In early April, 2015, the International Living Futures Institute (ILFI) launched the Living Product Challenge. This new program re-imagines the design and construction of products to function as elegantly and efficiently as anything found in the natural world. The Living Product Expo was a groundbreaking new event that brought together leading minds in the product industry and ignited a revolution in the way materials are designed, manufactured, and delivered. Sustainability directors from the world’s leading design firms, prominent manufacturers, and sustainability consultants gathered to learn about game-changing innovations in product design.
The Expo assembled a diverse group of people, industries, and disciplines. Together, they engaged in a transparent, transdisciplinary and transformative dialogue to inspire the creation of the world’s first Living Products. Participants gained new tools, knowledge, and connections to effect positive change in their organizations and supply chains.
The Living Product Expo is the world’s leading place for design and manufacturing professionals to learn about game-changing products that will transform the marketplace and a unique opportunity for manufacturers and designers (of all sizes) to network, learn from one another and aggregate market power to create transformative impact. Attendees experienced a stimulating agenda of education tracks, inspiring keynote presentations, tours, networking and Show + Tell product demonstrations showcasing the latest trends in sustainable products. http://www.livingproductexpo.org/expo-highlights/
o Tell us about the Living Product Expo’s mission?
Cara: To support the creation of products that are truly regenerative and begin new partnerships between manufacturers, designers, and producers. It is the beginning of a material revolution. This was the first year of the Expo and will now be an annual event in Pittsburgh.
o Cara, we understand you discovered a new material that is kind of “squishy!” Tell us about it.
It is high performance biomaterials grown from MUSHROOMS and agricultural waste! It is used for packaging, insulation, structural substrate and even surf boards! Best part; all of its uses from renewable reclaimed sources that are non-toxic. http://www.ecovativedesign.com/mushroom-materials/
o Speaking of new materials, using takeaways from the Expo’s Materials Summit how will MCG be integrating Health and Transparency into their Projects and Practice?
Cara: We are continuing our commitment towards Red List Free specifying by using products, like Myco Board (mushroom structural substrate) in casework. ‘Myco Board, Ecovative grows- not glues- materials with natural, rapidly renewable mycelium technology, delivering structural biocomposites that perform, without harsh chemicals’ http://www.ecovativedesign.com/products-and-applications/structural-biocomposites/
o How would you best describe the Phipps Conservatory?
Why were those ideal locations for tours?
Cara: Phipps Conservatory is a Living Building that provides (literally) green healthy spaces for wellness and inspiration.
o What was your favorite “Innovation Inspired by Nature?” Any inspirations that we might be seeing in your current projects that the natural beauty of Alaska has inspired?
Cara:Purebond, soy-based (adhesive) hardwood plywood will celebrate our NW woods without added urea formaldehydes. http://purebondplywood.com/. Another product I am very excited to use is Ecos Paints which like nature it will provide a platform for limitless color without harming our air quality but actually making it better! http://www.ecospaints.net/atmosphere-purifying-paints.html
o Trade shows are always an opportunity to see and experience new materials and vendors. What were a couple of your favorites?
Cara: Thermacork, which is 100% nature insulation ( what up R-values needs in AK) that can be used for roofing, exterior walls, partitions, flooring and ceilings. http://www.thermacork.com/applications/
o What would be a couple of reasons for others not to miss the next Expo?
Cara: Because knowledge will propel the building industry, therefore the space that contains our living into a healthier place to be.
o Who should attend the Living Products Expo?
Cara: Before attending this year’s event, I would have said those in the building industry, however some of my most productive conversations and connections where made with permaculture Supply Chain Specialist, chemists, and even the cosmetic company Lush.
o Jason, you currently serve on the BOD of the ILFI –how has this commitment to sustainability impacted your approach to architecture or your design process?
Jason:Over the time period of 1998 to 2004 I worked in Germany exclusively on low energy projects that embodied design principles of Passive design. I moved to Alaska 11 years ago in order to live in my vacation and contribute to that community. I quickly discovered how most true-Alaskans are closely in tune and aware of their surround environment and I quickly discovered the reality of a rapidly changing world and how effects life and how people were effecting that world. I wanted to create positive, meaningful, and effective change with a profoundly urgent manor through my profession. Fast forward to 2009 when elected to the Cascadia GBC, we created ILFI in 2011 after the resoundingly successful launch of the Living Building Challenge. The experience of being a small statue in the room of giant change agents, I had to put action to practice. This experience was a huge moment of development in my career if not life and completely altered my perspective. Combing my experience in Germany, my work with MCG, and my service as a founding BOD for ILFI, I want to dedicate my work to the development of sustainable building practices; reconnecting indigenous design with modern innovations. I want to develop solutions that are cost-effective, create healthy environments, are energy-efficient, with an overarching goal to eliminate negative environmental impacts, and build sustainable communities. Instead of simply doing less harm I want to create a built environment that is socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative. I believe Alaska is ripe for net positive energy buildings that are combustion free and exclude red list toxins.
o Jason, what are some of the BOD imperatives for the coming year? Timely question. The organization his on the end of a 3 year strategic plan (attached is copy). Of which most of the goals have been achieved or exceeded. We are in the process of writing a new strategic plan with a scalable 3, 5, 7 year performance period. For example our $400k NGO is near $5m and we want to take it to $10mThis all at the time when we are celebrating our first ever transition of CEO leadership from Jason Mclennan to Amanda Sturgeon. Program growth is paramount: LBC, NetZero, JUST, Declare, Reveal, LF Congresses, Cascadia, and also the newly launched Living Product Challenge. We are also focused on growth of our international institutes, membership, Trimtab magazine and Ecotone.
o Cara, what steps toward sustainability are you taking with the expanded MCG Interior Design Department? To walk the talk. Every day we are learning more about healthy and sustainable materials we can evaluate with our clients. We are actively encouraging product manufacturers to re-evaluate and share the contents in what they are creating through our ‘Initiative for Product Content Transparency’ letter and commitment. Knowledge is power and we strive to design space that promotes health and a regenerative future for our clients and our world community.
o How can others become involved in the Living Product Challenge or learn more about the “MCG is Going Red List Free Transparency Initiative” campaign?
Cara:http://living-future.org/lpc is a great resource for the Living Product Challenge and MCG would also be thrilled to talk to you about product and material innovations. October 29th MCG will be hosting an Open House and celebrating the launch of our Red List Free Campaign. Part of the launch will be a website resource that share steps to become Red List Free Designers, Builders and Producers.