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common sense solutions to practical sustainability

Transcript of LOFT magazine

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ISSUE 1 MAY 2010



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editora word from the

Once upOn a time, the grass was green. If only life were so simple.

These days, anyone who surfs the internet, turns on the TV, or goes to the grocery store will find it virtually impossible to avoid hearing some form of the terms ‘cLimate change’ ‘ecOnOmic sustainaBiLitY’ or ‘carBOn FOOtprint.’ These are really scary words that tell us to fear for the quality of our future. People are inhaling anything associated with being ‘green’ like oxygen, and they seem to be willing to pay a little extra for the piece of mind that the products they are buying will keep them safe from an uncertain future. As a result, what was once simply another color in the rainbow has become the number one selling device of retailers, corporations, and politicians across our country. The word ‘green’ can conjur up images of everything from hybrid cars to political reform. Soon, no product on the shelves will stand a chance without a little green sticker certifying its ‘eco-friendliness’. LOFT is a magazine about the practical side of sustainability. Inside you will find common sense solutions to ‘being green’ that rise above the agendas of profit and politics. True ‘green’ goes back to the basics, and should cost you anything at all.


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6 -11


living walls



12-17green interiors

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design for disassembly

green inks

taBLe OF cOntents

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A Livin g

Living waLLs

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a Living waLL, also referred to as a green wall, vertical garden, or sky farm, is usually part of a building and consists of some sort of vegetation. These types of gardens are sometimes referred to as urban gardening, because they are well-suited for an urban environment where space on the ground is very limited but vertical space is plentiful.... Livin g


Living waLLs

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Living waLLs

These vertical gardens can be quite spectacular in appearance, and in some cases, they even work to filter clean air into the building in which they are growing upon. Vertical gardens can be grown on just about any type of wall, with or without the use of soil, and they can be placed both on outdoor and indoor walls. As long as there is not shortage of water for the living wall, no soil is required. These truly amazing sky farms are able to literally bring life to an old rundown building in the middle of the city and they are becoming increasingly popular inside office buildings, homes, and retail stores because of their outstanding beauty and their natural air purification properties. Living walls have fast become an art form for many people, and one of the pioneering vertical garden artists is Patrick Blanc. He observed how plants were able to grow vertically without the need for soil in the wild, and soon developed a way to create artistic looking vegetation walls that were both lightweight and needed little maintenance. Since these living walls only weighed approximately 30 kg or less per square-meter, he noticed that just about any type of wall would be able to support the weight of a vertical garden.

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Living waLLs

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There are many amazing examples of vertical gardens around the world.To meet the challenges of producing food in a more environmentally-friendly way, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has called on cities to develop these ‘living walls’ of edible plants. Through vertical farming, agriculture could become a feature of urban life, lowering energy consumption, carbon emissions and resource use in food production. By shortening the distance produce has to travel from ‘farm-to-fork’, and by negating the need for heavy machinery, vertical farming can reduce CO2 emissions. ‘Managing our urban spaces as extensions of agriculture will reduce the demand to turn forests into farmland. Food crops must be brought closer to the table,’ says EEA Director Jacqueline McGlade. ‘We need to have showcase buildings in every city to give a completely different vision of agriculture.’ Vertical farming involves moving agriculture into cities by growing crops in either specially designed structures or in adapted urban spaces. Professor Dickson Despommier from Columbia University in New York, has championed the concept of 30-story skyscraper farms which could meet the needs of 50,000 people. Such buildings would use hydroponic (growing plants in a water and nutrient solution) and aeroponic (growing plants in nutrient-laden mist) methods to produce crops without using soil.

from ‘farm-to-fork’Living waLLs

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Despommier believes vertical farms would use 90% less water than traditional farms. Moreover, such farms would offer year-round crop yields without the use of agro-chemicals, and would avoid weather related crop failures caused by droughts, floods and pests. Without the need for

pesticides, food could be produced organically. Moreover, the problem of agricultural runoff would be avoided.

Still, the process is not without its critics. Crop physiology professor Bruce Bugbee, from Utah State University, has questioned the viability of vertical farming by arguing that low light levels during the winter months would require the use of energy intensive high pressure sodium lights.Increasing plant life within cities would offer the added benefit of absorbing carbon emissions and producing more oxygen. While this would improve urban air quality, research is needed into the impact of carbon dioxide and other pollutants on city grown crops. Meanwhile, green rooftops would

have a natural insulating effect on buildings.In its initial phase, Capital Growth provided financial support for 70

allotments in London. In addition, the project organizer London Food Link hopes to convert hundreds of flat roofs across the city into

vegetable gardens. The Capital Growth campaign is already promoting urban

agriculture. The project aims to help Londoners transform their city by creating 2012 new food growing spaces by

the end of 2012 to coincide with the London Olympic Games.

Living waLLs

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green interiOrs

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interiOr design advice FrOm

a Leed accredited prOFessiOnaL

Article by Susan Aiello

green interiOrs

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green design incLudes energY conservation, but that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about having good air quality both indoors and outdoors, making the environments in which we work, live, study and play healthier and more comfortable and conserving all of our natural resources. The mantra of green design is “People, Planet, Profit.” Personally, I don’t think that there is any contest as to which of these is most important. While we do need to preserve the planet for future generations, we cannot risk their health and well being in the process. Our extreme focus on certain areas of green design and our determination to prove them cost-effective could lead to serious health problems for current and future generations. Because energy efficient buildings are relatively air-tight, any toxins, dust or mold that are brought into such buildings tend to stay there. Sustainable interior design done properly is a holistic practice that protects the health of building occupants. Unfortunately, one of the most

important aspects of what design professionals do can be value-engineered out of a project. Someone who is focused on short-term financial paybacks and unfamiliar with the potential serious risks will not take the necessary steps to ensure healthy indoor environmental quality. When I tell people that I specialize in sustainable interior design, I often get the impression that they think “bamboo,” when in reality I’m much less focused on saving trees than protecting people. Preserving North American forests may be more closely monitored than preserving healthy indoor air quality, and many sources for bamboo introduce more toxins into the interiors than hardwood products would. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the gold standard for green design and construction. It is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). USGBC certifies buildings as well as individual projects within existing buildings and accredits professionals like me. To achieve

green interiOrs

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green interiOrs

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certification, a project must comply with all prerequisites and accrue a certain number of points. Depending upon the number of points accrued, a project may be rated as Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. As one of relatively few interior designers who is also a LEED Accredited Professional, I regularly receive calls and emails from vendors claiming that their furniture is “green.” Unfortunately, these claims are often only partially true, especially when it comes to home furnishings. For instance, a chest of drawers that is made

of bamboo can contain added urea formaldehyde and glues and finishes that are relatively high in VOCs. While I am able to evaluate these claims, most people buying furniture (and, for that matter, most interior decorators) are not. One of the best ways to “go green” with interior design is often overlooked. Design that stands the test of time eliminates the need to replace things, and even if the original owner’s circumstances or desires change, classic furniture can always find another good home.

green interiOrs

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Antiques are particularly “green.” since everything in them is being reused and they are very unlikely to give off harmful gas chemicals (glues, finishes, etc. only give off VOCs for a certain period of time, and even when antiques are refinished, the materials used are normally less toxic than the finishes in much new furniture). Although “organic” and “green” are not necessarily synonymous, natural materials often do have fewer harmful additives than artificial ones. A Wilton carpet is 100% wool, and while it might not be

appropriate for someone with chemical sensitivities (since the fiber is dyed and probably moth-proofed), it is healthier for indoor air quality than synthetic carpet. Hand-embroidered sheets and pillow cases are made from very fine cotton, and with proper care could last for generations.Furnishing our homes as prior generations did, with lovely things that can last more than one lifetime, can actually be more sustainable behavior than buying anything that claims to be “the latest and greatest in green design.”

green interiOrs

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Best Seller’s ListGreen Graphic Design by Brian Dougherty


can a graphic designer Be a cataLYst FOr pOsitive change? Breaking down the concept of “green design” step-by-step, respected industry leader Brian Dougherty captures the ability of designers to communicate, persuade, and ultimately spread a socially and ecologically responsible message to both consumers and corporations. Green Graphic Design reframes the way designers can think about the work they create, while remaining focused on cost constraints and corporate identity. Simple, eco-innovative changes are demonstrated in all phases of the design process, including: Picking projects, strategizing with clients, building strong green brands, choosing materials for manufacture and shipping, picking ink and paper, binding, and working with clients to foster transparency and corporate social responsibility. “This book is a must read for designers who want to stay relevant in one of the most significant design opportunities of the 21st century” - CLEMENT MOK

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gLasses FOr peOpLe with impaired hands, a clock that measures energy over time, a ship without emissions. What do they have in common? They will all be exhibited in New York and they are all Swedish designs.Taking a grand grip Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York presents the fourth exhibition in the National Design Triennial series in spring 2010 by putting the question “Why Design Now?”. Looking at eight themes (energy, mobility, community, materials, prosperity, health, communication and simplicity), the exhibition will explore the work of designers addressing human and environmental problems across many fields of design from architecture and product design to fashion, graphics, new media and landscape design. Gathering design from all over the world it will also contain examples from the Swedish design community, among them E/S Orcelle Cargo Carrier by No Picnic AB for Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, Energy Aware Clock by Interactive Institute, Spot Guide Cane by Ergonomidesign, SOLVATTEN Solar Safewater Purifier by Solvatten AB and Gripp Glasses by Karin Eriksson, Skrufs Glassworks.

The design office Ergonomidesign has been selected to show three projects at the exhibition, and their CEO Krister Torssell says:“We are very proud to have three projects included in the Triennial, which is definitely one of the key contemporary design exhibitions. Addressing environmental and human problems is a challenge we face every day and very much in line with the core values of our design studio, so I dare to say that all of us are especially delighted to be a part of this particular exhibition.” Torssell continues, “It is also interesting to note the significant Swedish representation; even though we are a small country, we are still on the list of key players in design and innovation.” The exhibition aims to examine why design thinking is an essential tool for solving some of today’s most urgent problems; what draws creative thinkers, makers and problem solvers to this crucial field of discovery; and why business leaders, policy makers, consumers and citizens should embrace design values. The exhibition will be on view from May 14, 2010 through Jan. 9, 2011.

125 answers to “Why design now?” some of them SwedishJanuary 20, 2010 Exhibition by Kerstin Sylwan


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as a design agencY with a focus on sustainability, we work as a traditional design agency with a big difference – we put sustainable thinking into our design process. That means not just choosing the most eco friendly material, but beginning with asking the right questions. We collaborate with sustainability consultants for pinpointing key sustainable strategies for each client. A central part of our work is to increase our client’s environmental awareness and companies have everything to gain on greening their communication. The consumer’s demands are rising, today 81 percents are “definitely” or “probably” willing to pay more for a product or service if they know that the company works to limit climate change. As many as 68 percents think that businesses are poor at communicating information about their efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. A luring type of design is flourishing in the graphic design industry. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing where products are packaged in a suit that wants to look natural – but is far from the real thing. The risk is that the aesthetics become a kind of indulgence in which companies pay their way out of debt. Truly sustainable design offers no such easy way out, the process goes much deeper than a certain aesthetic.  

Eco-AestheticsA Wolf in Sheep’s Clothingby Maria HeijkenskjöldAvoiding Greenwash

What to look forby

manY green cLaims are neither suppOrted BY evidence nOr weLL expLained, but the good news is there are some reliable green labelling programs. When a product has one green claim, it’s usually got a few. Our investigation of non-food supermarket products with green claims found 637 claims on 185 items, an average of over three claims each. By using these tips you can start to sort the true green claims from the greenwash. But we need stricter regulation of green claims. Greenwash is deceptive marketing designed to portray a company or product as caring for the environment. The trick with green ‘spin’ is that you won’t always be able to tell you’ve been duped. You might even suspect something’s wrong, when in fact it’s legitimate. We need better regulation of green claims, but in the meantime here’s what you can do to minimise your risk of being greenwashed. Think about the impact of the product itself. It’s great if the packet is recyclable or biodegradable too, but it’s not the main point. Ignore green pictures and unofficial logos. Look for precise claims that explain and give evidence. For example, high percentages and guaranteed minimums of post-consumer recycled content. Listing of all ingredients in plain English, not just the active ingredients required by law. Plain English is notably lacking in the ingredients labelling of many cleaners and personal care products. Look for evidence that the whole life of the product is handled with care, not just one part of it. Emphasis on one technical aspect (such as ‘biodegradable’) might be masking a poor environmental performance in other areas. Helpful contact info Be suspicious if there’s no robust evidence of the green claim on the pack and no easy way to obtain it when you get home. Don’t support a manufacturer that doesn’t want you to be able to find out more about them.

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leadership and board to create a new name and a new graphic identity. The new name, Urban Green, emphasizes the institution’s considerable expertise in city-based environmental issues while evoking the secondary meaning of “green” as a city commons. The graphic identity evokes the density of urban life and the city blocks of Midtown Manhattan. The geometric Urban Green identity is meant to complement and coexist with the handsome USGBC seal, designed by Stephen Doyle.The graphic identity extends to all the group’s communications, from its website to print publications. It also has the potential to serve as a visual call to action for environmental awareness in any urban area around the world.

since its FOunding in 1993, the U.S. Green Building Council has established itself as the nation’s leading advocate for sustainability in the built environment, most prominently as the developer of the now-ubiquitous LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. As the group’s largest chapter, the U.S. Green Building Council New York Chapter has enjoyed considerable influence not only in metropolitan New York, but as a model for sustainability in cities around the world. But despite its considerable success, the chapter suffered an identity crisis, being frequently confused with the national organization and saddled with a ponderous, unpronounceable eight-letter  acronym. Pentagram worked with the USGBCNY’s

Urban Green Brand Identity DesignPentagram / U.S Green Building Council by

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Design for Disassembly is a design strategy that considers the future need to disassemble a product for repair, refurbish or recycle. Will a product need to be repaired? Which parts will need replacement? Who will repair it? How can the experience be simple and intuitive? Can the product be reclaimed, refurbished, and resold? If it must be discarded, how can we facilitate its disassembly into easily recyclable components? By responding to questions like these, the DfD method increases the effectiveness of a product both during and after its life.

design FOr disassemBLY

articLe BY aLex diener

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design FOr disassemBLY

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DfD solutions emphasize simplicity. By closely examining the anatomy of a product, designers are often able to find components that can be combined or deleted altogether, saving material and production costs. In addition, when products can be refurbished, the material and production costs are greatly reduced—as with disposable cameras or printer cartridges.

When companies make smart choices, people notice. Honda, a leader in fuel-efficient vehicles, has developed a reputation for building cars that minimize their impact on the environment. “Consumers recognize Honda as a leader in developing efficient cars. Design for disassembly is part of our strategy for building cars that takes end-of-life into account,” remarks Jose Wyszogrod of Honda R+D America. Honda actively voices their design philosophy in their marketing, which helps to drive sales with eco-conscious consumers.

Regarding his visits to Nike’s Asian suppliers, Phil Berry states “By analyzing the production facilities first hand, we were able to reclaim roughly 15% of material that would have been scrapped. We were also able to develop new techniques of how our shoes were built, allowing for future de-construction.” By experiencing the manufacturing process, designers are able to identify complications, delays, and waste certain construction methods and material choices make.“There is no substitute for getting in the trenches,” comments Lee on his visits to the San Francisco Recycling and Disposal. Have a question about how something is sorted and processed? When in doubt, go to the source.

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Successful design solutions are written, visible, and measurable, Herman Miller’s Design for Environment (DFE) policy evaluates products based on three core factors: material chemistry, design for disassembly, and recycle-ability. “In the product evaluation process, we ask four questions of our designs: Are the materials homogenous? Are common tools used to separate them? Did it take longer than 30 seconds to reverse a connection? And have the components been marked with their material type?” explains Scott Charon, Herman Miller’s DFE Program Manager. Each and every component is scrutinized based on these factors and assigned ratings on a spreadsheet score card, allowing the design team to accurately evaluate the results.

Products that disassemble easily often assemble easily, saving the company time and money on labor. Also, if products need to be repaired or refurbished, quick disassembly will save time and effort for the company and keep the customer satisfied.

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“Think it all the way through. Visualize or simulate the steps to repair or disassemble the product.” says Travis of Lunar. It’s taking your Human Factors skills and applying them to the process of disassembly. Every product has many “users”: the manufacturing and assembly people, the consumer(s), the service tech, re-manufacturing people, and recyclers. It’s help-ful to map these users and how the design is intended to sup-port their goals. Also, give them instructions that will never be lost - emboss indicators to guide users through disassembly, be-cause by the time a product needs to be taken apart, the user manual is likely gone.

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To help measure performance, set a series of long-term and short-term goals. “Eliminating paint” would be a simple, attainable goal, for example, whereas “reducing assembly time by 50%” would likely be a much more involved effort. The short-term goals will give the team some tangible results, and help motivate them to continue to work on the long-term efforts. Whether a consultant or corporate designer, don’t forget to include DfD goal creation and management in the scope of work and schedule.

If a design can be made of fewer parts and material types, it will be easier to sort and recycle. Take a floss container for example. When it’s finished, the entire steel casing can be recycled whole. If the other side was plastic, it would need to be manually separated and sorted for recycling. Avoid permanent fixing, toxic or harmful materials, and paint.

World-changing design doesn’t happen overnight. Instead things evolve incrementally to create a higher standard. Design for disassembly (DfD) is fundamental to improving the cost, quality and longevity of what we produce. DfD delivers on our promise to provide people with better tools for living for years to come.

design FOr disassemBLY

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green inks

Thoughtful printing procedures and upgraded equipment enable printers to reduce the amount of ink waste they have to do deal with, and they can participate in recycling programs to handle the rest. Working closely with your printer can reveal

new ways to reduce waste. Here are a few tips on what to look for, and what to avoid, when sending to print.

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INKgreen inks

U.S. manufacturers produce about 2 billion pounds of ink every year, and all those chemicals end up somewhere....

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While few solutions are perfect,

designers do have some very good options

when it comes to choosing inks.

The key to remember is that there is no silver bullet;

you may have to do a little legwork to discover

just what kind of ink your printer is using.


green inks

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majority of petroleum-based inks produce

around 30% VOCs. Just because an ink uses

a plant base, however, doesn’t mean its VOC

levels are much lower. Ask your printer for the

VOC level of their inks, and look for a VOC

level of 5% or less. If your printer doesn’t know

this information (although, by law, they must),

you can ask for the brand they use and

check the MSDS (material safety data sheet;

available from the ink manufacturer).

vegetable-based or soy-based inks:

Veggie- and soy-based inks are probably

your next best bet, as they rely mainly on

renewable (though, often. genetically-

modified) materials. These inks may still

have some levels of petroleum in the base,

but they typically require less ink overall,

fewer cleaning chemicals, and are easier to

de-ink during the recycling process. Note: to

bear the SoySeal logo, an ink generally only

needs to contain 7%-20% soybeal oil. Again,

this information is available from your printer

or the brand’s MSDS.


come a long way since first introduced. They

have much lower VOC emissions than other

inks, and require fewer solvents since the ink

only dries when exposed to ultraviolet rays

(which also keeps presses moving more

efficiently). Keep in mind, though, that UV

inks generally don’t contain any plant-based

(renewable) material, and may or may not

use more energy during the curing process.

Re-nourish is still weighing the environmental

pros and cons of UV inks, but currently

believes they are a slightly better alternative

to full petroleum-based inks.


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Interestingly enough, vegetable-based inks were

once the gold standard for printing presses prior to

WWII. As industrialization took hold, petroleum quickly

replaced the flaxseed, cottonseed, and linseed oils

once used. But, sadly, opting for cheap and easy —

this time in the form of petroleum-based inks — has left

us with some serious problems. Offset inks generally

consist of a pigment (the color), a base medium (the

stuff that carries the color to the paper), and additives

or solvents (the stuff that helps everything play nice

together). This composition changes depending on

many variables, so get to know your pressman or

woman: they can tell you exactly how they do things

in their own operations. In the meantime, designers

should be aware of the following ink issues:

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When petroleum-based inks dry on press, they

release VOCs into the air. VOCs, unfortunately

for the press workers who handle the inks

and those who breath the air nearby, are

carcinogens responsible for everything from

respiratory irritation and nausea to liver,

kidney, and central nervous system damage,

and possibly even cancer. VOCs can also

result in smog or other greenhouse gases,

contributing to climate change (EPA).


and additives are mixed into inks on press

to help them adhere to paper, and used

to clean ink from the press. When dumped

into the waste stream (either as-is, or when

cleaning materials are laundered), they can

contaminate ground and water, impacting

both human health and wildlife. The solvents

on press often produce more VOCs than the

inks themselves, contributing to worker safety

issues and even climate change.

HEAVY METALS: The most toxic heavy metals

(cadmium, arsenic, mercury, antimony, lead,

and selenium) are strictly regulated in the

U.S., but many inks still contain trace heavy

metals that may be harmful to human health

and wildlife habitats when accumulated

in the waste stream. Obviously, metallic inks

contain the highest proportion of heavy

metals, but fluorescent inks and certain spot

colors may also contain elevated levels of

copper, barium, zinc, and cobalt.

green inks


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LOFT magazine designed and produced by Lori Deaton © 2010 all rights reserved