. Committee members developed a Green Audit process that provides the framework for evaluating the sustainability of materials and products, fabrication processes, and projects. This issue builds on the Green Paper, the Green Audit, and work done by practitioners in other design disciplines to identify sustainable design approaches. It begins with an introduction to Life Cycle Assessment and how it can be used to anticipate potential environmental impacts by evaluating inputs (natural resources, energy, etc.) and outputs (emissions, effluents, social and economic impacts, etc.) through life-cycle phases. We also show you how a “green” retail store, a regional transit authority, and two major exhibitions approached sustainability, and how value engineering, digital technology, and building information modeling can all be used to advance sustainability goals. There’s much to learn about how we can minimize the impacts of what we do every day, and we urge you to make it part of your life’s work. We’re committed to helping find the answers—so much so that
What if we redefine business as usual? What if everyone was at the table up front? What if ideas were built upon? Could a new experience produce new results?
What if you got your wish?
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What are You Reading about Sustainability? Mid-Course Correction—Ray Anderson “A wonderful first-person account of an environmental awakening. I read it about 10 years ago and loved it. It was inspiring to understand that change was possible in the greater business community. At that time we were working on green projects with the early adopters such as environmental organizations. Ray’s book gave me hope that green thinking would eventually spread to the business world based on the concept of ‘doing well by doing good.’ Ten years later, that is starting to happen.” —Ken Wilson, Envision
The Green Blue Book: The Simple Water-Savings Guide to Everything in Your Life—Thomas M. Kostigen “A fascinating and eye-opening look at water in our world, soon to become the new oil, a precious commodity that wars will be fought over, and whose market price may become affordable by only the richest. Kostigen analyzes how much of “the water we see” is used in all aspects of our daily lives, as well as “the water we can’t see”—the water used to make energy and grow our food (beef=1,581 gallons water/lb.) vs. turkey (286 gallons water/lb.).” —Sue Gould, Lebowitz | Gould | Design
Sustainability Advantage: Seven Business Case Benefits of a Triple Bottom Line—Bob Willard “Willard shows that the business benefits of sustainable development strategies are quantifiable and real, and executives do not have to be environmental activists to reap these benefits.” —Keith Francis, Acumen Visual Group
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things—William McDonough and Michael Braungart “Curling up with this book and geeking out with concepts like monstrous hybrids, upcycling, dematerialization, technospheres, unmarketables, products of service, bioaccumulative substances, biological and technical nutrients (I could go on) changed the way I think about the design process. I first read the book several years ago, but it’s still as relevant as it ever was, and it’s still my favorite because of the authors’ innovative, big picture, forward thinking.” —Naomi Pearson, Design Consultant/Wildlife Conservation Society
The Silent Spring—Rachel Carson “This book was the genesis of my environmental consciousness—the idea that there are unintended consequences of human technological and social “progress” (in this case, pesticides) on the ecology of our interconnected world.” —Beth Gillispie, Acorn Sign Graphics
Six Degrees—Mark Lynas “Lynas organizes the results of climate science publications by incremental degrees of warming that could happen this century. This is a well written but shocking read that explains the potential risks.” —Tom Bowman, Bowman Design Group
Earth911.com “This is a great website for green news. While it is more consumer oriented, there are many useful features that can apply to business applications, with features such as “Debunked Plastic Myths”— a how-to on plastics recycling, recycled paint manufacturers, and construction materials recycling.” —Tom Horton, Gensler
Are We Doing Good?
by Sue Gould
Do Good Design: How Designers Can Change the World By David Berman Berkeley: Peachpit Press, 2009
Canadian designer David Berman’s book calls us all to account. He reminds us of issues that are hard to confront and that most of us don’t want to think about when we’re trying to decide on the right font that will give the right feeling to the next shopping center logo. In Do Good Design, Berman surveys the sordid and unscrupulous objectives that design (especially graphic design for advertising) is often used to promote, and implores designers to stop allowing themselves to be the tools of uncaring and unethical corporate clients. His selected visual examples are brilliant, many are funny, and they go way beyond the usual indictments of sexism to address the selling of cigarettes, beer, wine, clothes (a killer example: a pedophilic Japanese food package), and the ubiquitous recognition of the Coca- Cola logo everywhere in the world. I do wish these examples were better reproduced. Perhaps intentionally, the book almost looks like it was issued during Samizdat (the underground distribution of anti-government books under the worst years of Soviet repression), with crude black and white photo reproductions and pseudoscribbled marginal comments such as, over a picture of the Dalai Lama, “gonna keep this in the Chinese edition?” Mad Magazine-style. Berman indicts us for supporting a corrupt system in which multinational giants replace indigenous diets with unhealthy, cheap, and inferior products and sell sex, violence, and overconsumption as a lifestyle around the world. And while he addresses primarily graphic designers, we who work on threedimensional expressions of these values share the responsibility. Berman exhorts us that we are more powerful than we know, and so is the imagery we create. “The same design that fuels mass overconsumption also holds the power to repair the world,” he reminds us. His examples are Shepard Fairey’s wildly successful and infamous Obama poster and Robert L. Peters’ formula: “Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future. Design is therefore responsible for the world our children will live in.” It is only in the past decade that a general understanding has emerged that continual expansion and growth is not sustainable on the planet—in fact, in humans we call it cancer. The real question is why we as a society are not content with “enough”—and why enough has to be continually expanded. A recent study reported that the most content people in the world are the Danes. They have one of the world’s highest standards of living,
as well as one of the world’s highest levels of taxation. When I lived there many years ago, the highest pleasure was contentment. They don’t feel they have to conquer the world (they did that already), just enjoy it. Berman also indicts visual lies: Photoshopped impossibilities (such as the physically impossible image of a Ralph Lauren model that made it onto a late-night television monologue recently), which convey impossible goals to young girls. He also challenges us to respond to clients’ requests for work that doesn’t conform to our principles, by suggesting more ethical workarounds (examples of these would make another wonderful book), and he warns: “Ultimately you’ll have the clients (or boss) you deserve.” Of course we are not the only culprits and only a part of the problem. The book ends with a slightly naïve call to pledge not to work on such degenerate projects that corrupt children and stimulate desires for more, more, more. One cannot but agree with him, but it’s not as easy as signing a pledge, is it? Is it better to do the work, and use the profits to support those like The Nature Conservancy or UNICEF, or Doctors without Borders, or the many others who are working all over the world to counter the degradation we have already wrought? Erik Spiekermann addresses this conflict in his foreword, asking how we make these choices of what to work on: “Is designing for a public transit system good but airport signage is bad because only rich people can afford to fly?” and he asks, “What is our responsibility?” His words could not be more prescient: “As we take in the big picture of what this book is about, let’s begin by looking at our immediate reality. Charity begins at home.” I would ask, what are we all individually doing to create an example of a caring and healthy world? Do we weigh the environmental impact of our projects? Could we charge the client less for greener projects and more for those with a heavy carbon footprint? Do we support our staffs’ efforts at recycling? The possibilities are as endless as we want them to be. Sue Gould is president of Lebowitz | Gould | Design Inc., a New Yorkbased diversified EGD and branding organization. She is active with her husband in the work of The Nature Conservancy and serves on the Advisory Board of Island Press, an environmentally activist publisher. segdDESIGN 13
The Verdant Walk Cleveland, Ohio, hopes to transform its Rust Belt heritage into a model for sustainable cities. The Verdant Walk, winner of a juried competition sponsored by Cleveland Public Art, drew inspiration from the dual forces of the cityâ€™s once-mighty steel industry and its blossoming green movement. To juxtapose the historic and the newly emerging, North Design Office (Toronto) designed fabricatedsteel structures that are both organic and evocative of the regionâ€™s steel industry. The high-tech, highperformance tensile fabric stretched over the skeletal steel framework was borrowed from the sportinggoods apparel industry. The forms cluster, herd-like, on Clevelandâ€™s historic downtown mall. Eventscape (Toronto) integrated solar panels into the fabric to charge LEDs that glow from within the forms at night, casting a prescient green glow over the city. The fabric can be removed in winter, exposing the metal skeletons and providing another design option. (Photos: North Design Office)
Integrator: Screen Design
BUILDING VISIONS WITH LED TECHNOLOGY Theatre Le Grand Rex, the most famous theatre and music venue in Paris, wanted to link its 1932 building with 21st century technology, while still conserving the elegance of the faĂ§ade. Daktronics, with the help of integrator Screen Design, manufactured two vertical and three custom, curved video displays to match the shape of the historic theatre. Le Grand Rex advertises upcoming features, show-times and dates on their new displays. Passersby enjoy cutting-edge video featuring 3D characters that interact and move between all of the displaysâ€”content created by Daktronics creative services division. Learn more about the exciting potential of LED video products and discover how we can bring your unique vision to reality. Contact Daktronics today! www.daktronics.com/spectaculars
A River Runs Through It The Chattahoochee Nature Center near Atlanta is dedicated to educating visitors about the ecology of the Chattahoochee River watershed. Echoing the sustainable design philosophies behind the LEED-certified building (designed by Lord, Aeck & Sargent Architecture), hands-on and interpretive exhibits designed by AldrichPears Associates (Vancouver) and fabricated by 1220 Exhibits (Nashville) are focused on empowering visitors to be active stewards of the watershed. To minimize environmental impacts, the team reduced the need for exhibit lighting by maximizing daylight, reduced the use of potable water by recirculating and filtering all water in the exhibits, designed and built robust and easy-to-maintain exhibits for longevity, and reduced the volume of virgin materials used by re-purposing found objects. 1220 created a collection of native animals made from salvaged household items, including a giant catfish whose scales are discarded CDs. The result is an exhibition that reflects the center’s message of limited resource use and recycling and echoes its tagline, “dedicated to the river that runs through all of us.” (Photos: Scott Denton Photography)
June 2- 5, 2010
SEGD A nnual Conference + E X PO
Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center Washington, DC
SEGD 1000 Vermont Ave., NW | Suite 400 Washington, DC 20005 www.segd.org
Designing for Humanity Emily Pilloton’s Project H uses design to empower the socially overlooked.
Emily Pilloton is a 28-year-old architect, industrial designer, and writer who gave up commercial design to establish Project H, a nonprofit focused on need-based design that empowers individuals, communities, and economies. Project H design teams have designed water transportation devices for a community in South Africa, learning playgrounds for schools in Uganda, the Dominican Republic, and North Carolina, and social programs in Austin, Los Angeles, Mexico City, San Francisco, and London. Pilloton is also the author of Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People. Her promotional tour for the book was a two-month lecture series and mobile exhibit staged in the 27-ft. Airstream she calls home. She’ll be a keynote speaker at the 2010 SEGD Conference + Expo June 2–5 in Washington, D.C.
Q: You’ve been written up everywhere and even appeared on The Colbert Report to talk about your work in humanitarian design. What do you think all the fuss is about? Pilloton: I’m glad there’s a lot of attention being paid to this kind of work. I hope it inspires designers to realize they can actually do what they do and also help people. But the hype also bothers me. To me it indicates there’s a lot of talking but not a lot of actual work going on. In the next year, we hope to transform all the hype and energy into real work. Q: You believe that design is a perfect framework for tackling the world’s Big Problems. So why aren’t more designers social activists? Pilloton: A lot of designers go into design because it’s a great way to solve problems. Then they graduate and all of a sudden they have all these student loans, and they go to work in corporate environments,
and suddenly it’s all about making money. The original ideas get lost. So many designers are looking for ways to do this kind of work, and I’m hoping Project H inspires people to realize they can actually do it. Q: Has our design education system failed by not encouraging social activism? Pilloton: I don’t necessarily see it as failure. A lot has changed in
the past few years. Before, it was all about designing “stuff” for the luxury market. Now design students don’t care about that. They see so many social issues that we just can’t ignore any longer. They want to design things that matter. So students are ready to do this work. It’s the educators who are behind, and need to figure out ways to teach it. Q: Tell us about your own design career. Pilloton: I can’t honestly remember how I ended up in architecture, but it was a great fit for me. When I completed my undergraduate architecture degree at UC Berkeley, I wanted to step out of the theoretical and work more with my hands. I chose the Art Institute of Chicago because they had 50,000 square feet of shop space and an amazing array of equipment. You can make anything there. Right out of grad school, I was making furniture in my attic. Then I got this big order from Neiman Marcus. But that also was the moment when I realized I didn’t want to be doing this kind of work. They wanted to use the product for one season in one of their boutiques. I finished the job, but stopped doing that kind of work. After that I worked for a furniture company, then for a retail clothing company doing store and fixture design. I was only there three weeks when I had this watershed moment during a four-hour meeting about doorknobs. I quit right after the doorknob meeting. I’d already been writing for Inhabitat, then was promoted to editor. It was exciting, because I realized I could curate a conversation, not just about design, but about sustainability.
Opposite Project H has helped schools in Uganda, the Dominican Republic, and North Carolina (shown) build math “learning landscapes” that consist of 25 school bus tires and a system of games and activities. “Kids learn so well through moving around and bouncing off the walls and playing games. We wanted to create an experience instead of a product,” says Pilloton.
Africa, then worked with product consultancy D2M and Engineers Without Borders to redesign them for easier shipping and lower cost. Bottom To promote her book, Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People, Pilloton embarked on a two-month lecture series and mobile exhibit staged in her vintage 27-ft. Airstream.
Below In 2008, Project H donated and shipped “Hippo Roller” water transportation devices to a community near Johannesburg, South
I felt the sustainability conversation was lacking because it focused just on environmental issues, not on social issues. And so finally I realized I needed to be doing the work instead of talking about it. Q: So that’s how Project H came about? Pilloton: Yes. It was probably the worst business decision ever. I just set up a nonprofit figuring that if I set up a legal entity, it would force me to get going. Project H is based on the premise of product design initiatives for Humanity, Habitats, Health, and Happiness. We’re a team of designers, architects, and builders who engage at the local level with social service organizations, communities, and schools to improve the quality of life for the socially overlooked. Our latest long-term project is Studio H, a one-year high school program that combines design thinking, vocational trade skills training, and community citizenship for low-opportunity teens in Bertie, N.C. Q: How do your projects get funded? Pilloton: Most of the work we do is pro bono, but for some of the
ongoing projects we’re doing in North Carolina, we’re charging a basic architectural fee of $15 per hour, just so that we can set it up as a real project and have a contract. Our design teams are made up of volunteers who are doing their own full-time jobs and working 20 to 25 hours per week on our projects. We’re funded almost entirely by individual donations that average about $50. We’ve had two small grants, but for the most part it’s crowdsourcing. We figure if we have 35,000 Twitter followers, we’re going to ask them for $5 each and that’s our budget for the whole year. Q: What would you like to change about design? Pilloton: The number-one lesson we’ve learned is, Don’t just sit around and talk about this stuff. Do it. It’s okay if you have no idea how to do it and it’s okay if you have a failure or two along the way. Number two, working outside of design is an amazing opportunity. As part of our work in Bertie County, my partner Matthew Miller and I are getting certified as high school teachers. When you put designers in roles that are not about design, the things we’re trained to do have a real impact. And three, design activism should start in your own back yard. One of our principles is that design teams have to work locally. We need to nurture the bottom of our own pyramid, not fly worlds away and presume we know how to solve their problems. We can all see huge needs in our own backyards, in places where we’re invested. That’s where the best work happens. segdDESIGN 21
Leading the Way Seven leaders in sustainable innovation share their thoughts on what’s important to them, and how they are instigating change.
Name Tom Horton Occupation Design director/senior associate, Gensler Perspective Member, SEGD Sustainability Forum Q—How do you introduce sustainable thinking into your design
conversations with clients? A—Our clients often ask, “How will going green impact my project’s budget and process?” To answer that question, at Gensler we’ve developed four tiers of sustainable design practice to guide us. Tier 1, Basic Practice— To be implemented on every project with minimal cost impact, if any; Tier 2, Good Practice— May be incorporated on most projects with minimal cost impact; some design impacts; requires client approval; Tier 3, Best Practice— For clients with strong sustainable commitment; may result in higher first costs, significant design impacts, and better life-cycle operation costs; requires client approval; and Tier 4: Transformational Practice— May “change the rules of the game” in the built environment and business ecosystems; requires significant support from the client, who will be forging new ground toward sustainability. By having these four strategies in place, we can tailor our design’s sustainability to match our client’s expectations and budget. (www. gensler.com) Name Jenny Gitlitz Occupation Director of environmental assessment, Green Depot Perspective Developed and administered Green Depot’s Green Filter system Q—What do you feel is a top health risk associated with products or
design that needs more of our attention? A—I’m concerned about chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system—in both humans and wildlife. Some of the risk from these chemicals comes from using everyday products that contain them, and some of the risk comes from disposal; they end up in waterways where humans and animals consume them again. We need decisive action by industry and government to speed up testing on chemicals of concern, so that the risk to children and ecosystems can be minimized. (www.greendepot.com) 24 segdDESIGN
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Tom Horton, Jenny Gitlitz, Marc Alt, and Brian Dougherty
Name Marc Alt Occupation Founder, Marc Alt and Partners and Aquaponica Perspective Design, research, and strategy dedicated to sustainability and social innovation Q—What do you see as the role of design in helping solve some of
the pressing issues of our time? A—One of the defining roles of design in this century is re-aligning human and natural systems—whether it’s taking design cues from plants, animals, and ecosystems to solve problems, or harnessing the power of the sun to produce an abundance of energy and food with zero waste. Nature provides us with 2 billion years of field testing to draw endless ideas from. With the world’s population expected to grow by 2 to 3 billion in the next few decades, now more than ever we need elegant solutions to meet increasing demand for energy, food, water, clothing, and shelter. It’s an incredible time to be a designer. (www.marcalt.com) Photo: Gen Kanai, Creative Commons Name Brian Dougherty Occupation Partner, Celery Design Collaborative Perspective Author of Green Graphic Design and inventor of the “Design Backwards” methodology Q—As a trailblazer, have you begun to think of next steps for your
design practice since coming out with your book Green Graphic Design last year? A—We’re looking for ways to reach more people and drive sustainability issues more into the mainstream of brand communications. We do “green” design projects, but we’re pushing
clients to go beyond the eco clichés. Those typical leafy logos and campaigns are too vague and ineffective at building trust. Green design is becoming less of a special, occasional thing and more of a thing that is embedded in all the ways a company communicates a brand. It’s like we’re shifting from presenting green design as diet food to presenting green design as comfort food—something you gravitate toward because it makes you feel good, not because it minimizes your guilt.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT David Bergman, Summer Rayne Oakes, Mark Dorfman, and Tim McGee
One big shift I see for the design industry is that creative agencies need to get comfortable with a much higher standard of proof for the marketing claims we work with. Lots of clients are used to the old cheerleading model of marketing, which tends to lead to unsubstantiated “me-too” claims and greenwashing. We spend a lot of time shifting company cultures toward real transparency. I see it as an essential part of contemporary design communications. (www.celerydesign.com) Name David Bergman Occupation Lectures on sustainable design and teaches at Parsons School of Design; founded Bergworks GBM, a multidisciplinary design studio Perspective Bergman’s design approach emphasizes the transparent inclusion of sustainable/ecodesign principles to architecture, interiors, and product design. Q—How do you instill the concept of Systems Theory (all life forms
being interrelated) into your students’ design thinking? A—It varies somewhat with the department I’m teaching in (architecture, product design, design management, etc.), but I generally present the evolution of ecodesign from the 3R’s to a cradle-to-grave approach, then on to cradle-to-cradle thinking and the Triple Bottom Line (including social issues). In the C2C section, we discuss the concept of Spaceship Earth and how, in a closed-loop system, nothing is independent, along with the related concept of zero waste as practiced by nature. In some classes, I add a related discussion of the Cartesian approach to science (analyzing things by understanding their smallest parts) versus the
systems approach (looking at how the whole system works). Time (and attention spans) permitting, we may view Mindwalk, which presents systems thinking via Fritjof Capra’s adaptation of his book The Turning Point. (www.cyberg.com) Name Summer Rayne Oakes Occupation Model-activist, author of Style, Naturally, and founder of S4 Style Inc. Perspective Cause-related modeling and innovative sustainable design/development to promote sustainability issues through fashion and media; member of the board of advisors for Discovery Network’s Planet Green ecolifestyle network Q—How has your background in entomology and environmental
science shaped your vision of design for a more sustainable future? A—My studies in ecology at Cornell University taught me to see the interconnectedness of our actions and inactions. For instance, the organic chemicals found in our food systems were being reconstituted in our waste streams from the chemical load in our everyday products like detergents and toothpaste. The very products that we use to “clean” ourselves were polluting our own environments. In addition to this, insects and other small creatures are usually the first biotic indicators that reveal our environment may be out of whack. Colony collapse disorder, algae blooms, infestations, or a lack of insects are tell-tale signs we need to bring balance back to our ecosystems. Last, the way the abiotic and biotic world interacts, organizes, and functions can inform the way we design our materials, living systems, products, and built environment. The strength of a strand of silk from a Bombyx mori caterpillar, the oxygenated plastron of an Elmidae beetle, the spiraling sequence of a chambered nautilus, the armored keratin of pangolins, and the ventilation systems in a termite mound are evolutionary marvels that can inform life and design. The more we can mimic nature, the better off we’ll be. (www.summerrayneoakes.com) Photo: Ninelle Efremova Name Mark Dorfman Occupation Green chemistry naturalist and member, Biomimicry Guild Speakers Bureau Name Tim McGee Occupation Biologist at the Design Table, Biomimicry Guild Perspective Biomimicry Guild founder Janine Benyus named biomimicry as an emerging discipline that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s designs and processes. Q—Using the concept of biomimicry as a guide, how can paints,
metals, fabrics, etc. be made more durable and at the same time less toxic for the environment? A—Organisms create colorful, high-performance materials that are appropriate in their manufacture, use, and disposal. We [humans] produce materials that often require mining and refining operations, leading to increased energy use and pollution. Living organisms can’t afford these kinds of expenses up front and instead use two major categories of polymers (proteins or polysaccharides) or abundant minerals (carbonates and silicates) for all materials. Their materials are produced using life-friendly chemistry at ambient temperatures and pressures. Successful materials creation in the natural world depends upon controlling how these polymers and minerals are arranged from the nanoscale on up. Learning how organisms achieve such elegant materials processing is an important and critical step in creating appropriate materials for a regenerative future. (www.biomimicryinstitute.org) segdDESIGN 25
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SEGD Green Resource Guide greenresourceguide.segd.org The SEGD Green Resource Guide is a forum for sustainable innovation in environmental graphic design. It is an initiative of the SEGD Sustainability Forum (originally named the SEGD Green Committee). In 2007, SEGD released the SEGD Green Paper, a document outlining best practices, strategies, and approaches for sustainability in environmental graphic design. Since then, the SEGD Sustainability Forumâ€”a group of designers, fabricators, and manufacturers active in EGDâ€”has continued to update and expand on the issues in the Green Paper by collecting new case studies, preparing audits of projects, processes, and products, and researching resources. If you would like to contribute to the SEGD Green Resource Guide or the SEGD Sustainability Forum, contact Craig Berger at email@example.com.
Society for Environmental Graphic Design The global community of people working at the intersection of communication design and the built environment.
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How Green is Green? Life Cycle Assessment can shed new light on the design and fabrication process and help illuminate environmentally preferable choices. By Naomi Pearson
What do we mean when we say “green”? Everything we make takes a toll on the environment. Even “green” solutions impact the environment in one way or another. It’s those environmental impacts—starting from how we source raw materials through how the results of our designs are used and disposed of—that determine how sustainable our solutions are. By anticipating environmental impacts using Life Cycle Assessment during the design process, we can better equip ourselves to make environmentally preferable decisions. LCA analyzes the environmental impacts of a product or process by compiling and evaluating energy and material inputs and environmental outputs during five life-cycle phases. Who is using LCA, and how?
In the 1960s, when concerns over limited raw materials and energy first became widespread, LCA models were created to assess energy use and to project future resource supplies and use. Fast-forward to
2010, and LCA is increasingly being adopted by designers galvanized by heightened environmental awareness. For those seeking indepth analysis and accountability, LCA provides a sound benchmark applicable to a range of disciplines. The U.S. Green Building Council is taking steps to incorporate LCA thinking into LEED standards, including developing an LCA Environmental Impact Calculator. LCA software such as Okala by Sustainable Minds and Sima Pro by Product Ecology Consultants are used to quickly calculate the environmental impact of product design variables. Sustainable Minds LCA co-founder Terry Swack’s inspirational “aha” moment occurred in 2006 when the USGBC’s LEED guidelines were integrated into the software Revit. Realizing there was no software standard for other design fields, she created one informed by metrics based on industrywide data. The software works by breaking down problems into their component parts, enabling quick, informed trade-off decisions.
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D7JKH7B H;IEKH9;I This diagram shows the breadth of environmental inputs and outputs resulting from the five life cycle phases of a design. Life Cycle Assessment evaluates the inputs and outputs that occur during each phase. Social and economic outputs are included here to take into account the Triple Bottom Line, as illustrated in the Rainforest Alliance’s work (see sidebar). As a whole, LCA reveals a comprehensive view of environmental impacts resulting from a product or process. (Graphics: Naomi Pearson, based on an EPA model)
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has defined a standard for using LCA to assess the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product, process, or service. Apple Computer uses what it calls a “Life Cycle Impact” calculation to illustrate how Apple holds itself accountable to LCA phases. The International Organization for Standardization, the world’s largest developer and publisher of International Standards, recommends LCA principles for environmental management. And for print design, ISO 14000 Certified printers offer compliance with LCA principles set by the ISO.
Method Life Cycle Assessment Approach impacts by compiling energy and material “inputs” and analyzing potential environmental “outputs” through five life-cycle phases
Using LCA in EGD
During the past several years, the SEGD Sustainability Forum (Green Committee) has issued a Green Paper, supplied green audits, covered sustainable lighting methods, discussed EGD’s relationship to LEED, and provided material guides, among other sustainable strategy initiatives. SEGD’s new Green Resource Guide website (greenresourceguide.segd.org) outlines and builds on the forum’s work. LCA principles can also build on this groundwork by providing a comprehensive approach to considering the environmental impacts of graphics in the built environment. This comprehensive approach begins by plugging sets of EGD variables into the five LCA phases early in the project design process. By evaluating how the environmental impacts of each phase contribute to the project’s overall sustainability, EGD practitioners can make decisions and trade-offs to achieve the best results overall. Here are just a few examples of how typical EGD variables can be applied to the five LCA phases. Phase 1: Raw Material Acquisition
Assesses Environmental impacts of tapping into our natural resources by acquiring virgin, raw materials Sustainable EGD strategies · Re-use of existing panels, posts, or hardware conserves material and energy that would otherwise be used for processing and manufacturing of new material. Re-use also eliminates environmental outputs such as manufacturing by-products. · Natural resources can be preserved by choosing products containing raw materials that have been sustainably harvested by, for example, the Rainforest Alliance and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. · Bioplastics made from renewable, non-edible plant substances like castor oil are on the rise as healthy alternatives to petroleum-based plastics derived from fossil fuels.
1) Raw material acquisition, 2) manufacturing 3) fabrication and distribution, 4) energy use/ maintenance, and 5) waste management
allows access to manufacturing information direct from product makers. Getting around information roadblocks can sometimes be tricky, but the payoff is better-informed decision making.
Phase 3: Fabrication and Distribution
Assesses Environmental impacts of signage fabrication through installation Sustainable EGD strategies · Use of mechanical installation and mounting hardware, or specification of water-based adhesives, eliminates the use of toxic adhesives. · Keeping standard material dimensions in mind early in the design process enables the maximization of sheet sizes, print media widths, etc. The end result is less wasted material. · Fabricating locally and shipping materials the shortest distance possible, using green packing materials, is ideal.
Phase 2: Manufacturing
Phase 4: Energy Use/Maintenance
Assesses Environmental impacts of the material manufacturing process, from material and energy used to industrial by-products created Sustainable EGD strategies
Assesses Energy used during the lifetime of a design, and the amount of energy required to maintain it. Lighting and/or electronic components often determine how much energy will be used.
outputting by-products into the waste stream as toxic effluents. · Use of dynamic media such as digital displays or handhelds such as smart phones can eliminate the manufacture of signage updates. Some electronic display manufacturers are talking about offering better manufacturing choices, such as mechanical parts free of arsenic and halogen, and heavy metal- and halide-free glass substrates for LCDs.
Sustainable EGD strategies · Installation of dimmers encourages energy savings. · Energy used by electronic displays is weighed against the benefits of updating messaging without replacing sign components. Consideration of environmental pro’s and con’s determines the best outcome. · Emphasis on durability for long-term installations minimizes the amount of energy and resources required for maintenance over time.
· Closed-loop manufacturing processes re-use by-products rather than
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Phase 5: Waste Management: Re-use, Recycling,
Sustainable design literacy
Beginning with initial design concepts, checking design and fabrication scenarios against a Life Cycle Assessment model informs the design process and makes us better designers. As our sustainable design literacy develops, the words we use become more meaningful. “Sustainable,” “eco-friendly,” “environmentally preferable,” “innovation,” and the ubiquitous “green” become quantifiable. These words gain integrity when backed up by an assessment of positive and negative environmental inputs and outputs. The more we know about the LCA phases—from raw material acquisition to what happens to a design at the end of its life—the better prepared we are to make decisions for a healthier place for all of us to live.
Assesses Whether there is plan in place for environmentally preferable disposal, such as recycling, re-use, or long-term durability Sustainable EGD strategies · A design with a short life span is best served by a sustainable plan for disposal, re-use, or recycling of signage components. A future plan for re-use or recycling may be predetermined. · Minimizing the amount of material that ends up in a landfill, as always, is best. · Many materials marketed as “biodegradable” do not typically decompose because they are not exposed to oxygen. Instead, methane is generated as waste decomposes under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions. In June 2009, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission began to charge some corporations with making false claims of biodegradability.
Guest Editor Naomi Pearson is a designer, illustrator, and consultant living in Brooklyn, NY. She also works for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Exhibit and Graphic Arts Department in the Center for Global Conservation at the Bronx Zoo. She is a member of the SEGD Sustainability Forum (Green Committee).
Anatomy of a Rating System: The Rainforest Alliance and the Triple Bottom Line The Rainforest Alliance is a rating system that not only evaluates environmental performance, but also social and economic factors. These three interrelated components, coined the ”Triple Bottom Line” by John Elkington in 1994, are evident in the Biosphere Reserve located in the Petén region of northern Guatemala. Here, the Rainforest Alliance—a tree product certifier accredited by the Forestry Stewardship Council—is working on preserving one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in Central America. Jaguars, ocellated turkeys, blue morpho butterfies, capuchin monkeys, scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, and leaf-cutter ants, along with an abundance of plants and microorganisms, ensure biodiversity in the Biosphere Reserve. Greg Minnick, director of the Rainforest Alliance’s TREES program says, “They (trees) provide food and shelter for wildlife and, at a broader scale, are critical to keeping ecosystems functioning by regulating water flows, preventing flooding, protecting soils, and reducing the severity of extreme weather events like hurricanes. Forests also sequester carbon to combat climate change.” Recognizing the equal importance of forests to the livelihoods of lndigenous people who rely on them for commerce, communities that lie within 1.9 million acres of the reserve are shown how to sustainably harvest mahogany, cedar, Santa María, Manchiche, Pucté, Danto, Chechén Negro, and Jobillo wood. The result is fewer wildfires, less deforestation, and community access to new markets as the demand for sustainably acquired raw materials increases. —N.P.
Top Indigenous people living near the Biosphere Reserve rely on the forests for their livelihood. Through the Rainforest Alliance, they’re being trained to sustainably harvest wood products from the region. (Photo: Charlie Watson)
Above The Biosphere Reserve, located in the Petén region of northern Guatemala, exemplifies the Triple Bottom Line approach of integrating environmental performance and social and economic factors. (Photo: Charlie Watson)
GREEN RATINGS A GENERAL OVERVIEW OF 8 RATING SYSTEMS: “GREEN” IS MEASURED BY USING DIFFERENT SETS OF CRITERIA FOR DIFFERENT PRODUCTS AND DESIGN RATING
SYSTEM OF MEASURE
RATED: EGD PRODUCTS AND DESIGN
RATED: OTHER PRODUCTS AND DESIGN
Forest biodiversity, conservation and protection of workers and local communities
EGD Wood: Sustainable forest management, underwater wood salvage, re-claimed or salvaged wood
ARCHITECTURE Building products, furniture, construction material
Materials health (e.g. transparency, toxicity, emissions) re-use, energy, O2, social responsibility
EGD Polymers, glass composites
ARCHITECTURE Building products, carpet, fabric
Indoor air quality; low-emitting, non-toxic products
EGD Adhesives, sealants, wood, concrete, plastic, ceramic, stone, paints
Cradle to Cradle
PRINT GRAPHIC DESIGN Paper products
OFFICE AND HOME Furniture, body cleansers, cleaning, products, bedding, packaging ARCHITECTURE Building products, furniture OFFICE AND HOME Printers, copiers, fax machines, bedding ELECTRONIC Computers, video display
LEED / USGBC
Site, O2 efficiency, energy, materials (grown, harvested, produced and transported; reduce waste, reuse/recycle), indoor quality, education, innovation
EGD Innovation in Design credit, Example: sustainable building
ARCHITECTURE Building design, location, neighborhood design
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)
Internationally recognized standard setting and accreditation
EGD Wood by approved sustainable forest management systems
ARCHITECTURE Building products
SMART/Market Transformation to Sustainability
Environmental, social, and economic benefits. LCA and materials (pollutants, energy, recyclables, bio-based, re-used, and reclaimed)
LCA, ISO standards for products, services and companies
EGD Paints, coatings
Living Building Challenge
Site, O2 , energy, health, materials (CO2, industry, sourcing, conservation, re-use), social equity, beauty, education
FURNITURE Construction material PRINT GRAPHIC DESIGN Paper ARCHITECTURE Building products OFFICE AND HOME Furniture, flooring, textiles, apparel
ARCHITECTURE Windows, doors, floor finishes PRINT GRAPHIC DESIGN Paper OFFICE AND HOME Cleaning products, paper products, food packaging ARCHITECTURE Building design, neighborhood design, landscape or infrastructure design, renovation
Finding time to research materials and processes, sort through the growing number of “green” claims, and break through proprietary information roadblocks can be major challenges for anyone attempting to adopt more sustainable design practices. Third-party rating systems are a reliable way to quickly evaluate
environmental factors that play a part in Life Cycle Assessment. This diagram summarizes eight major rating systems, their criteria, and how they apply to EGD and other design disciplines—providing an informed sense of what these “green” rating systems measure and evaluate. (Graphics: Naomi Pearson)
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Project Design for a Living World The Nature Conservancy
Design for a Living World
Design Museum, New York Green Strategy Artifacts: New uses for sustainably grown and harvested materials Exhibition: Minimize material waste and exploit the natural beauty of sustainably
A landmark exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt casts designers as champions of conservation. By pat matson knapp
harvested materials Materials Chairs: FSC-certified plywood,
he concept of “truth to materials” is nothing new in the design world. Even before the modern architecture movement made it a central canon, designers have always had a love affair with materials, inspired by their textures and behaviors and often testing their limits. But a landmark exhibition presented by The Nature Conservancy pushes the notion of materiality into a new 21st century context, with designers at the center of the dialogue. Design for a Living World challenged 10 of the world’s top graphic, fashion, industrial, and furniture designers to develop new uses for sustainably grown and harvested materials from all over the globe. Staged at New York’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum May 2009 through January 2010 before beginning a world tour, the exhibition tells the stories of their explorations and documents the results. “We saw design as a compelling way to reach people, because we could connect the materials back to the things people use every day,” says Sara Elliott, The Nature Conservancy’s project director for the exhibition. The Conservancy hoped to connect with a sophisticated, urban, and design-savvy audience that might be compelled to become Conservancy ambassadors. That’s why, in 2007, the Conservancy approached Abbott Miller (a Pentagram partner) and Ellen Lupton (the Cooper-Hewitt’s curator of contemporary design and also Miller’s wife) to co-curate an exhibition focused on landscape, conservation, and sustainability. Opposite Pentagram partner Abbott Miller and designer Brian Raby designed mid-century modernist-inspired chairs made from Bolivian jatoba veneers. Their prototype yields three chairs per sheet of FSC-certified plywood with minimal waste. Miller hopes the chairs will be brought to market.
Bolivian jatoba veneer Exhibit: Sustainably harvested Spanish cedar, low-voltage Clikstrips LEDs, steel (recycled content), Medite II (formaldehyde-free fiberboard), aluminum (recycled content) Finishes Exhibit Graphics: Inkjet-printed directly onto aluminum (no additional substrate) Exhibit Frame: Low-VOC flame retardant Production Notes Chairs: 3 chairs per sheet of FSC-certified plywood (minimal waste); can be shipped flat and dry-assembled with no glues Exhibit: Mechanical fasteners instead of adhesives
Right Hoping to attract an urban, design-savvy audience to its conservation efforts, The Nature Conservancy chose the CooperHewitt, National Design Museum as the first exhibition venue. Working in the landmark museum brought some limitations in how the exhibition could be mounted.
“Some important stories to tell”
Miller played a triple role in the project, serving as co-curator, one of the 10 product designers, and the exhibition designer. That sounds daunting, but for Miller it felt completely natural. “The beauty is that you’re always in the position of thinking about design in concert with the content.” Miller and Lupton helped the Conservancy flesh out a concept based on its 2001 traveling exhibition In Response to Place. The Conservancy and curator Andy Grundberg, a photography critic and writer, commissioned 12 photographers to travel to and document some of the world’s most threatened landscapes. The Conservancy liked the idea of building on the successful formula, and agreed to Miller and Lupton’s proposal to pair 10 world-renowned designers with 10 Conservancy sites that offered important conservation stories to tell. “Because this was a series of commissions, we were almost steering the narrative by the choice of materials and designers,” says Miller. Fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, for example, seemed a natural choice to discover the beauty and strength of salmon skin (a plentiful waste by-product of Alaska’s salmon industry) as a clothing material. Known for her unorthodox use of materials, Dutch designer Hella Jongerius was assigned to explore the strange beauty of chicle, found in the Yucatán Peninsula and commonly used for chewing gum. To document the designers’ journeys, photographer Amy Vitale traveled to each location, from Mexico to China. Her images illustrate the progress from material sources to the finished products displayed in the exhibition, helping Miller tell a multilayered story.
Above Design and Production Inc. engineered and fabricated the frame assemblies with no glues; threaded inserts accept socket cap flange screws. Museum rules prohibited attaching the frames to the walls, so they are angled and weighted at the bottom for stability. Right The modular exhibition system includes 9-ft.-tall, latticelike frames that hold project photos dye-sublimation printed on aluminum shingles. Designed to minimize material waste and use sustainably harvested materials, the frames can be disassembled and moved easily for touring.
DESIGN FOR A LIVING WORLD Location Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum New York Client The Nature Conservancy Curators Abbott Miller, Ellen Lupton Exhibition Design Pentagram Exhibition Design Team Abbott Miller (principal in charge, designer), Jeremy Hoffman, Kristen Spilman, Brian Raby (designers) Fabrication Design and Production Inc. Graphic Production Mega Media Concepts Consultants Jeff Nash Lighting Design (lighting) Photos Ami Vitale (exhibition content photos), Paul Warchol (project photos)
“For every project, we talk about place, materials, and designers,” he explains. “Overlaying that is the conversation about sustainability, grounded in the reality of how designers think and work and how they’re inspired by materials. And overlaying that, of course, is the message about The Nature Conservancy’s agenda. Visitors can take in just one of those levels, or all of them.” Framing the exhibition
As Miller had hoped, his own design journey both informed and inspired the visual framework for the exhibition. He and Pentagram designer Brian Raby traveled to the industrial city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to learn how the components of plywood, a major export for the country, are sustainably harvested and made into products. They visited a trade school whose students were using a very sophisticated CNC router to create furniture from Bolivian hardwoods. “They were making more traditional-looking furniture, but we were inspired to explore how you could use a router to leverage the planar aspects of plywood, allowing it to look like and celebrate that it was made out of a sheet good,” Miller explains. Ultimately, he and Raby designed a mid-century modernistinspired, slatted chair made from Bolivian jatoba veneers. Their prototype yields three chairs per sheet of FSC-certified plywood with minimal waste. The pieces could be shipped flat and dry-assembled with a rubber mallet, without glues. Miller extended this design thinking to the exhibition itself, with an eye toward minimizing material waste and exploiting the natural
Left Miller chose the stenciled font Vida for its workmanlike quality and its kit-of-parts aesthetic. Text panels are supplemented by 32-in. LCD displays that show videos about the designers’ assignments.
Below The exhibition framework presents multi-layered stories of the designers, the materials they worked with, the locations they explored, and The Nature Conservancy’s global conservation efforts.
glass recall drafting tables, helping create a sense that the artifacts have just been gathered in the field and laid out on camp tables. “I wanted the casework to be extremely light on its toes, minimal in material consumption, and the opposite of the bulky casework you often see in museums,” Miller explains. The image frames, also made of Spanish cedar, can be reconfigured to fit any dimensions. Text panels in each of the exhibition modules are paired with 32-in. Sony high-resolution LCD displays showing videos documenting the designers’ journeys. Fast-track and sustainable
beauty of sustainably harvested materials. He also wanted to create modular exhibit elements that could be disassembled and moved easily to new exhibit locations. And finally, he wanted to leverage Vitale’s sumptuous photographs. His solution is a system of 9-ft.-tall, lattice-like frames that lined the Cooper-Hewitt’s gallery walls (without requiring attachment to the landmark museum’s floors or walls) and held a series of aluminum shingles imaged with Vitale’s full-color photographs. Customfabricated vitrines of sustainably harvested Spanish cedar, steel, and
The project’s short timeframe and unique materials requirements inspired Pentagram’s decision to partner with Design and Production Inc. (Lorton, Va.) in a design/build process that involved iterative concepting and prototyping, says Dan Moalli, D&P vice president. D&P collaborated with Pentagram, The Nature Conservancy, and graphics provider Mega Media Concepts to meet the project’s rigorous sustainability goals, which called for sustainably harvested wood products, recycled and recyclable materials, avoidance of chemicalbased processes or materials that off-gas destructive chemicals, use
Camp-inspired vitrines are made from FSC-certified Spanish cedar with steel accents, topped by acrylic cases. The display case bases are made of Medite II, a medium-density fiberboard manufactured from 100% recycled or recovered wood fibers bonded with formaldehyde-free resin. Modular LED light strips provide ample lighting while meeting lowenergy requirements.
of mechanical fasteners instead of adhesives, use of energy-efficient lighting, and direct-to-substrate printing to minimize unnecessary layering of materials. Moalli noted that D&P’s work consistently adheres to museum conservation requirements that overlap, and often exceed, current sustainability goals. Sourcing the exotic Brazilian woods that Pentagram specified for the casework proved a challenge. Miller wanted to use a specific FSCcertified Bolivian plywood made from palo maria, yesquero blanco, and serebo woods, recalls Moalli. “We went on a worldwide search looking for it, but we just couldn’t get the relatively small quantities that we needed.” But D&P, which typically fabricates and installs much larger-scale museum projects, tapped into its list of FSC-certified suppliers and recommended Spanish cedar, another certified, sustainably harvested wood. It was ultimately used for the wooden bases of the vitrines and coated with a low-VOC flame retardant finish to meet museum fire safety standards. D&P engineered and crafted the lattice-like frames for the exhibit image panels using no glues. The frame assemblies are outfitted with threaded inserts that accept socket cap flange screws. The metal components of the display tables are made of steel, which contains a high percentage of recycled content and has a high reclamation rate, meaning that it can be recycled repeatedly. The display case bases are made of Medite II, a medium-density fiberboard manufactured from 100% recycled or recovered wood fibers that are bonded with formaldehyde-free resin. The image panels that provide a vivid backdrop to the exhibition are 1/32-in. aluminum shingles made with 97% recycled content, says Anthony Senatore, principal of Mega Media Concepts (Sparta, N.J.). To meet the project’s sustainability goals, Mega Media looked beyond the traditional approach of mounting prints to a pvc-based material. The images were produced using an encapsulated dye-sublimation process and water-based inks. The aluminum is pre-coated with a scratch-resistant coating and the images are printed on paper, then transferred using a heat press, Senatore explains. 38 segdDESIGN
“The image is encapsulated under the coating and is sublimated into the aluminum. That protects the image and the aluminum provides the high-definition photographic look. The quality is better (than traditional prints), it’s more durable, and it maintains an extreme high level of sustainability. Plus it was within budget.” Lighting elements were also chosen with sustainability in mind. To provide ample lighting of artifacts and meet low-energy requirements as well as Miller’s desire for a low-profile look, D&P suggested Ardee Lighting’s CLX Series Clikstrips, modular strips that contain low-voltage LEDs. “You can snap in as many LED modules as you need and it stays relatively cool to the touch,” says Moalli. Because the exhibition will travel, D&P engineered the elements to share parts and disassemble easily. “The idea is to make it easy to take apart and put back together, but not look that way,” laughs Moalli. “That means using joinery techniques to hide fasteners and joints and creating as few seams as possible.” Design ambassadors
The Nature Conservancy reports that more than 150,000 people visited the Cooper-Hewitt during the exhibition’s stay there, and it attracted lots of attention from the press. Both the museum and the Conservancy consider the exhibition a big success. In an age where consumers are so far removed from the origins of the things they use and consume every day, the exhibit managed to convey how closely materiality, beauty, and conservation are linked, says Elliott. And while the Conservancy initially sought to connect with design consumers, they discovered the value of designers themselves as both a target audience and a conduit for communicating the critical links between design, materiality, and conservation. “At first we probably didn’t realize just how important designers are to communicating our message,” she admits. “But as the 10 commissioned designers engaged in the project and dug deeper and deeper into the materials and their uses, we realized that the design community can be an amazing and powerful ambassador—not just for The Nature Conservancy, but for environmental stewardship in general.”
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Green Depot Engaging (and sustainable) graphic communication helps Green Depot customers translate environmental research into educated building and life choices. By Naomi Pearson
reen Depot’s founder, Sarah Beatty, opened her environmental living and building store on the Bowery in Manhattan to much fanfare in early 2009. As one New York Times reporter wrote, “A visit last week to Green Depot, an inspiring new store stocked with environmentally-sound home improvement supplies, greatly reduced my brain’s environmental guilt emissions.” Amidst the food paints, soy concrete stains, and compost bins is an education in what it means to be green. Throughout the store, Green Depot’s “Green Filter” icons guide consumers through their product selections by helping them examine their choices’ impacts on five green living and building criteria: conservation, air quality, buying local, energy use, and social responsibility. A simple but bold graphics system leverages Green Depot’s proprietary icons and reinforces the store’s educational mission, using primarily black and white to express the idea of straightforwardness and transparency. “The big Idea,” says graphic designer Lydia Turner (New York), “was simplicity, clarity, and explanation.”
Telling the green story
Beatty wanted to define how Green Depot sees “green,” giving shoppers a clear context for all the considerations involved. She also wanted to share the stories behind the individual products. ”Every product has a story—and a shared interest in creating something ‘better,’ ‘smarter.’ Whether it’s insulation made out of denim offcuts or paint made from food-based ingredients, or lumber that is harvested from sustainably managed forests, cool stories of innovation are inspiring,” says Beatty. Architect Colin Brice of Mapos LLC (New York) developed the store concept around a collection of what he calls “interactives”— informative stations that allow customers to benefit from the in-depth research done by Green Depot’s own advisory council. The council ensures that Green Depot offers high-performance products that are truly green and not just “greenwashed.” The retail space itself is a working example of re-use, adaptation, and sustainability. The building’s existing brick walls, wood-beamed ceiling, tile floors and columns, and stone lintels, for example, were restored and integrated with new building materials from Green Depot’s stock. Mapos’ articulation of the space owes much to the graphic statements Turner was developing at the same time. “We were often in working sessions developing the materials and construction details of a certain fixture in conjunction with how Lydia was developing signage,” notes Brice. “Prime green principles were best communicated—and understood by the customer—by reinforcing the built work with graphics and vice versa.”
What is Greenwashing? Green Depot explains the concept of “greenwashing” as “a term used to describe exaggerated, misleading, or inaccurate statements by a company regarding the environmental benefits of a product or service, or the environmental practices of the company.” Green Depot’s advisory council, made up of expert consultants from fields such as health, education, energy, real estate development, and architecture, ensures that customers receive accurate, up-to-date information on products they’re considering for purchase.
Opposite Green Depot is housed at 222 Bowery, an historic landmark that was New York’s first YMCA, home to the likes of artists Mark Rothko and Fernand Leger as well as beat writer William S. Burroughs. Original architectural details were preserved in Green Depot’s renovation. (Photo: Aimee Herring) Left Green Depot’s Green Filter icon system helps shoppers evaluate products based on
air quality, conservation, social responsibility, energy use, and buying local. (Photo: Dave Pinter/ PSFK.com) Below Oversized versions of the Green Filter icons, cut from 65% recycled-content sheet metal, are visible as shoppers enter— signaling the store’s commitment to accessible, simplified information about its products. (Photo: Dave Pinter/PSFK.com)
The store’s lighting booth, for example, uses bold graphics to show how low-energy light bulb options compare with traditional incandesecents, while demonstrating how their light quality affects different architectural finishes. Green accessible
Green Depot’s icon system, designed by Dimitrious II (Brooklyn), was designed to illustrate product attributes at a glance, simplifying all the complex variables and trade-offs of sustainability, says Donald Franklin, Dimitrious II principal. “The objective was to build a system where environmental concerns, lifestyle concerns, and building industry could exist in one conversation,” he says. “Sarah Beatty would say, ‘Make it ‘green’ accessible.’” Steering clear of stereotypical “green” elements such as trees and sunny skies, the Dimitrious team wanted the icons to “open up a “direct and emotive conversation,” adds Franklin. Popular culture icon elements served as reference points, helping the designers “understand how society is communicating through simple, easily identifiable symbols.” Shoppers are introduced to the icon system as soon as they enter the store. Oversized icons cut from 65% recycled-content sheet metal are mounted to an exposed brick wall immediately visible inside the entry. Throughout the store, updatable versions of the individual icons are printed on 5x7-in. or 8.5x11-in. kraft paper and
slipped inside simple, re-usable acrylic frames. The kraft paper can be recycled when products are changed or descriptions are edited based on new research. Behind the graphic expression of the icons lies the work of Jenny Gitlitz, Green Depot’s director of environmental assessment. Gitlitz developed and administers the Green Filter system, including the awarding of icons to new products. Invention informed by frugality
Store graphics present fresh, inventive vehicles for sustainable messaging. A frugal selection of recycled and re-used objects reduced the need for sourcing new signage material, underscoring the store’s green mission. In the children’s section, stuffed penguin “signs” made of organic canvas were hand-sewn by Turner and artist Shabd Simon-Alexander and secured in place with salvaged weights from a flea market. The familiar “Home Sweet Home” sentiment is playfully reinterpreted on an embroidered sampler featuring a Henry David Thoreau quote: “What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” The embroidery is framed by a re-used junk store find. A desk made from a salvaged door and an old steel restaurant prep table (from Build it Green in Queens, the city’s only non-profit retail outlet for salvaged and surplus building materials), displays products.
Project Green Depot store, New York Green Strategy adaptation and sustainability; Opposite left A lighting booth— one of several “interactive” stations Mapos LLC designed to give shoppers the benefit of Green Depot research—was made from formaldehyde-free MDF instead of pvc or foamboard. (Photo: Dave Pinter/PSFK.com) Opposite right Graphic designer Lydia Turner used primarily black and white to express the idea of straightforwardness and transparency. Graphics provider One Source painted the lettering directly on the floor using Ivy Coatings, a zero-VOC, non-toxic paint manufactured locally. (Photo: Lydia Turner) Left above Green Depot gives shoppers the backstory behind such issues as sustainable lighting options, using simple graphics to compare low-energy bulb options with traditional incandesecents. (Photo: Lydia Turner) Left and below At the store’s “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refill” cleaning bar, bar tap handles with custom-designed labels pour no-VOC cleaners into re-usable containers. (Photos: Aimee Herring and Dave Pinter/PSFK.com)
proprietary Green Filter icon system for evaluating building and household products Materials Organic cotton, flea market finds, salvaged goods, dustless chalk on re-usable chalkboards, formaldehydefree MDF, Earthworks 88% recycled plastic store gift cards, 100% recycled paper, 3form ecoresin Finishes Zero-VOC Ivy paints applied directly to walls and floors (no additional substrates), soy ink by Amraninc Production Notes Unconventional materials and finishes tested extensively to ensure success
Working example of re-use,
Below A classic “Home Sweet Home” embroidered sampler is reimagined as a Henry David Thoreau statement on the planet we call home. (Photo: Lydia Turner) Bottom Stuffed penguin “signs” made of organic canvas sit in the children’s section, secured in place with salvaged weights from a flea market. (Photo: Lydia Turner)
Signage: material as message
Location New York
Green Depot’s mission and message are reinforced in signage ranging from hanging chalkboards to recyclable product category signs made from cardboard boxes wrapped in kraft paper and stenciled with locally sourced, zero-VOC Ivy Coatings paint. Three-dimensional letterforms used to spell out building construction terminology were made entirely from Green Depot materials by local art fabricator Jake Klotz. The words “insulate,” “skin,” “frame,” and “pour” are cut out of the same materials used in those product categories. “The “insulate” sign is made from radiant barrier insulation, cotton UltraTouch, Cel-pak (recycled newspapers), and Roxul mineral wool. The “skin” sign is cut from QuietWood sounddampening plywood, low-emitting particleboard, and Advantech OSB. The “frame” sign is made from steel studs and FSC wood, while the “pour” is concrete containing reclaimed fly ash. Andrea Lewen, senior account executive for project fabricator One Source Visual Marketing Solutions (New York) says the One Source team tested the environmentally preferable materials and methods Turner was interested in to make sure the print quality was good. One Source researched newly emerged materials and substrates as options if the test results were unsuccessful. “There was a lot of back and forth but we were all on the same page and trying to accomplish the same thing,” says Lewen. Direct-to-substrate imaging was also used in store signage to minimize the materials used. Stenciled letters were painted on the walls using low-VOC Ivy Coatings paint, a local product. “Supporting local manufacturers is something Green Depot is very committed to,” says Beatty. Gitlitz explains the store’s reluctant use of vinyl, due to its suspected toxicity. “There were a few cases where we reluctantly had to use PVC lettering on wall signs. We really did not want to, since we strive to exclude vinyl-containing products in the store, but the alternative materials we explored for those wall sites were technically infeasible. I felt that in these cases, an exception could be made because the total amount of material used was very small (at most, a few ounces of stenciled-letter PVC), and because it facilitated customer education about green in the best possible way.” Green Depot also relies heavily on the perspectives of non-profit environmental organizations that have collected and analyzed evidence about PVC, including the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, the Healthy Building Network, and the National Resource Defense Council.
Client Green Depot Design Team Mapos LLC (architecture, experience, and interior design), Colin Brice, Caleb Mulvena (principals in charge) Dimitrious II (filter icons and Green Depot identity), Donald Franklin, Kareem Collie (principals in charge) Lydia Turner (in-store graphics) Consultants Shine Engineering (MEP engineering), IDEA Engineering (structural engineering), Kinetix LLC (LEED consultant), Johnson Light Studio (lighting consultant) Fabrication One Source Visual Marketing Solutions (in-store graphics), MSD Visual (signage), SAAW Inc. (exterior sign), MG Concepts (fixtures), Good News, Auburn Sun Corp. (3D letters), NYCT (general contractor)
Setting the bar higher
The Bowery store received the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Platinum certification in early 2010. But Green Depot has its sights set even higher than achieving LEED’s top rating. The store maintains its own rigorous standards for vetting and communicating environmentally preferable building and living products. Five Green Depot Advisory Council members continue to inform the store’s inventory and messaging. Products undergo the store’s stringent Green Filter process before hitting the shelves. And the results of this layered vetting system continue to be translated into engaging, straightforward graphic communications. Environmentally preferable choices are accessible to anyone who steps off the street and into the store. Guest Editor Naomi Pearson is a designer, illustrator, and consultant living in Brooklyn, NY. She also works for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Exhibit and Graphic Arts Department in the Center for Global Conservation at the Bronx Zoo. She is a member of the SEGD Sustainability Forum. 44 segdDESIGN
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Project TriMet light-rail and bus system, Portland, Ore.
Modularity, durability, reduction of physical sign footprint to minimize material use, appropriate use of technology
Making the Train
Materials Efficiency of messaging (reducing material volumes used for information
Mayer/Reed applies sustainable design approaches in its revamp of signage for Portland’s TriMet transit system.
pylons), real-time digital displays (minimizing the number of signs),
By Jenny S. Reising
accommodation for energyefficient LED lighting Production Notes Interchangeable modular
fter almost two decades working with Portland’s TriMet transit system on signage for its bus and light-rail lines, Mayer/ Reed has learned some important lessons about providing information to public transit users. The first two are perhaps not that surprising: build to last and anticipate change. Durability, timeless aesthetics, and maintenancefriendly designs are critical to a system that gets a lot of use (and abuse) and requires constant information changes. Lesson three is not as obvious, but just as important, says Mayer/ Reed principal Michael Reed: “Less is more.” “The most important goal is to communicate well with users—to make sure they can navigate the complex world of transit information,” says Reed. “That means providing the right amount of information in the right places and meeting universal accessibility goals. Our work with TriMet has shown us that we can now communicate better with less—less materials, less signs, and less real estate.” All three lessons are important pillars of a sustainable design approach that Mayer/Reed applied to the design of third-generation signage for TriMet. Reed believes sustainability is not just about using recycled materials or the hottest new “green” material out there.
parts for adaptability and upkeep, minimizing replacement materials used over time, fabrication consultant on design team to “frontload” value engineering
Opposite top The system’s workhorse information pylons comprise 14-ft.-tall, stainless steelclad columns that support customextruded, anodized-aluminum sign cabinets with internally illuminated, push-through acrylic text. Cantilevered, two-sided, internally illuminated sign cabinets can accommodate more energy-efficient lighting sources in the future. Opposite bottom For Portland TriMet’s third-generation transit system signage, Mayer/Reed
designed a modular system that considered life cycle, maintenance, flexibility, and material use. The physical footprint of information pylons was cut by half—saving materials, reducing waste, and minimizing streetscape obstruction. Below The modular system incorporates a minimal number of unique parts that can be used to accommodate a range of configurations. (Drawing: Mayer/ Reed)
15’ 14’ 13’ MAX
C Union Station / NW Hoyt
Union Station / NW Hoyt
Union Station / NW Hoyt
SW 5th & Stark 1
16 43 44
45 54 55 56
57 58 60
Bus 1 6 8 9 10 12 16 17 45 54 55
11’ 10’ 9’ 8’
7’ 6’ 5’ 4’ 3’ 2’ 1’
MAX Light Rail Signs
“We underestimate some of the more obvious things that can make a system more ‘green,’” he explains. “For example, how much material are we using? Is it necessary? What is its longevity? Can we use technology in an appropriate way to provide changing information? Can we design in a modular, scalable way to reduce material costs and waste? These are the basic issues to consider when we’re trying to design responsibly.” Materials: leaner is greener
Mayer/Reed considered all of these questions and more when they embarked on a project to design a new standard for TriMet signage, driven by a corporate identity change and the addition of a new lightrail line that included a segment running through TriMet’s showpiece downtown transit mall. “You learn a lot when you have a 15-year history with a client and see the maintenance issues and how the products perform,” Reed says. That history provided insight on how to create a leaner, more sustainable system that considers durability, maintenance, costs, and, importantly, the way users are accessing transit information. When Mayer/Reed designed the system’s second-generation signage in 1996, porcelain enamel construction was the most durable option available. The workhorses of the system were 3-ft.square pylons with display cabinets on three sides to carry printbased timetables, route maps, and station vicinity maps. TriMet, always a leader in universal accessibility, had also provided room on the fourth side for 2- by 3-ft. tactile station maps.
But 15 years later, users are accessing transit information in radically different ways. Electronic display technology has evolved to the point that information can be delivered in a much smaller footprint, allowing Mayer/Reed to substantially downsize the information pylons and rethink materials and media. “We determined that due to rapidly evolving information technology and customer needs, we really only needed two display cases,” says Reed. “This allowed us to approach the design of station signage in a way that was not so space- and materialsconsumptive.” After walking TriMet through a discovery process, Mayer/Reed was able to streamline the information required on the pylons. TriMet also opted to delete the tactile maps, which had proven of limited value and use. Tactile station identity is now contained on 6- by 9-in. plaques. Ultimately, the information pylons were reduced to a 6- by 12in. footprint that minimizes clutter and obstructions on the crowded city streets. Mayer/Reed recommended cladding the new pylons in stainless steel because it’s easy to maintain—graffiti and other markings can simply be buffed off. It also keeps the structures looking light and airy, a welcome departure from the transit mall’s dark, heavy original design from the 1970s. The new design also addresses vandalism concerns by making the area that is easiest to access, refurbish, and change out 7 ft. and below. The cladding is seamed both vertically and horizontally so that the pylons can be repaired in sections rather than requiring wholesale replacement.
To supplement information on the pylons and replace the cumbersome LED readerboards and CRT monitors of old, LCD monitors are mounted in nearby transit shelters to provide real-time next-train and emergency information—the information that contributes most to users’ perception that the system is reliable and safe. TriMet architect Bob Hastings says the new LCD monitors demonstrate an effective use of the push/pull idea—selectively identifying the information that is pushed out vs. that which customers will pull down—to avoid information overload and minimize the number of signs needed. “That’s one of the lessons of the sustainability movement,” Hastings says. “It’s about judging the appropriate level of technology to use and using it effectively.” In just a 10-year period, Reed observes, TriMet has moved from clunky LED readerboards and CRT monitors to svelte LCD displays and a Transit Tracker system that allows users to access scheduling information from their cellphones and PDAs. “It poses some interesting questions about how to design to accommodate for a rapidly changing technology-based world.” Modularity and frontloading VE
The Mayer/Reed team knew that modularity and mass productionbased manufacturing methods would be the key to designing a system that was flexible, durable, maintenance-friendly, costeffective, and sustainable.
Their strategy was to consider all of the elements needed for station signage, develop a system of interchangeable parts, and minimize the number of unique parts that comprise any sign configuration. To ensure that TriMet could consider all the cost, material, and process choices up front rather than waiting until the fabrication phase—when it’s often too late to make major changes without increasing costs dramatically—Reed decided to frontload the value engineering process by bringing a fabrication consultant onto the design team. “All material and process implications that affected design, performance, and cost were dealt with in schematic design, so TriMet could analyze the exact choices they were making,” explains Reed. “At the end of the design phase, instead of having a complex and sophisticated sign system 65% designed, we had it 100% designed in shop-quality design form.”
Opposite The glass bus shelters were designed to be transparent to enhance storefront visibility. Suspended LCD monitors display real-time information, including when the next train or bus will arrive.
Below Bus stop ID cabinets consist of individual bus tiles that accommodate applied digitally printed messages for changeability. The pylons also contain illuminated pictograms pushed through the stainless-steel cladding.
Right AGI fabricated the pylons using three separate sections of stainless-steel cladding so that if part of the sign is damaged, only a single 7-ft. or smaller panel has to be replaced rather than the entire sign. Below At night, the internally illuminated signs act like light fixtures. The painted internally illuminated sign faces feature push-through graphics that create high-contrast, crisp lettering.
TRIMET TRANSIT SYSTEM SIGNAGE Client TriMet Location Portland, Ore. Design Mayer/Reed Design Team Michael Reed (principal in charge), Rob Wente (project manager/designer) Konstanze Ulland (designer) Consultants Jon Bentz Design (industrial design), Scott|AG (design team fabrication consultants) Fabrication Architectural Graphics Inc. Photos Bruce Forster
He praised TriMet for its willingness to participate in the new approach. “Most clients aren’t willing to pay for this rigor up front. But it really paid off in terms of cost, time, and energy savings. The project was on time and on budget, and there were virtually no costly change orders during fabrication.” The process was rewarding, he adds, “because the more we as designers are empowered with fabrication knowledge, the better our work becomes.” For TriMet, it resulted in what amounts to two different signage systems in one. Mayer/Reed developed two versions of the workhorse information pylon: one for the downtown transit mall and a more economical version for the stations outside downtown. The transit mall includes 114 information pylons comprised of 14ft.-tall, stainless steel-clad columns that support custom-extruded, anodized-aluminum sign cabinets with internally illuminated, pushthrough acrylic text. Internally illuminated pictograms at the top of each column distinguish light rail stops from bus stops. Overhead cantilevered sign cabinets include route destinations, station names, and direction of travel. Schedule and map cabinets are located at eye level. Station-area security features, including CCTV cameras and area lighting, are integrated into the pylon design. Mayer/Reed designed a more cost-effective, stripped-down sign system for five commuter-rail stations (68 signs total) and the I-205 corridor (61 signs total). These signs have a 6-in.-diameter stainlesssteel pipe column construction and feature blue and white sign faces rather than the transit mall’s black and white palette. Both systems employ the same sign cabinets, but the different signposts create unique looks. Room to grow
Project fabricator Architectural Graphics Inc. (Virginia Beach) also geared its value engineering efforts toward sustainability, says Steve Finley, AGI vice president. Mayer/Reed’s design called for dividing the stainless steel cladding into sections with a butt-seam reveal, so that if a sign column is damaged, only the lower cladding needs to be replaced rather than the entire sign. AGI redesigned the sign cabinet mechanism for relamping, using prop sticks similar to holding up a car hood rather than the gashydraulic struts originally specified. This saved money and will spare repair crews some hassle. Finley says the signs are also built to easily accommodate more energy-efficient LED lighting if TriMet decides to switch over from fluorescent lightbulbs. Hastings is well pleased with a system that’s flexible, cost-effective, and scalable for future growth. “At the end of the day, we’ve created a highly rigorous, highly functional, very clear kit-of-parts system,” he says. Moreoever, “The public looks at it and says, ‘It’s gorgeous!’ And that speaks volumes for what we’re trying to do in this region.” Jenny Reising is a Cincinnati-based design writer and editor. 50 segdDESIGN
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Value Engineering: The New Reality In the interest of sustainable practice, we’re all compelled to do more with less. Value engineering can help, if all the stakeholders are on the same page. By Harry Spetnagel
s EGD designers and fabricators, most of us run headlong into the practice of value engineering on a regular basis. Our clients are increasingly driven to demand the most bang for every dollar they spend. Designers are challenged to devise more multi-functional, engaging, and effective programs under tighter budget constraints, while fabricators are challenged to deliver higherquality products for less cost. The movement toward life cycle assessment and other sustainable approaches to design, fabrication, and construction adds a new dimension to the equation. Just as value engineering can be used to create an acceptable balance between performance and cost, it can also be used to advance the sustainability goals of our projects. As EGD professionals, our job is to understand what drives the design and production process so that we can navigate effectively and profitably within this ever-more prevalent reality. Our role as designers and fabricators is to help our clients make informed decisions about the value-engineering process.
Value engineering 101
Value engineering is a systematic method to improve the “value” of goods, products, or services by examining function. “Value” is the ratio of function to cost. Value can therefore be increased by either improving the function or reducing the cost of something. A primary tenet of value engineering is that basic functions of the item in question be preserved, and not be reduced, as a consequence of pursuing
Above and opposite bottom In natural gas company EnCana’s Denver learning and recruitment center, Gensler met multiple programming and functional requirements using digital displays and tactile signage integrated into the glass wall. Room names are
projected using HDLP projectors. Use of dynamic media allows EnCana to leverage the space for a variety of needs. (Fabrication: Arapahoe Sign Arts, Bella Art Glass. Technology integration: Digital Roads, John Whitcomb. Photos: Frank Ooms)
Green Strategy Value engineering to advance sustainable design: modularity; material efficiency/waste reduction; appropriate use of digital technology; energy efficiency Approaches Design/build partnerships; early coordination among designers and fabricators; VE as part of the design process; non-material dependent design; scalable design; materials optimization; simplification of forms; engineered reduction of maintenance issues; designing with user experience in mind
value improvements. While we can all argue the subtle nuances and semantics of this definition, we can agree that this process is tied to the intrinsic relationship between “value/function” and cost. This relationship, as it manifests itself in the minds of all the parties involved in a project, determines ultimately how the “value“ is defined. It also informs the perceived acceptable and real costs that our clients are willing to pay for that value. To understand the dynamics of this relationship, we need to understand the factors that influence it. The design and construction process is in the midst of fundamental change. The arrival of building information modeling (BIM), the shift of more liability to—or being assumed by—the general contractor, the expanding role of the owners representative, and delegated decisionmaking have all contributed to this change. Additionally, the general acceleration of the design and construction process to manage costs and limit exposure has contributed to an environment that is less and less conducive to thoughtful, reasoned, and informed decisions about the relationship between value/function and cost. This environment often leaves some of the best ideas on the chopping block, due solely to lack of understanding about their inherent value and function to the project.
Above When four internationally recognized creative agencies co-located in WPP’s Denver offices, Gensler created a flexible wayfinding strategy that integrates color coding and changeable brand imagery to define individual agency spaces. Minimal use of color and
transparent vinyl graphics play foil to a space that was designed to be a neutral canvas, but is flexible to allow the agencies square footage to expand or contract with minimal operational cost. (Fabrication: Arapahoe Signs. Photo: Blake Mourer)
The sustainability factor
The realities of sustainability add another yet dimension to the value engineering process. Buildings account for an estimated 48% of all greenhouse gas emissions and construction is responsible for upwards of 60% of the annual consumption of the world’s resources. Obviously, the need for change is real. The global focus on efficient and responsible use of resources and efforts to reduce energy, water, and resource consumption are driving us all to be more informed and responsible in our designs. Fabricators are now focused on material efficiency, modularity, recyclability, and reducing the power consumption (both in production and in the use) of the products they make. segdDESIGN 55
Designers are being asked to provide multi–functional, ever more flexible and durable solutions that work to enhance, support, and transform our clients’ businesses. Increasingly, we’re asked to help tell the story of sustainability, whether through an interpretative program that quantifies and communicates the sustainable aspects of any given effort, or by communicating energy and material savings as they relate to return on investment. Through its SEGD Green Paper, the new Green Resource Guide (greenresourceguide.segd.org), and other initiatives, the SEGD Sustainability Forum has outlined many ways that EGD practitioners can engage in more sustainable practices. Common to most approaches is that we are all simply compelled to do more with less. Perspective check
Every client asks how long a project will take and how much it will cost. As EGD practitioners we do ourselves a disservice if we can’t answer those questions. Since most EGD work takes place within the framework of a larger design and construction process, it is important to see this process through the point of view of all of the stakeholders. This perspective check helps us understand each stakeholder’s motivations and illuminates opportunities for improving the process. It goes something like this: Owner/client—Wants the best-quality solution for the least amount of money possible. Sees sustainability as a marketing advantage, societal mandate, and potential benefit to the bottom line. Is frustrated
Above The monument sign and wayfinding system created for T.Rowe Price’s campus expansion utilized locally sourced stone, stainless steel, and a modular component system. Signs were sited to capitalize on existing lighting instead of new internal illumination. (Photo: Harry Spetnagel/Gensler)
Right In the T.Rowe Price office, Gensler designed modular, magnetic sign components using environmentally preferable materials, including Nova Polymer’s NovAcryl ECR photopolymer applied to 3form’s Varia (“Beargrass”) resin, to create a flexible system of conference and room signage. (Photo: Harry Spetnagel/Gensler)
by inability to understand every aspect of a project. Designer—Wants to design the “right/best” solution that is sustainable and both functionally and aesthetically transformative to the client. Is frustrated by tight schedules, reduced budgets, and reduced access to the client. Fabricator—Wants to build high-quality products both efficiently and profitably. Is frustrated by the requirement to bid, build, and install signage from “pretty pictures.” Believes sustainability should be weighed against longevity and performance. Sees material efficiency as an increased potential for profitability. Contractor—Wants to deliver the project on time with the least exposure and risk possible. Believes that time, unresolved issues, and inefficiency cost him money. Owners Rep—Wants to demonstrate that he is actively looking out for his client’s interests. This is most easily proven by his ability to save them money by encouraging value engineering at every opportunity. Questions the “real value” of sustainability. While these perspectives are oversimplified, it’s easy to see how they collide during value engineering efforts. This makes the topic of function—rightly or wrongly—somewhat subjective, unless the purpose and benefits of the object in question are communicated early and often. A call to action
So how can we as EGD practitioners make the value engineering process work to our clients (and ultimately our) benefit? What if we
engaged in more design/build partnerships? What if we embraced value engineering as part of the design process instead of the construction process? These two steps would go a long way toward providing our clients with answers about cost/function much earlier in the design and construction process. If we design in ways that are not material dependent—or that are at least scalable—we can provide our clients with effective solutions that can be accomplished at multiple price points. If designers and fabricators work together to evaluate the form of the objects we design early in the process, more value can be created through optimal use of materials, consideration of longevity, simplification of forms, and engineered reduction of maintenance issues. These steps can make every project more sustainable. As designers, we should focus our efforts on designing for impact, always with the user experience in mind. We must take a deeper interest in the how’s and why’s involved in building our designs—if only to gain a higher level of understanding about their cost and
production. This investment in knowledge will inform the solutions we provide and may lead us to more sustainable solutions. We also must take a more sophisticated role in communicating the function and intrinsic value of what we design for our clients. We should engage clients in a process that aligns the work we do with their strategic goals and objectives, be they cost, brand, coolness factor, function, or all of the above. To do this, we must find a champion within the client organization, show them the “big picture,” and find ways to provide them everyday context for the value of the work. As fabricators, we should streamline and evolve our processes to be as efficient as possible. We should intensify our efforts to bring new and innovative technologies and solutions into our dialogue with designers. We should strive to gain a richer understanding of the design aspects most critical to the client and the designer, recommending options for savings and efficiency early on. We should work to be an informational resource and a sounding board in the design process, with the goal of informing that process to mutual benefit. And finally, EGD practitioners on both the design and fabrication side should engage in honest, direct, mutually supportive professional relationships. We need to take individual responsibility for our own professional development while also making the effort to inform and learn from each other at every opportunity. These things only happen if we commit to doing them. The dialogue is mutually beneficial. Harry Spetnagel, an associate design director in Gensler’s Denver office, joined the firm in 2006 with more than 15 years’ experience in sign design and fabrication. He is a member of the SEGD Sustainability Forum. Left and below For National Grid’s double LEED-Platinum offices in Waltham, Mass., Sasaki Associates designed a series of graphic interventions that teach staff, visitors, and customers practical, cost-effective energy-saving strategies. Value engineering helped control costs and facilitated the project’s sustainability goals. The signs use minimal materials
(1/32-in. aluminum with 97% recycled content) that were direct-to-substrate printed (using an encapsulated dye-sublimation process and water-based inks). Brakeforming the aluminum created a multi-dimensional form without additional material use. (Fabrication: Advanced Signing with Mega Media Concepts. Photos: DaiMin Cheng/Sasaki)
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Green All Over Again EGD firms are finding new and innovative ways to reduce, re-use, and recycle. By Mike Santos
side from climate change, recycling is one of the most prevalent topics surrounding environmental consciousness in both our personal and professional lives. But while recycling has an enormous positive impact on the environment, it falls short of addressing the many problems associated with the materials and products we consume. Two other important Rs come before recycling in the three “green” Rs: reducing and re-using. All three Rs dramatically impact the sustainability of the projects we create. Environmental graphic design touches on many aspects of the built environment. Understanding how to relate environmental sustainability concepts specifically to EGD is a key step in facilitating change and creating a positive impact with the projects we create. Reduction
Reducing the amount of materials and waste produced during a project is one of the most effective ways we can minimize its impact on the environment. Reduction is best tackled in the initial design of a project, impacting the entire life cycle in a positive way. Effective communication among the designers, fabricators, and materials manufacturers is critical in this stage so that all parties understand the project goals. This allows for projects to be built in the most efficient way possible, reducing unnecessary waste. Collaboration among the team members brings the philosophy of environmental consciousness into play by allowing the sharing of ideas and resources. The truth is that not all materials are created equal, and neither are all projects. Knowing the standard sizes and dimensions of the materials you use can help you design for maximum material yield and elimination of waste during fabrication. Often, a minor size adjustment can reduce the waste factor of a substrate by up to 25%. Opposite Recognizing that construction and demolition waste makes up 40% of the total waste in the U.S., some companies, such as 3form (Salt Lake City), are taking responsibility for their own products at end of life. Through the company’s Reclaim program, 3form panels are reclaimed and re-sold on a special section of its website. Right The Yawley Family Inn, a home-away-from-home for patient families of the Children’s Hospital Boston, is about hope. So when ASI, New England provided a signage
system and donor recognition elements for the inn, they selected “Ithemba,” part of 3form’s Varia line of ecoresins and one of its “Full Circle” products that encapsulates handcrafted materials made by indigenous peoples. Ithemba features a copper and beaded pattern produced by HIV-impacted African women, giving them a source of income, and means “hope” in the Xosi language. The donor elements also incorporate tempered-glass panels that are updated annually and reinstalled. (Photo: John Gillooly)
“But our waste problem is not the fault only of producers. It is the fault of an economy that is wasteful from top to bottom—a symbiosis of an unlimited greed at the top and a lazy, passive, and self-indulgent consumptiveness at the bottom—and all of us are involved in it.”—Wendell Berry
“A positive trend we’re seeing is that we’re having a lot more conversations with designers about maximizing material yields,” says Teresa Cox, president of APCO Sign Systems. “They seem more willing now than ever to talking about trimming their design an eighth or quarter-inch if it means being more efficient with material use.” Reducing the waste stream of materials heading to the landfill is another key in designing and building environmentally conscious projects. The development of modular signage and display systems is another positive trend. Modularity is building a project or system in a way that allows components to be disassembled and re-used in other projects, reducing landfill contribution. The concept behind modularity is to create interchangeable components that are not permanently bonded together. This practice can reduce the amount of components needed to build a project and allow disassembly at the end of life for re-use or recycling. Re-Use
Re-using materials and components is a topic that does not get enough coverage. While reduction is the first step and recycling is better than heading to the landfill, the concept of re-using or re-purposing components and materials at the end of their life cycle can have an enormous environmental impact. Material reclamation is a growing trend in the building industry and is a major area of focus for LEEDcertified projects. ASI (Dallas) was recently involved in a project that provided the opportunity to meet a client’s needs, reduce landfill contribution, and re-use an existing sign system. According to Kelly David, ASI’s director of marketing and product management, “a client was moving to a new location and they were cutting budgets due to the recession.
They asked us to remove the old signs from the building and reinstall them at the new location. This reduced waste, saved money, and created comfort and familiarity for the employees in the new facility.” A growing number of companies, such as 3form (Salt Lake City), manufacturer of architectural resin panels that contain post-industrial recycled content, have developed programs that allow their material to be re-sold and re-used at the end of its initial life. Through 3form’s Reclaim program, the company resells the panels via a special section on their website (www.3-form.com/order-reclaim) and donates 10% of profits to DesignBuildBluff (DesignBuildBluff.org). “We purchase panels from 3form’s Reclaim to make all our NovAcryl-ECR samples,” says Dave Miller, business director for Nova Polymer. “Not only is this a responsible thing to do, it also makes for a great story to share with our clients; you never know where that material has been!” Recycling
While recycling has been considered the baseline of sustainability efforts, many businesses still do not make it a part of their processes even though there are many more resources available today than ever Right Exhibits at the new LEEDcertified Chattahoochee Nature Center near Atlanta were designed to reinforce the center’s message of limiting resource use and recycling. Fabricated by 1220 Exhibits (Nashville), they include a menagerie of animals made from found objects, including a Great Blue Heron whose long legs are
made from discarded golf clubs and whose beak is formed by castoff gardening shears. Jeff Grimes, 1220’s scenic services manager, made 12 other animals, including an owl made from an old View-Master and a baseball glove, as well as a beaver made from 570 wooden clothespins. (Photo: Scott Denton Photography)
Recycling, Naturally Ellwood Thompson’s is devoted to offering its customers the best in local, organic, natural, and sustainable food and products, and as an extension of that philosophy, to sustainable practices in every aspect of its business. Owner Rick Hood is an architect with a passion for green building practices and for raising awareness about sustainable living. Partnered with Acorn Sign Graphics (Richmond, Va.), Hood has made his store a showcase of sustainable building and signage solutions. Using reclaimed and recycled materials is just one of many sustainable strategies the team has integrated into the stores. For example, Acorn used reclaimed highway signs for conversation-making tabletops in the store’s coffee shop. Hanging signs in the health and beauty products areas are made of sustainable, FSC-certified wood finished with low-VOC stain and fastened with custom aluminum corner pieces that Acorn designed and fabricated from scrap metal remnants left over from larger projects produced in their shop. Acorn also used recycled steel rebar to create a custom frame system for the store’s point-of-purchase signage. “Almost all steel is made of recycled material, but this steel rebar is reclaimed from a large construction site, so it’s in its third life, if you will,” says Beth Gillispie, Acorn’s president. Gillispie believes sustainable thinking often leads to creative inspiration. “It’s always exciting to work with a like-minded client. We found innovative ways to reclaim and then repurpose materials such as the rusted rebar and the road signs that no longer met code. Materials that would otherwise have been discarded were reinvented and given new life.”
Green Strategy Reduction, re-use, and recycling
Leveraging standard material yields and sheet; recycling waste by-products; modularity; recycling, and re-use; reduced waste with digital modeling and BIM; a plan for future recycling
before. Recycling has definitely become much easier in recent years as new companies and industries have emerged to meet specialized recycling needs and markets. Many materials manufacturers actively source recycled scrap and waste to incorporate in their products. As the saying goes, one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. Businesses are also getting more creative about recycling their own manufacturing waste. Gary Anzalone, president of Precision Signs (Long Island, N.Y.) has long been an advocate for the environment and is a founding member of the Long Island chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and the SEGD Sustainability Forum. To reduce the environmental impacts of the waste stream from his waterjet cutting processes, for example, he has found a contractor who can use the waste sand, keeping it out of the landfill. The contractor gets the material free, and Anzalone gets rid of waste he doesn’t want. “It’s a win-win,” says Anzalone. ”The ideal situation is to look at the byproducts from your main processes and get creative about reclaiming or recycling them.” Jeff Grantz, senior project manager with Sensory Interactive (Towson, Md.), stresses the importance of having a recycling plan in place at the front end of the project. “Let’s say you decide it’s important to use recycled content in your signs. Well, who will recycle it? When? What can it be recycled into? Who will be responsible for reclaiming it and making sure it gets to the appropriate recycling location? If that type of information is not specified in your documentation, then how do you know the product will actually be recycled? It’s not enough to just hope for the best.” Some manufacturers are taking matters into their own hands. Evo Exhibits (http://www.evoexhibits.com/element.htm) offers a line of environmentally preferable trade show displays called Evo Elements. Recognizing the phenomenal amount of waste associated with tradeshow exhibits, the company recently introduced the Evo Element Reincarnation Exhibit Recycling Program, which is designed to reduce the volume of retired exhibit materials reaching landfills. Evo allows you to send them your old exhibit and they will recycle virtually all of the components. The reality is that many businesses find it difficult to find outlets for recycling the many components used in signage and EGD projects. Discussing your recycling needs with your material suppliers is a
When Poblocki Sign Company (Milwaukee) revamped its corporate identity in 2009, its old building identity sign might have been headed for the landfill. But thanks to some creative thinking, the sign just keeps on giving. Most of the components were re-used as a monument sign for Columbia Pipe and Supply, another Milwaukee company. An oval-shaped element that formerly represented the “P”
in Poblocki was transformed into a new sign for local restaurant Maxies Southern Comfort. According to Paul Poblocki, vice president and general manager, “We were challenged to try to meet budgets that new construction simply would not achieve but a re-use scenario did. It’s a wonderful feeling seeing your old signage being used in an entirely new design and application.”
great place to start the conversation, as there are growing needs for manufacturers to find recycled scrap. There are also many state and local recycling facilities that accept scrap material. Regardless of what you’re trying to recycle, there is most likely someone out there willing to help. Where we’re heading
As life cycle analysis and waste reduction become more common in environmental graphics, new technology tools are helping architects and designers manage building systems more effectively and minimize materials and energy associated with them. Building information modeling (BIM) is the future of building design, and has recently been a hot topic of discussion. One of its key elements is the ability to reduce the amount of material and energy waste associated with a building project. While BIM is still a relatively new term in the EGD community, its fundamental concepts help us look at buildings—and the systems they contain—in new ways, ways in which all parties involved share in the responsibility to create and design more environmentally conscious products. By collaborating with our peers and incorporating the “3 Rs” into our business practices, we’re making strides in the right direction. Mike Santos is the director, sales and product development for Nova Polymers. He is a member of the SEGD Sustainability Forum and the ISA Environmental Subcommittee, and is founder and author of the Green Resource Guide blog (thegreenresourceguide.blogspot.com). segdDESIGN 63
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Preparing the Future
Objective Reduction of design officeâ€™s
Living in a Glass House By Tom Bowman
Green Strategies Traded SUV for hybrid; encouraged telecommuting; reduced employee driving; purchased high-efficiency air-
esign is more than the things we make. Fundamentally, design is about the intention to create new perceptions and behaviors. These qualities are vital for a sustainable future, of course, and the most important new perception might be that each and every one of us must learn how to â€œgo green.â€? This is a story about that journey and its unexpected results. When the â€œgreen waveâ€? began washing over the design industry, with its characteristic sizzle, everyone seemed focused on the next new thing. People were searching for new technologies and products that, with a swipe of the credit card, could make them greener. Green is the next economic frontier, and the news shimmers with visionary buildings and inventions that might transform the marketplace someday. Relatively few people ever work on such projects, however, and the intense focus on whatâ€™s new, exotic, and expensive creates a false impression that the rest of us can sit back and wait; that going green will happen to us, not come from us. In speaking with a growing number of business people, Iâ€™m beginning to hear a different theme. Rank-and-file designers, producers, and corporate managers are asking what they can do to go green right now. They enjoy futuristic visions, but they need practical guidance too. As a lawyer from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency puts it, â€œBusinesses want to create green products to sell, but we want them to become greener companies.â€? Consumers seem to agree, with surveys showing ever-rising expectations for corporate responsibility. But we all wonder where to begin.
conditioning unit; leased multifunction copier/fax/scanner Results Reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 65% in two years $9,000 cost savings per year
Bowman Design Group reduced annual greenhouse gas emissions (CO2e) by 65% and cut costs substantially by making some basic changes in office operations. The emissions breakdown helps identify opportunities to make meaningful reductions. Cost savings beyond utility bills can easily offset investments in efficiency upgrades.
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An eco-communicator tests sustainability in his office and finds surprisingly easy, cost-effective ways to make dramatic changes.
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The authors of Green to Gold point out that the most successful sustainability plans are built on nearly impossible goals. Goals that seem too easy often are, as they allow people to procrastinate. But ridiculously challenging goals force people to look at resources in new ways. For small businesses with limited spare cash, this is a classic design problem. California’s climate security law, known as AB 32, offers a good starting point with mandates to cut carbon emissions 15% in just 10 years, and virtually eliminate them by 2050. As aggressive as it seems, this schedule gives large companies time to invest in new technologies, power plants, and factories. But small companies, which don’t require large capitalization, might be more nimble. So I wrote a Green Business Plan with even tougher targets. Our goals in 2006: Cut carbon emissions 10% by this year, double that by 2013, reach 80% by 2020, and virtually eliminate emissions by 2025. With similar goals for water consumption and landfill waste, one employee asked me if I had lost my mind. But our plan recognized that our buildings and lifestyles waste energy every day; we just had to eliminate the waste. And designers get creative when constraints seem onerous. Our first step was joining The Climate Registry. For a small fee and some bookkeeping legwork, the non-profit Registry reports our annual greenhouse gas emissions from electricity, natural gas, and vehicle fuel. With that done, we started where most people do: with solar power. Unfortunately, we did not qualify for tax credits to offset the proposed $90,000 solar carport. So we sought advice from an architect who recommended a three-step approach: Step 1. Improve the passive efficiency of the building to reduce heating, cooling, and lighting needs. Upgrades might include a reflective roof, insulation, window films, and operable skylights to improve ventilation. Investments would be offset by lower electricity costs. Step 2. After completing Step 1, upgrade active systems such as heating and air conditioning with smaller, less-expensive units. These upgrades, too, would be offset by lower electricity costs. Step 3. After achieving the lowest possible footprint, invest in a smaller, less expensive solar power system.
new lease was cost-neutral, but we save on maintenance and supplies in addition to electricity. Our air conditioner broke down, so we bought a highly efficient replacement and upgraded some ductwork. Our utility company kicked in free CFL light bulbs, and we plugged our computers into power strips that we switch off at night to eliminate “vampire power.” And we cut back on landscape watering. What did these few steps accomplish? We slashed greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 65% in just two years. Water consumption dropped by one-fifth, gasoline by 63%, employee driving by nearly one-half, and electricity use by more than one-quarter. And by adding our savings on fuel, paper, toner, maintenance, and other related expenses to electricity savings, we paid for these actions in just 15 months. Ongoing $9,000 annual savings will fund further upgrades. Good design often looks deceptively easy, and going green is no exception. Our experiment may be difficult, but our success lays a simple path, using ordinary steps that any company can follow. The trick, as always, is challenging our own perceptions about costs and benefits. And with the United Nations projecting 50% growth in energy demand by mid-century, no design challenge is more important. But until we took it on, we never imagined how easy success could be. Tom Bowman is president of Bowman Design Group, which specializes in exhibitions, events, multimedia, and print communications for corporations, museums, and other institutions. Bowman is also president of Bowman Global Change, which helps institutions and businesses make sustainable transformations. In 2009, Bowman Design Group received an inaugural CoolCalifornia Small Business of the Year award for climate leadership.
Our goals in 2006: Cut carbon emissions 10% by this year, double that by 2013, reach 80% by 2020, and virtually eliminate emissions by 2025. As many people discover, good engineering logic can be economically impractical. The proposed upgrades would not reduce our relatively low electricity bills enough to pay us back very quickly. It seemed we’d hit another dead end. Shifting gears, we realized that active systems include more than just heating and air conditioning. They include everything that consumes energy. I wondered what we could we achieve by implementing efficiency upgrades in the normal course of business. Having framed the problem in architectural terms, I had low expectations. But we traded an SUV for a hybrid car. We encouraged telecommuting and reduced employee driving further by visiting suppliers only while commuting to and from work. People quickly adjusted to the new routine, as we slashed the hours they wasted in traffic. When our copier lease expired, we leased a multi-function machine and decommissioned a laser fax, two laser printers, and a scanner. The
Project: “Transpac” Long Beach, CA Eleven curved photographic porcelain enamel exhibits commemorating the Transpacific Yacht Race
Due Diligence A temporary art exhibition helps preserve rare Chinese calligraphy and serves as a model for sustainable exhibition design and construction. By Tim McNeil
Treasures through Six Generations: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Weng Collection was a three-month, 3,000-sq.-ft. exhibition at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. In sync with The Huntington’s mission to preserve rare art, the exhibition incorporated a variety of sustainable design features.
TREASURES THROUGH SIX GENERATIONS: CHINESE PAINTING AND CALLIGRAPHY FROM THE WENG COLLECTION Client The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens Location San Marino, Calif. Exhibition Design Muniz/McNeil Design Team Christopher Muniz (principal/lead designer), Tim McNeil (principal/design director), Leon Rodriguez (senior designer), Debi Van Zyl (designer) Exhibit Fabrication G&G Design Associates Consultants Associated Mountmaking (hanging and support systems) Photos Gerard Vuilleumier
he Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif., is committed to the preservation of rare books, artworks, and the natural beauty of its botanical gardens for all to enjoy. Hand in hand with this commitment is its connection with sustainability and raising environmental consciousness. So when The Huntington undertook an exhibition focused on the preservation of a collection of Chinese paintings and calligraphy for more than six generations, use of environmentally preferable materials and approaches in the exhibition design was imperative. Exhibitions are one area where well-considered design and greener practices can make a big difference. Consequently, when we were commissioned to design the exhibition for Treasures Through Six Generations: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Weng Collection, our philosophy was to pursue “greener” approaches that would not only reduce impacts to the environment, but would help guarantee the collections’ well-being for future generations. Building and installing a temporary exhibition uses large amounts of difficult-to-recycle construction materials and products that are potentially harmful to the environment. Maintaining a stable and safe object exhibition environment requires 24-hour-a-day climate control and complex lighting systems that use electricity sourced from burning fossil fuels, one of the chief causes of global warming and unhealthy air quality. Because of these challenges, exhibitions can serve as a model for green initiatives and more sustainable design practices, including minimizing material use, reducing waste, considering indoor air quality, and maximizing energy efficiency. Along with our fabrication partner, G&G Design Associates, we invested months of research toward achieving those goals.
Waste reduction through modularity
Indoor air quality and no-VOC paints
The paintings and calligraphy on view in the 3,000 sq.-ft. exhibition are beautifully crafted, rare, and incredibly sensitive to touch and light. Many of the hanging and hand scrolls are more than 10 ft. long, and a stated goal of the exhibition was to unroll and display as much of the paintings as possible. Using a traditional exhibition design approach, this would require large five-sided protective acrylic vitrines to allow visitors close enough to view the paintings’ exquisite details, as well as large pieces of display furniture and partition walls to subdivide the exhibition sections. Acrylic is a tough, transparent plastic polymer that goes through an energy-intensive and chemically toxic manufacturing process that is considered environmentally harmful. Unlike other plastic products, it is difficult to recycle; however, large continuous sheets can be salvaged and repurposed. To reduce the need for temporary wall construction and minimize the quantity of acrylic used, we designed a modular casework system that created islands of freestanding, tablelike furniture. While museum casework can often be salvaged and re-used for future exhibitions, these cases were in all likelihood too large to be recycled in their entirety. So we focused on making them modular and easy to disassemble, using mechanical fasteners instead of glues and large sheets of acrylic that could be repurposed easily in other projects. Display case bases were made from MDF Lite, a non-toxic, lightweight MDF alternative manufactured by Columbia Forest Products. After the three-month exhibition, the acrylic sheets were unfastened and either reused or put into storage for future exhibitions. Some of the furniture was donated to other museums. By embracing this “close-the-loop” approach, the majority of the exhibition components could be broken down and re-purposed or removed and reconfigured for future exhibitions—diverting much of the materials that couldn’t be recycled away from the landfill. We estimate that our modular approach to the case design reduced materials needed for the exhibition environment by 40%.
Like most artworks, the Weng Collection paintings are susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity and the presence of chemical substances. Conservation standards require strict monitoring and control mechanisms that include a curing time of several days for all paints and finishes used in proximity to any artworks. While much of that is drying time, it is also off-gassing time, a chance for the chemical agents in the paint to dissipate. Environmental health concerns are linked with the chemicals used in many common paints, and even when dry, these products continue to release toxins that are trapped in an indoor environment—not good for the artworks, and certainly not good for visitors. We specified non-toxic, zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) Dunn Edwards EcoShield paint for the exhibition walls and furniture, creating a healthier environment for both the objects and the visitors. Graphic panels produced for the exhibit were printed on BIOflex™, a biodegradable alternative to vinyl, with low-solvent and soy inks. Some of the graphics were applied to recycled-aluminum sheeting for rigidity. Energy efficiency with LEDs
Effectively lighting the calligraphic masterpieces was a critical element of the exhibition design, and also created a huge opportunity for reducing energy consumption. We invested more than six months in researching lighting sources to fit the exhibit’s unique needs, including extensive testing and mock-ups to explore color temperature, intensity, and spread of light. Most electrical power is sourced from non-renewable energies such as coal. Coal power plants are responsible for emitting CO2, a major factor in air pollution and global warming. Conserving energy is also a smart financial move, since the cost of energy continues to escalate. Exhibition environments are energy hogs due to the constant heating and cooling required to maintain a stable object environment, and the lighting required to correctly illuminate the artworks. segdDESIGN 69
The Weng Collection paintings demanded a very specific type of lighting that had to be dimmed to 5 foot-candles and controlled to meet conservation standards, as well as satisfy the specific warmer color-rendering properties that make the details on the paintings visible and look their best. Because most of the objects are installed inside of casework, it made sense to localize the light source and illuminate the cases internally rather than from the incandescent halogen ceiling track. This also significantly reduced the glare off the acrylic case front. The most energy-efficient lighting sources available are LEDs, which use up to 80% less energy and last 15 times longer than incandescent light sources. They also offer tremendous advantages for art exhibition environments. LEDs can be dimmed and controlled for object needs, and produce negligible heat. However, LEDs are still catching up to the intensity and warm color temperature offered by their halogen cousins, the mainstay of most exhibition spaces. Ultimately, we identified two LED products that fit the bill: for the upright cases, Panoptics Lighting’s T5-style tubes (3000K warm white, 60-degree lens, high lumen for longer light throw), and for the long horizontal cases, Elemental LED’s continuous flexible LED strip light (warm white, low lumen for short throw). Once we found the right products, obtaining the quantity we needed meant buying every available unit in the country, simply because the demand is not there yet. We also learned that many LED resellers do not have a complete understanding of what they’re importing; the lumens ratings for LEDs (and how to calculate them)
were inconsistent across the industry. And while all the exhibition lighting required dimmers to evenly adjust light and lux levels for fugitive works, control devices were difficult to specify because many distributors did not know exactly which would allow for full-spectrum dimming as opposed to blunt level adjustment. Traveling the green road
Introducing environmental sustainability into the exhibition design process has become far easier with the availability and decreasing costs of toxin-free, recycled, and renewable products. Efforts have so far focused primarily on introducing alternative options rather than improving what are essentially environmentally flawed products and design practices. Ultimately, we can make the most impact by questioning and rethinking the design process, reducing energy consumption, and repurposing components and materials. Incorporating a high level of design research and product exploration into fast-tracked and budget-controlled projects is difficult. However, as the specifiers and manufacturers of products that take away from the natural resources around us, aren’t we obligated to improve on what has gone before, for the sake of design progress and the environment? Tim McNeil is a principal of Muniz/McNeil (Los Angeles), associate professor of design at the University of California, Davis, and director of the UC Davis Design Museum. He is chair of the Green Museums Initiative and founder of the Green Museum Accord sponsored by the California Association of Museums (www.greenmuseums.info).
Project Treasures Through Six Generations: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Weng Collection, Huntington and Botanical Gardens San Marino, Calif. Green Strategy Modular casework construction to minimize material use and reduce waste; no-VOC paints to reduce impacts on indoor air quality; energy-efficient LED lighting Materials Non-toxic, lightweight MDF Lite; BIOflex landfilldegradable pvc; Panoptics Lighting T5 LED tube lights; Elemental LED Flexible Strip Lights Finishes Zero-VOC Dunn Edwards EcoShield paint; low-solvent and soy inks Production Notes Extensive research and testing of energy-efficient LEDs, with emphasis on color temperature and light throw; casework constructed for easy disassembly and repurposing of components Top The exhibit includes four Energy Star-rated LCD flat screens that allow visitors to explore the intricacies of the large scrolls and learn about the art of calligraphy. The case shown here displays nearly all of a 50-ft.-long scroll, requiring 3x12-ft. lengths of acrylic. Bottom Graphic panels, including the illustrative wallcovering (left) and text panels (center) were printed on BIOflex, a landfilldegradable alternative to vinyl, with low-solvent and soy inks. Some of the graphics were applied to recycled-aluminum sheeting for rigidity. Opposite The same modular casework elements were used for horizontal display cases as well as vertical cases and dividers to create traffic flow. Rather than rely on existing track lighting to illuminate the rare paintings, the design team specified energyefficient LED T5 tube lighting and continuous light strips to light the works from inside display cases.
Library, Art Collection
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Design for Good Pro bono work not only helps worthy clients communicate their message through design, but provides unexpected benefits for the designers as well. By Leslie Wolke
avid Berman ends his manifesto Do Good Design: How Designers Can Change the World with the Do Good Pledge:
1. I will be true to my profession. 2. I will be true to myself. 3. I will spend at least 10% of my professional time helping repair the
world. Intentionally broad and inclusive, this pledge resonates with today’s design community as we all struggle to find purpose in our work during times of environmental, social, and economic instability. Nearly 90,000 hours per year have been pledged since his book debuted at the end of 2008. How are environmental graphic designers harnessing their talents for the public good? Their interpretations of “Doing Good”—as well as the visual expressions that arise from them—are as diverse as the talents within our profession. “For the public good”
Probably the first thought that comes to mind when exploring the idea of “doing good” is the term pro bono, shorthand for the Latin pro bono publico or “for the public good.” By volunteering their services for worthy projects and organizations, designers can craft meaningful tools to convey their clients’ messages—tools that may have been out of reach without in-kind donations. Designers often engage with their pro bono clients through informal introductions, but new matchmaker DesigNYC (designyc. org) facilitates those connections and curates resulting projects in 74 segdDESIGN
Opposite Gensler Los Angeles broke through some disciplinary and hierarchical boundaries by involving its entire staff in the Los Angeles Police Department Memorial to Fallen Officers. (Fabrication: A. Zahner Company. Photos: Ryan Gorbuty/Gensler) Right and below Adam Brodsley of Volume (San Francisco) sees pro bono work—such as an innovative donor element for the York School, his alma mater—as a chance to break new ground. (Fabrication: Pinnacle Exhibits. Photos: Jeffery Cook, Kevin Brookhouser)
the New York City area. Founded by Edwin Schlossberg, principal of ESI Design, DesigNYC recently paired The New York City Housing Authority with Rooster Design Group to collaborate on a “Green Guide” educating residents about their carbon footprint. Giving back, breaking new ground
Adam Brodsley of Volume Inc. (San Francisco) found his pro bono inspiration at his high school alma mater, The York School in Monterey County, Calif. He was asked to donate his services to design a donor plaque for the school’s LEED-certified science and math building. “We usually try to break some new ground with these types of projects,” Brodsley explains. Pro bono engagements “give us permission to flex our muscles.” This is how Brodsley transformed a typical plaque into a cornerstone/time capsule, complete with a countdown clock ticking the seconds until the capsule will be opened. At the school’s upcoming 50th anniversary, students will fill the time capsule to be unsealed on York’s 100th anniversary. “By adding layers of meaning [the cornerstone became] a conversation piece. The students loved it, the faculty felt it reflected the creative spirit of the school, and the donors felt duly honored.” Low bono, high impact
PlainJoe Studios (Corona, Calif.) mirrors Berman’s mandate to “be true to yourself.” Co-founder Peter McGowan calls the interdisciplinary design firm “very close to a ministry.” About one-third of the firm’s portfolio consists of environmental graphics projects for Christian churches and non-profits, reflecting the religious priorities of the firm’s team members. McGowan characterizes his engagements with their church clients as “low bono or low-down-discounted design.” One-third of their work, mostly web design and development projects, are engagements with corporate clients like Nissan and provide about two-thirds of the firm’s annual income. “I wouldn’t call it a business model as much as a design ethos,” McGowan explains. segdDESIGN 75
Plain Joe Studios recently completed an environmental graphics program for the first permanent home of Elevation Church in Matthews, N.C., in a renovated K-Mart. Over the years, McGowan and co-founder Mike Foster have learned how to stretch their clients’ small budgets from design through installation, even using bedframes to hold banners. From project to project, they often partner with the same fabricators who have learned how to work with volunteer labor from the congregation to install exterior and interior signage. Beyond the bottom line
Another unique take on blending the talents of a for-profit design firm with a passion for serving non-profits is Mark Randall’s twin endeavors: Worldstudio Inc. and Worldstudio Foundation. In the mid1990s, Randall started the marketing and design firm Worldstudio, whose credo is “corporations hold the power to make lasting social and environmental change.” Under that umbrella, Randall and his team have produced influential work with clients such as Adobe Systems and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In parallel, he started Worldstudio Foundation to “give back to the creative community” and prove that “design can reach beyond the bottom line.” The foundation’s central mission has been to provide scholarships and mentor programs for young designers. In 2006, the two Worldstudios—Randall often calls them the Brain and the Heart—partnered to create The Urban Forest Project (http://ufp-nyc.com/) for longtime Worldstudio client The Times For the Urban Forest Project— conceived by Worldstudio and Worldstudio Foundation for The Times Square Alliance—200 designers (including Rob Alexander) created banners expressing environmental issues. The banners were recycled and sold as tote bags, with the proceeds going to scholarship and mentor programs for young designers. (Photos: Mark Dye Photography)
Square Alliance. The idea was to “plant a forest of creativity” in Times Square by soliciting designers to design outdoor banners for the neighborhood. Hundreds of designers responded to a short creative brief asking for concepts based on using a tree to express an environmental issue. Professionals and students from 21 countries designed nearly 200 banners. After delighting visitors for three months, the banners were recycled into tote bags by accessory designer Jack Spade and auctioned off, bringing in thousands of dollars for scholarships, “sustaining the next generation of artistic talent,” explains Randall. The event was so successful, Randall and his business partner Andréa Pellegrino streamlined the Urban Forest into a repeatable business model and fundraising tool; to date there have been Urban Forest Projects in four cities and this year Toledo, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, will blossom. One size “good” fits all
It’s easy to assume that the personal vision, agility, and small size of Randall’s Worldstudio and McGowan’s PlainJoe Studios enable them to “Do Good” in a way that large corporations cannot. Global architecture and design firm Gensler, with 30+ offices around the world, would prove that assumption wrong. Gensler signed on to Public Architecture’s 1% pledge, which asks architects to dedicate 1% of their firms’ person hours per year to pro bono service. In February, Public Architecture founder John
Peterson reported: “The firm of more than 2,000 employees pledged a staggering 43,680 hours, a major gesture of generosity during a time when pro bono design services are more needed than ever.” “We take on projects that people might not expect a big firm such as Gensler to be doing,” says David Herjeczki, design director in Gensler’s Los Angeles office. A good example is the Los Angeles Police Department Memorial to Fallen Officers, which opened in September 2009. The pro bono project came about through a longtime professional relationship between Rob Jernigan, managing director of Gensler LA and Jim Wyatt, chair of the Los Angeles Police Foundation. Herjeczki and his peer design directors immediately sensed that this project furnished the opportunity to explore a new and inclusive ideation method. “We seized the opportunity to involve everyone in the office— literally—to reinforce the idea that everyone has a voice in the design process and can and should contribute to the realization of an idea regardless of their discipline or experience.” Starting with an open call that elicited 30 ideas, a studio-wide critique narrowed the field to four concepts. “This stage also gave an opportunity for some younger staff to participate in presenting the design work to the Foundation and the Chief of Police,” adds Herjeczki. Even the later phases of the design process broke some traditional boundaries when the four design directors collaborated on the final design. “We hadn’t really worked
together before, since by definition, we individually direct the design of projects. Rather than a clash of egos, this process turned out to be really refreshing and rewarding, strengthening our relationship as design colleagues.” The resulting monumental wall is a layered and shimmering abstraction composed of brass plates inspired by police officers’ badges. Baking pie, doing good
Far outside the traditional design firm structure, 14 young designers re-thought the role of design and the community it can serve and came up with PieLab, “a ‘social design studio’ disguised as a pie shop” in Greensboro, Ala (www.pielab.org). Their simple, whimsical formula is “pie + conversation = ideas; ideas + design = positive change.” In other words, to understand how their skills can be employed for the residents of Greensboro, these designers created an informal, comfortable meeting place and started baking. The result is more than a pie shop, it’s a prototype for engaging designers directly with people who inspire them to Do Good. Leslie Wolke (email@example.com) is a consultant who specializes in interactive wayfinding and donor recognition systems. Below PlainJoe Studios uses the income from its for-profit clients to help subsidize its “deep-discount” work for churches and Christian
ministries, such as the Mariners Church Student Center in Irvine, Calif. (Photo: PlainJoe Studios)
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The Mรถbius loop: all, one, and continual. Named after a 19th-century mathematician, it dates to ancient times, and exhibits the remarkable properties of having only one side and one boundary. Recycling symbols from around the globe use it to represent the life cycle. Today, the concept of a closed loop has special resonance.
Research and graphics: Justin Molloy, signitecture
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NUMBER 28, 2010
Signs Environments Graphics Designs
The Sustainability Issue + Design for a Living World + Green Depot + Portland Transit + Design for Good
segdDESIGN is the magazine of choice for creative professionals working at the intersection of communication design and the built environmen...