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  1. I have a huge interest in MATERIALS.    So much in fact it influenced how I named my company.

    I studied Furniture & Product Design in the late 80s / early 90s - that was A LOT about materials (and processes). One of my degree projects was a piece of furniture made from a board material called TECTAN which is recycled post consumer Tetra Pak. It was not only about beauty for me even then. The materials needed to be conscious.

    At The Body Shop HQ I was part of the monitoring of materials used in their store design to marry up with their strong ethics and values
    -  avoid PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
    -   avoid formaldehyde
    -   use FSC sustainable timber (Forest Stewardship Council)
    -   avoid animal products and animal tested paint, minimal VOC content
    -  reclaimed, reused and recycled materials
    -  use of Community Trade materials


    We all should have a huge interest in materials and increase our awareness. What we use in our spaces is so important to occupant health (that's human AND animal), those in the extraction and production process, those who install them, the lifecycle - use and end of life - leaching and contamination.

    Alison Mears Parsons

    Powerful quote is from - Alison Mears - Director, Healthy Materials Lab, at Parsons - The New School


    I've still got so much learning to do.   And as I said in my last Journal post - that's not going to stop!

    I've just completed the four courses that make up the HEALTHY MATERIALS AND SUSTAINABLE BUILDING curriculum at Parson's The New School which I've been studying since January. The people behind their EXCELLENT Materials Lab have created this excellent and broad-ranging course for those involved in the Built Environment. It identifies Chemicals and Materials of concern, how to avoid them in clients projects, what tools can be used - certifications and labels, what frameworks exist and the difference between them, how project teams can collaborate and execute healthier projects, how they are maintained and monitored to continue to be healthier and better spaces for our clients.


    My specifications will be improved after this!


    I really recommend it to my industry colleagues.



  2. I've really been in two minds about sharing this meme.  It's a dig at vegans.  But it illustrates a discussion point.  Why do we need to tell people?


    In a nutshell - it's because there's milk in some potato crisps!  

    Animal products are in so much of what we buy and consume - even if we think we are managing to avoid them.  

    Food and drinks mostly have labels, as do products.  But would you check the label for a bag of crisps?!  You need to be on the ball as there are so many unsuspecting places for animal products to be used in things -  especially in my industry.   

    I completely understand why a client may want to make it known to those on a team specifying for a build project.  I also think that may feel like an uncomfortable thing to do for them - as that team may have no awareness that animal products  are used - let alone that sheep's wool commonly used in insulation is something a vegan may want to avoid or that animal glues are used widely, still.   People still have a block that vegan is all about diet and not a consciousness about how we live as well. 

    Even though I've been working in this area for many years and I'm familiar with what goes on - I'm learning of more all the time. 
     I recommend fellow vegan interior designer Aline Dürr's book Vegan Interior Design.   I guess the clue was in the name but I was surprised to read that bone china still contains a large percentage of bone ash from pigs and cows.  You just think these things would have been superseded over all these years.  To me it just sound out-moded.

    Even if someone is not vegan - these are still things they might want to avoid.  I've recently completed a fantastic and informative set of courses on Healthy Materials and Sustainable Building devised by the Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design.  Chemicals, wellbeing and sustainability are all interconnected.  Chemical use in interiors products mean the need for toxicity testing of the products - and that means animal testing.  Sometimes this happens once and the findings are shared between companies.  But new chemicals / combinations mean new testing. 

    So chemical use should be something we should be cautious of for many reasons if health, environment and animals are important to you.
  3. My confession


    I've been fortunate to help local company Kings Colleges with the design of their college buildings for many years. It's such a lovely team of passionate and creative people there. I've worked on most of their UK buildings and helped to create a template to apply to their buildings globally.  A few years ago we completed Kings Brighton.  It's a building that's near to where I live and next to the Level - so lots of green space nearby for students and staff to enjoy.

    This building achieved the BREEAM sustainable building rating of EXCELLENT. So this included specifications that were lower impact, there's a living roof, living wall, cycle parking.
    I know about sustainability and GUESS WHAT.....I would have loved to have done SO MUCH MORE.
    This project very much spurred me on to work harder to provide sustainable specifications for my clients - drawing on all that I learnt during my excellent education in working in sustainability for The Body Shop's HQ early in my career. Although I thought I was working with vegan and sustainable specifications - found I had drifted into the mainstream of unconsciously sourced and specified materials and WASTE! This project completely woke me up to that and what more I could do in my role of designer.
    May confession 2
    I took time out to study more to bump up my knowledge.
    I completed courses on vegan design, human centred design and sustainability. I'm currently nearly at the end of another course on using healthier materials.
    Clients want to make BETTER choices and want to be guided on lower impact specifications. They just don't know what to look out for or even what all the issues are. I feel it's my duty as a designer to guide them.
    So my learning is not going to stop and I'm working hard to influence fellow designers via INTERIOR DESIGN DECLARES and the BRITISH INSTITUTE OF INTERIOR DESIGN as well.
    Here's a short video about Kings Brighton - complete with a look around the building.
    If you'd like to read more - and tour the building in more detail - have a look here...