Testing the Waters

by Barent Roth
Professor of Sustainable Design, The New School

This week at the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) International Design conference in Seattle we will be trying something new, something called a Swarm. Borrowing elements of brainstorming, design thinking, and the intensity of a hackathon, designers will cluster in groups of eight to ten and try and harness the power of collaborative timed competition to create ______.

As a veteran of engaging, inspiring conferences that result in nothing more than digital handshakes in the aftermath, I will instead try to lead our group to take advantage of the incredible brain power in the room by creating something lasting and meaningful. It’s ambitious, and unlikely, but it can be done. In the fall of 2011 I started teaching Sustainable Design at The New School. The school and its collaborators at the Stevens Institute had just completed their entry into the Solar Decathlon, an amazing competition that challenges universities around the world to build a solar powered home. Seeing all of the entries at the National Mall in DC makes you feel like you are getting a little glimpse of the future, a stroll down an idyllic sustainability lane. Yet after proving their photovoltaic collectors can easily power the needs of a family by actually living in their new constructions, the students dutifully deconstruct the homes and take them back to campus limbo, all except for The New School’s entry, the Empowerhouse. The Empowerhouse is now a home for a family outside our nation’s capital. During the design process the post competition phase of the house was carefully considered and addressed. On a much, much smaller scale our Design Swarm will attempt a similar form of longevity.

The Empowerhouse (photo by Martin Seck)

The Empowerhouse (photo by Martin Seck)

During our 3.5 hour workshop, we will be creating an ocean trawl for 5Gyres to be created using Shapeways 3D Printing technology. A trawl is a simple tool pulled by a boat made to float atop the water’s surface and collect debris in a large net. The report last December that revealed the incomprehensible 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans was thanks to the 5Gyres organization pulling a trawl through the global seas.* This inspiring marine research non profit wants to make it possible for others around the world to build their own low-tech trawls in order to test their own waters. Shapeways not only allows 5Gyres to produce a trawl but equally important, Shapeways can deliver the Trawl parts directly to citizen scientists, or actual scientists, for assembly, helping to make this horrific submerged pollution problem more visible.

Trawl in Action (photo by 5Gyres.org)

Trawl in Action (photo by 5Gyres.org)

Details of the Design Swarm are being kept intentionally vague to keep the conference attendees and the Design Swarm moderators on their feet. What we do know is that we will work in thirty minute bursts and have design minions sketching, CAD modeling, and prototyping our ideas for us while we try to solve our chosen problem. Ideally we can follow the lead of The Empowerhouse and create something 5Gyres can actually use to help illuminate the scope of the worldwide plastic pollution problem.

Debris gathered from a 5Gyres trawl of the Hudson River NYC, June 2015. (photo by Marcus Eriksen)

Debris gathered from a 5Gyres trawl of the Hudson River NYC, June 2015. (photo by Marcus Eriksen)

There will be a follow up post after the Design Swarm to report on the results.

___________

* PLOS One (Public Library of Science) http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111913

Furniture for You and Your Little Dog Too

by Patrick LaDuke

The infamous Finnish furniture company Artek founded by Alvar Aalto, whose work is viewable at MoMA, has started a website for used furniture as part of a new environmental strategy. Artek 2nd Cycle and Vintage is a collection of their iconic furniture given a new life. Their goal is to raise the issue of conscious consuming whilst supporting their original and timeless design. They also manage to carry a few found pieces from other designers as well, such as Eames (make sure to read the details of any with upholstery in case they happen to be wool/leather).

Neroko is another Finnish design company, but for dogs. They produce sustainable design that doesn’t detract from your decor, but rather adds interesting minimalistic pieces to your interior. They offer wonderful alternatives such as wooden beds with changeable upholstery, ceramic drinking bowls, birch bowl stands, and even a natural jute dog toy! All of their products are transparently made in Finland.

Brackish is a furniture company based in Seattle. They use salvaged materials that they source from the Pacific Northwest. Each product is made to last, made to order, and produced locally. They will also do custom work.

 

What’s in My Bag: Patrick LaDuke

IMG_0402  Although it changes from semester to semester, these are the typical items one might find on my person:

What’s in your bag? Organize and shoot your bag contents, tell us what’s there and why, and tag @thediscerningbrute on Instagram or @discerningbrute Twitter and you might get featured on TheDiscerningBrute.com if we like it!

Keep it Simple, Keep it Green

by Patrick LaDuke


A great alternative to those plastic Britas with wasteful filters. Japanese Kishu Binchotan, or White Charcoal, will turn tap water into mineral water, adding; calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorous. It will also adsorb (meaning the chemicals adhere to the surface) up to 75% of chlorine and all other impurities as well, all the while making your water taste better too. Once it is time to replace it, you can simply crush it and place it into the soil, where it nourishes and regulates PH levels. As to the sustainability: “Local craftsmen have carefully managed the forests that produce the raw material for White Charcoal for centuries. The way in which the wood is harvested promotes rapid and fertile regrowth and maintains a healthy ecosystem. The craftsmen have become the caretakers of the forest and by protecting it they maintain an environment that profits both man and nature.” Get it here.

Koncept is an award winning lighting company that makes all of their products with environmental considerations in mind. Their aluminum housing is fully recyclable, the LEDs do not contain mercury, the color finishes are with water-based paint, the cardboard packaging is FSC certified, and most lamps contain somewhere between 30-40% of pre-consumer recycled material(by weight). List of suppliers here. I purchased mine from Lumens, but you can also get them at Amazon.

Originally developed in 1944 for US ships and submarines in WWII, they were designed to be impervious to salt, water, and as a result are practically indestructible. Emeco builds chairs to last you for a lifetime, many of which have lifetime warranties. Almost all chairs are made from recycled aluminum, which is highly recyclable itself, but other materials include: recycled PET, glass fiber, reclaimed WPP (wood fibers), and natural wood. The upholstery can consist of: vinyl, ABS, fire retardant foam, c.o.m./c.o.l., polyurethane, and powder coat.

Ubico Studio sports a 100% recycled tag throughout the website. Most pieces are made of reclaimed wood, and some of their production is even done by a factory which employs disabled people. Most interestingly, they also conduct research, of which they did a series of cutting board art. This collection was called “Meating reality”.
“When is meat desirable? At what point does the craving become discomfort? The work examines this duality without stating a position but rather raises issue through the use of the cutting board as a plate for a bloody ponder.”

“Sprucing” Up the Place With Sustainable Decor

Patrick LaDuke joins The Discerning Brute’s lineup of incisive contributors and shares his take on interiors and furniture that dignify principled aesthetics.

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  • Ranging from furniture to interior, LA’s District Millworks is the perfect alternative for an eco friendly household. As stated in their blog, ” We use reclaimed wood sources along with FSC wood and materials. We finish our projects with eco friendly materials. Our goal is 100% eco friendly and sustainable products.” Not only can one get a table made from wine barrel inserts, but also lighting made from the barrels’ rings. They even offer reclaimed wood floors.

  • NYC’s Voos Furniture supports local designers by showcasing and selling their work. Their eco friendly options inculde discarded construction material, reclaimed wood, and recycled cork just to name a few. Check out the wine rack made entirely from waste material from the wine cork industry pictured above.

  • Score+Solder is a simple green option by merely housing your plants in a very modern way. Handmade to order, these terrariums and planters are simply glass and lead-free solder.

Patrick LaDuke is currently a fashion design student. He focuses on sustainability and ethics in all of his work, and is passionate about all things vegan. He has been a vegan since 17 and is always in search for the latest in sustainable design. He is also an aspiring musician, artist, and pastry chef.