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Taking a Closer Look at Carbon with mafi America

Sustainability is a word often used as the token expression of “green building.” But what does it actually mean and what are the consequences of paying attention to the sustainability movement? Written by mafi America’s Head of Sustainability Walter Lourie, LEED AP BD+C, this article will take a closer look…

An Overview of Wood Block Printing

Wood block printing onto fabric has been a main staple of Indian culture and commerce for the last 2,000 years. Although today there are mechanical means, such as screen printing, which are able to mimic the appearance of traditional block printing—some not only echoing the motifs, but integrating minute mistakes…

Biophilia and Biomimicry in Design

It’s easy to see why biophilia and biomimicry are frequently confused. They’re both design strategies that are inspired by nature and they were both introduced through the environmental movement – not to mention that they sound quite similar. But they’re actually entirely different concepts used in different ways – and…

An Exploration of Pleats as an Expressive Interior Element

A material embellishment embraced for its ability to infuse volume, texture, and dimension, pleats are an expressive element of design that hold a long history. The traditional techniques used to create this age-old motif can be traced back to ancient Egypt, and pleats have been reinterpreted in recent years across…

A Brief History of Bentwood Furniture

A pioneering design that transformed interiors and revolutionized industrial production processes, bentwood furniture features an iconic appeal that has transcended time. Its sleek and sinuous forms are fashioned from a centuries-old technique rooted in steam-bent, laminated woodwork. As a formative feature in the history of furniture design, classic bentwood chairs…

Exploring the Designer’s Role

Designers make some of the most important decisions about the spaces we live in. The wooden floor, the carpeting, the wall cladding and windows, the bronze kitchen hardware and tile backsplash and leather couch – all exist based on choices made by designers long before they became part of interior…

Navigating Local Sourcing

You’ve seen it in your grocery stores, your farmer’s markets – and likely in your materials libraries too. Alongside “sustainable,” “green,” and “clean,” there’s another buzzword associated with socially and environmentally responsible consumerism: local. Locally produced goods and materials are a growing consumer preference – and there are plenty of…

The History of Passive House

Passive building strategies use elements like a building’s location, the local climate, and materials as natural opportunities to save energy on heating and cooling systems and keep operational costs down. They can help reduce front-end costs, as well as emissions related to heating, cooling, and lighting. Passive House, or PassivHaus,…

How Materials Passports Could Transform the Building Industry

Imagine that your house, your office, your grocery store, and your bank are all part of a database with information about what building materials they contain and how each can eventually be reused or recycled. It’s housed in something called a “materials passport,” a digital document that provides information about…

A Comparison Between Thin Brick and Extruded Brick

Although there has been evidence of kiln fired bricks since 4400 BC, new opportunities with technology and a resurgence in popularity of having exposed brick has led to a variety of brick types over the last few decades. Today, two types in particular—thin brick and extruded brick—are often utilized by…

A Closer Look at Leather Alternatives

From leaves and mushrooms to plants more, an expanding array of innovative and eco-friendly leather alternatives exists. Our article on innovations in traditional hide leather explores the stricter environmental and health protocols that many manufacturers have adopted in recent years. Leather manufacturers argue that cow hides are a byproduct of…

Innovations in Hide Leather

Leather is a luxurious, soft, and durable material that’s been used by human civilizations since at least 2200 BCE.  But leather is also a warzone—that is, between those who believe hide leather is a fantastic, sustainable material and those who would argue to the death that it’s both unethical and…

An Overview of Acoustical Plaster

Although plaster has been used since the ancient world, acoustical plaster has been gaining momentum in the industry over the last couple of decades due to its sound absorption properties and seamless appearance. Acoustical plaster has an array of inherent advantages that include flexibility, ease of installation, a lightweight design,…

The Enduring Appeal of Zellige Tile

Zellige tiling is a time-tested art form that features fresh textures, rich colorways, and handcrafted charm. The glossy, handmade tiles come in a broad selection of shapes and sizes—though they are most commonly square—and due to the imperfect nature of the glaze no two pieces are exactly alike. With artisanal…

A History of the Environmental Justice Movement

In 1983, the United States General Accounting Office found that three out of every four off-site commercial waste hazards in the southern US were located in predominantly African American communities—even though African Americans only made up 20 percent of the region’s population. And this was no anomaly. Today, three out…

A Closer Look at LVT Flooring

Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is a hard surface flooring material available in a range of shapes, sizes, and aesthetics that can evoke the appearance of authentic wood or stone while providing practical benefits not possible with natural products. Available in a diverse array of different constructions, LVT plank or tile…

Exploring Thermally Fused and High-Pressure Laminate

For more than a century, designers and architects have used laminate when looking for surfacing solutions that offer a range of aesthetics. Today, Thermally Fused Laminate (TFL, also known as Thermally Fused Melamine (TFM)) and High Pressure Laminate (HPL) provide cost-effective options. The information that follows will explore the similarities…

Biomaterials and Biodesign

Biodesign is a quickly growing field that uses materials derived from living organisms rather than finite resources or synthetics. Living materials—made from anything that can reproduce, including plants, animals, insects, fungi, and even bacteria—have the potential to be more sustainable, healthier, and higher performing building alternatives than traditional materials. Biologists,…

Comparing Incandescent and LED Lighting

With climate change a central issue in President Joe Biden’s administration, designers can expect a renewed push to phase out incandescent bulbs in favor of LEDs. The latter, which utilize 70 to 80 percent less electricity than incandescents to produce the same light, are a simple, significant way to reduce…

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Designers and architects are constantly looking for ways to make life better through built spaces. It’s not hard to find building professionals who are eager to make headway on issues like accessibility, sustainability, and health – and there are countless models and strategies for making improvements. The United Nation’s Sustainable…

A Brief History of Terracotta

A unique clay that is celebrated for its rich, reddish orange hues, Terracotta has been used in sculptural art, architecture, and pottery for centuries by civilizations across the globe. Holding a prominent place in history, the material’s many modern uses include a diverse range of design applications—from tiles, mosaics, and…

A Comparison Between Vinyl and Linoleum Flooring

Low-priced and highly resilient, vinyl and linoleum flooring have both been used by designers and architects for decades. While the two materials maintain many common characteristics and similarities, a number of important differences between linoleum and vinyl exist. The information that follows offers an overview of each material and a…

How to Read an Environmental Product Declaration

What is an EPD? If you’ve spent time scrolling through the environmental credentials for materials, you may have noticed the acronym EPD. It’s short for Environmental Product Declaration, and it’s a document that provides verified information about a product’s environmental impact across its life cycle. It’s not a certification or…

Elements of Modernist Design

Reinventing the relationship between space and aesthetics, the Modernist design style emerged at the turn of the 20th century as a celebration of composition and materiality achieved through transparency, technology, and efficiency. Guided by the idea that “form follows function,” the design movement is connected to the age of machination…

Exploring California’s Air Quality Standards

If you’ve spent time toggling through search options on Material Bank, you may have found a tag called “CDPH/CHPS 01350 compliant” and another labeled “CARB compliant” under the Certificates and Standards filter. CDPH/CHPS 01350 and CARB are home-grown California standards and standards-setters for air quality. They are very important for…

A Better Understanding of BIFMA Standards

The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association is known as BIFMA, and its namesake furniture standards are widely known across the design industry, but little understood. The confusion primarily exists around what the organization is, and what its standards mean for the products being specified and purchased. BIFMA is not…

Choosing the Right Building Standard: LEED, WELL, and Fitwel

For design firms and companies who value human and environmental health, building rating systems are a helpful route to achieving some of the industry’s most ambitious, forward-looking goals. They set high standards for all kinds of building projects, from residential spaces to offices and schools, for both new construction and…

Exploring Plastic and its Alternatives in a Circular Economy

Type “pollution” in Google Images and alongside photos of billowing smokestacks, you’ll see landfills brimming with plastic, plastic bottles washed up on beaches, plastic floating in bodies of water. Type in “plastic” and you’ll find much the same, linking to articles with titles such as “A Tidal Wave of Plastic,”…

A Brief History of the Vienna Secession

Like many styles in the late 19th through 20th centuries, the Vienna Secession was a rejection of the traditional conservative style that was prevalent throughout art, architecture, and design. Begun by notable artists and architects Gustav Klimt, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Koloman Moser, and Josef Hoffman among others who had been…