i+D - May/June 2021 - 30

The Future of Materials - By Diana Mosher
Andrew Dent
(Image: Courtesy of
Material ConneXion)
On the Cutting Edge
Material ConneXion curates a library of more than
10,000 innovative materials and offers advice on trends
in design and sustainability. Working with clients across
business sectors including interiors, fashion, and technology,
Material ConneXion enables designers to preview exciting
material developments like sneaker company Allbirds' midsole
manufactured from sugarcane.
" If you ask the average interior designer whether they
understand the chemistry of the materials they're sourcing,
they'll probably say they don't. But they probably don't need
to, because certification and regulation and also testing allow
them to feel comfortable and confident that the material they're
choosing is the right one, " says Andrew Dent, Ph.D., executive
vice president, research at Material ConneXion and chief
material scientist at Material Bank.
Still, Material ConneXion makes sure the interior designer
knows everything there is to know about a material's
sustainability, impact, performance, and applications. " It
becomes a richer, more enjoyable product if you know
everything, because it's fascinating how things are made, "
says Dent.
Bringing clients up to speed on how they can help the planet
by selecting one material over another can feel daunting. Dent
suggests simply focusing on the immediate human benefits
rather than the technical aspects of a material. Instead of
saying, " This is a photocatalytic coating, " tell them it's a coating
that cleans the air and that they'll breathe and feel better
when that material is installed.
Drywall waste is among the
previously discarded product
being turned into useful design
materials, like building blocks.
(Image: Courtesy of Material
ConneXion)
Dent comes in contact every day with the world's most
innovative materials, and he continues to be intrigued by
materials created from waste. " There are many locations
around the world where we're running out of the right type
of sand for glass, but there's so much glass out there that we
could reprocess, " he says. Construction waste (concrete, brick,
and plasterboard) can be reprocessed into more construction
brick. This reduces the volume of waste going to landfills,
and because the mixture is compressed without firing, it also
produces fewer carbon dioxide emissions.
Bio-based materials are just as compelling. " For the longest
time we thought synthetic materials were going to be the
future. I think we have done a disservice to the natural world
when we don't value it as much as we should, " says Dent.
" We used wood for centuries, and then we moved away from
it, but now we're able to manipulate it and control it in a much
more effective way. "
Material ConneXion works to
ensure designers know everything
about a material's sustainability,
impact, performance, and
applications.
(Image: Courtesy of Material ConneXion)
Living Without Toxins
The general public has developed a new awareness of materials
during the pandemic. " Everybody's thinking about what they're
going to touch, what they're not going to touch, and how
to keep themselves healthy, " says Jonsara Ruth, co-founder
and design director at Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School
of Design.
She would like to see that same kind of vigilance extended
toward the understanding of indoor toxins. " The materials
we live with comprise ingredients that get into the air that we
breathe. Dust particles get into the food we eat. And we can
even absorb things through our skin, " says Ruth, who is also
founding director of the MFA Interior Design Program and an
associate professor at Parsons.
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i+D - May/June 2021

i+D - May/June 2021

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