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Posts Tagged ‘Green Design’

HIGH POINT — The American Home Furnishings Alliance is launching a program called Eco3Home that will allow consumers to research information on AHFA members and their products regarding safety, health and environmental stewardship.

It will be anchored by a consumer website, www.eco3home.com, where shoppers will be able to find out about AHFA manufacturer or importer members participating in the program, and also can research a particular piece of furniture in detail.

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So far, very few manufacturers have signed on to this program, but perhaps more will with time, as it becomes known.  The idea is certainly an excellent one, and I hope this program really takes off.

I sure hope that the high end companies like Dessin Fournir, Holly Hunt, and others that I am accustomed to using most frequently will get onto this sort of bandwagon.  There is progress happening in the industry, with more and more attractive furniture being made in green ways, so that environmental responsibility need not mean sacrificing style, but it still hasn’t hit the really top quality goods.

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WOOL FOR ALL SEASONS

by Wools of New Zealand (photo credits as indicated)

Summertime - and Wool! Photo credit: Wools of New Zealand

What’s the very first thing that comes to mind when you think about wool? I bet it’s not the summer! Wool is known for protecting people from freezing temperatures, yet for over 12,000 years wool has also played an important role in protecting people from heat.

The natural qualities of wool make it more suitable for carpet in climatic extremes than synthetic fibers. In Florida and other regions with both high humidity and temperatures, the

Photo credit: Toxy's Jamstation

advantages of wool’s complex physical structure work as an atmospheric buffer. At times of high humidity, wool fiber can absorb up to 30 percent of its weight in moisture—without feeling damp—then release this moisture when the atmosphere becomes dry again. And when wool fibers are easily spread, as in carpets, they can respond in minutes to changes in ambient humidity. In this way, wool acts as a buffer to reduce peak humidity levels and make those hot summer months more comfortable.

Summer is meant to be enjoyed. It’s the time of year we throw open our windows, fill our vases with fresh flowers, and walk around barefoot. And why shouldn’t we?  There’s nothing like the beauty of the great outdoors. And one of the best ways to capture that “outdoor” feeling is with furnishings and floorcoverings made from natural materials, like wool.

Few floorcoverings are associated as closely with the land as wool. The wool from New Zealand is an environmentally friendly, sustainable fiber that is grown naturally.

Photo credit: joe-ks.com

Because wool is produced from a totally renewable resource—grass—the earth’s natural resources, which are becoming more precious every day, are preserved; unlike synthetics which require energy, and in many cases petroleum, for production.

Photo credit: Canada-photos.com

Another environmental benefit of wool is that it is biodegradable. In soil, wool readily biodegrades to produce nitrogen, sulfur, carbon dioxide and

Photo credit: Brookside Woolen Mill

water, which support the growth of plants and flowers.

Thoughts of blooming flowers also bring to mind the topic of allergies. Wool can help allergy sufferers by absorbing common contaminants and eliminating them from the air. Wool also reacts with harmful gases such as formaldehyde (a common pollutant emitted by building materials), nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide by neutralizing and binding the gases irreversibly in its structure, so everyone…even people with asthma…can breathe a little easier.

Photo credit: Carpet and Rug Institute

In addition to livin’ well, wool makes livin’ easy.  Wool is naturally superior because it has built-in stain resistant features. The scaly structure of the wool fibers holds dirt high on the pile where it can be easily vacuumed. Wet spills can be blotted up quickly as well, leaving more time to enjoy summer activities.

Wool is a fiber for all reasons and all seasons. The many benefits of this amazing fiber help make your world healthier, comfortable, beautiful and more relaxing…all months of the year.

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Photo source: South Okanagan Modular Homes

For those of you who may live in modular or manufactured (mobile) homes, or are in the market for one, you can now get them all with universal/visitable design features such as level entries, wider hallways, lever handles, larger doorways, varying height kitchen counters, curbless showers, knee spaces at vanities, anti-scald controls, handheld showers, grab bars and blocking for them,  extra space to maneuver in kitchens and baths, task lighting for various task including cooking, and easy to reach thermostats.

Who knew?

South Okangan Modular Homes

It doesn’t look as if they offer knee space for  a wheelchair in the kitchen, 48″ electric outlets and light switches, adjustable height cooktops and sinks, pull-down upper shelves, etc., all of which are important for accessible design for someone in a wheelchair, or particularly short, but perhaps they can be added, or are on the drawing board for the future.  This is certainly an excellent start, though, and some of these elements could probably be retrofitted after purchase, if need be.

And yes, the cute little cottage above is actually a mobile home, believe it or not – a double-wide.  The kitchen below is also in one, although it clearly doesn’t show all of the universal design features.  Click on the images to go to their photo gallery if you want to see more examples, or images of their modular homes.

Some  manufacturers also offer high end finishes such as granite and marble, so you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice luxury just because you buy a home at this price point.  I was  in some mobile homes in my paramedic days that were nicer than many regular homes I’ve seen.  Some also offer triple-wide homes, although I have no idea what universal design elements might be available.

Photo source: South Okanagan Modular Homes

Note:  This is not an endorsement for this manufacturer, as I know nothing else about them.  I’m just very interested that universal design features are now available for this kind of housing, and it’s likely that other manufacturers will follow suit, if they haven’t already.

I also don’t know if they offer formaldehyde-free homes, or if any manufacturer does.  Formaldehyde at least used to be a major component in manufactured homes, so this very ungreen element could be an issue for a lot of people, both for those who are chemically sensitive, as well as those for whom green construction is a priority.  Whether or not it would offset the advantages of the more universal design, if this chemical is still prevalent, would have to be an individual decision, although I certainly hope that these manufacturers are moving in this direction, as it’s the environmentally responsible thing to do.

Photo source: South Okanagan Modular Homes

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Image from Sparkly Like a Holiday

OK, I admit it.  I’m stealing this topic from Paul Anater, over at Kitchen and Residential Design.  But I’m not going to say the same things.

Yes, I quite agree that chalkboard paint is overdone – and way overdone in several of the images he shows.  It’s old.  It’s boring.  It’s dated.  There are clearly limits to its usefulness, safety, and definitely to its appearance.  Not only can it be toxic when it gets into your food as Paul mentions, but chalk dust can also be a major problem for people who have allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivities, so it would not foster an accessible design for people who suffer from such afflictions.  It would also violate universal and visitability design principles, as it could create a similar hazard for other users of the space, particularly visitors whose sensitivities might be unknown.  Chalk dust doesn’t do anything for overall air quality, either, so that lowers the green design reusability quotient of the paint, never mind what the VOC content of it might be.

Now that we’ve looked at the potential health hazards, let’s focus more on the visual elements.

Looking at the images Paul posted, the ones that really offend me the most are the refrigerator fully covered in the dreadful green version of the paint, that huge, frightening expanse of black wall and door, and yes, that hideous kitchen. (more…)

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Canned Foods (Consumer Reports)

Image courtesy of Consumer Reports

Almost everyone knows by now that many of the refillable water bottles we love are lined with an epoxy-based material that contains carcinogenic chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA). Public outcry has resulted in several manufacturers now offering bottles with alternative, non-epoxy-based linings.

What is not quite so well known, however, is that the linings of most food and beverage cans are also this same type of epoxy resin that also contain BPA. This is the chemical that is responsible for the vastly longer shelf lives of canned foods in this day and age, which is why it’s become so ubiquitous.

Consumer Reports recently tested a variety of canned foods for its presence, and found that even organic foods, and those made by manufacturers who make a concerted effort to avoid the epoxy resins still have significant levels of BPA in the food samples tested. Only one manufacturer, Eden, has so far managed to find a source of cans that was even willing to address the problem and attempt to make cans without BPA.

Despite being packed in cans made by the Ball Corp. with the oleo-based material previously known as “corn enamel”, which was common in food can linings prior to the 60s, testing still found measurable levels of BPA in Eden’s foods (although vastly below those found in other brands), suggesting that there may be multiple sources of exposure to the chemical in the food chain, not just in the cans.

You can read the rest of the whole article about this, and learn about the FDA’s new assessments of what a safe level of BPA exposure may be on the Consumer Reports blog.

So should you clean out your kitchen cabinets, throw away all of your canned foods, and never buy any more? In the ideal world, perhaps yes, but we all know that we don’t live in one. BPA is one of the highest volume chemicals in the world, though, even found in dust and water samples from all over the world, so at this point, it’s completely unavoidable in the environment, and it would be a reasonable assumption that this is one of the additional sources Consumer Reports speculates about. Eliminating BPA from food can linings may help, but until that happens, you can at least dramatically decrease your exposure to it by avoiding canned food wherever possible.

So what does this have to do with interior design?

Kitchen Storage

Kristi Stratton, CountryLiving.com

Well, clearly kitchens are where food is stored and prepared, and most are now designed with as much storage space as possible for both housewares and packaged foods. You may find, however, that as you reduce your reliance on canned goods and other processed foods, that you may need different types of storage, and it may need to be configured somewhat differently. Many things can be packaged in glass or ceramic containers instead of plastic or cans, but both glass and ceramics tend to be a lot heavier and bulkier than cans and plastic containers, and of course will break if dropped, so you’ll need to pay careful attention to how your storage is laid out so that they are easily – and safely – accessible. Increased refrigeration space may be required as well, in order to accomm0date a wider range of fresh produce and other foods.

It may be that you won’t actually even need as much space, though, because the shorter shelf lives of fresh foods and those that come in jars instead of cans means you’ll probably be shopping more often, but for smaller quantities. Or perhaps you’ll start buying in bulk and doing your own canning and preserving.

Well Stocked Pantry with Preserved Foods

Library of Congress via TheSustainableKitchen.com

You’ll be chopping up more things, so ensuring adequate preparation space that suits your needs and ideally allows you to work while seated as well as standing will be useful.

You may need or want additional cooktop burners or additional and innovative cooking sources like the marvelous new steam or combination steam/convection ovens. Steaming is one of the best possible ways to prepare food, locking in both nutrients and moisture, and these ovens make it so incredibly convenient that you wouldn’t believe it.

Miele Steam Oven

Miele Steam Oven

And because it’s healthier for both you and the environment, avoiding canned foods and learning to make your own fresh, more healthful meals from scratch, you’ll also be being much more green. True sustainable design doesn’t end with the cabinets and other finishes used; it translates through to how the space is used, how waste is removed, and much, much more.

So, if you’re designing a new kitchen, you’ll need to take these changing food preparation habits into account, and communicate your desires to your designer, so that the space can be optimized for food preparation patterns that are less common today than they used to be, and with which you yourself may not yet be as familiar with the requirements of and ways to optimize.

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(ARA) – When you think of the colors associated with fall, green doesn’t necessarily come to mind. Environmentally speaking, however, it should. There’s no better time than now to lessen your home’s impact on the environment and change the way you decorate and live. So, why not go green this fall? It’s not nearly as difficult to become earth-friendly as you might think.

“From products that contribute to good indoor air quality to ones that truly reflect the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra, the number of affordable green interior decorating products has literally exploded within the past five years,” says Donna Schroeder, Dutch Boy color marketing and design manager.9119_B53_rgb

These days, you can find stylish, eco-friendly design elements for every room in the house. And, contrary to popular belief, going green doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style for sustainability. The two can coexist quite effortlessly.

You can start simple by dressing your bed in luxurious sheets, throws and comforters made from fabrics such as rich, renewable bamboo or soft, organic cotton. Cover your floors with formaldehyde-free carpets constructed of recycled fibers or select a natural material, like stone, slate or even concrete. Then, hang energy-efficient window treatments with high insulation and shading properties.

Don’t stop there. Spice up your tired sofa with a design-forward slipcover and throw pillows crafted from 100 percent recycled materials. Add bright recycled glass plates and serving pieces to your china cabinet. Buy furniture made from sustainably harvested wood or, better yet, visit local secondhand shops and repurpose. Or, look around your own home and see what you already have that can be adapted for a new use. You’d be surprised what a little creativity and some good old-fashioned elbow grease can do.

If you’re looking to add bold, fun color, paint fits perfectly into this overall green scheme. It’s an inexpensive, effective and, most importantly, environmentally-minded way to change the look and feel of an entire room. Many paint manufacturers now offer coatings that contain few, if any, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or vapors that are released from paint as it dries.

Using paints formulated without VOCs, such as Dutch Boy’s new Refresh interior paint with exclusive odor-eliminating Arm & Hammer technology, takes your home one step closer to reducing your environmental impact while leaving your interior looking fresh, modern and filled with personality.

Many home improvement products, including Refresh, are also Indoor Air Quality certified by The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, a nonprofit, industry-independent organization that certifies indoor products that meet satisfactory indoor air emissions standards.

Keep in mind that greening your home, inside or out, doesn’t happen in a matter of minutes or even overnight. It’s an ongoing process. The limit to how green your home can be is up to how willing you are to adjust your lifestyle. The choice is yours. “It doesn’t take any grand gestures to start going green,” Schroeder says. “Tiny changes add up to make a big overall impact on the environment.”

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tax incentives proposed for home furnishings purchases

Bill would give deductions, credits to consumers, retailers

Larry Thomas — Furniture Today, July 31, 2009

WASHINGTON — Two Georgia congressmen have filed a bill that would give a variety of income tax deductions and credits to consumers and retailers who purchase home furnishings and building products.

Known as the Home Improvements Revitalize the Economy (Hire) Act of 2009, the bill is designed to stimulate two industries the congressmen say have $67 billion in economic value.

“Not only would this bill help stimulate the manufacturing market for home furnishings and building products, it would save and create retail jobs, generate billions in revenue and increase home values at a time when we really need a boost,” said Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat who is co-sponsoring the bill with Republican Rep. Nathan Deal.

The bill would provide a tax deduction of up to $2,000 for families with household income of $300,000 or less who purchase qualifying home furnishings or building products through Dec.31, 2011.

The deduction could be taken even if the taxpayer doesn’t itemize other deductions.

For lower income families, the bill allows a tax credit of up to $500 for qualifying purchases. The income ceiling for the credit was not immediately clear.

In addition, retailers and contractors who purchase home furnishings and building products for resale to consumers are eligible for a tax credit of 10% of the wholesale purchase price. The credit would be capped at $10,000 annually.

The applicable deduction or credit would be doubled if the products meet recognized environmental standards such as Energy Star or LEED, according to the bill.

The bill defines qualified building products and home furnishings as those which are used in the taxpayer’s principal residence and installed within six months of the purchase date. Electronics, appliances, housewares, artwork, photographs and “other home decorations” are not eligible for any of the proposed deductions or credits.

The measure has been endorsed by the International Sleep Products Assn., the American Home Furnishings Alliance and the National Home Furnishings Assn.

The three groups are among 14 trade associations that make up the American Home Furnishings and Building Products Coalition, which was formed last December.

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Even without tax incentives, and even if you don’t live in Georgia, this is a great time to invest in at least some of the wonderful new things for your home that you know you’ve been dreaming of!  Not only will prices never be lower (and in some cases, may already be discounted), but it would still help stimulate the economy, which can only benefit us all.  Plus, you’d then get all that enjoyment of your newly redesigned home for years to come!

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Furniture tipping over can create a significant hazard in the home, particularly to young children, although the frail elderly and the disabled may also be disproportionately negatively impacted as well. Top quality furniture has always resisted tipping over as a result of use far more effectively than cheaper goods, because best manufacturing practices and materials create structure that builds this in to a large extent.

However, particularly since most people purchase mass market goods, much of which does not come anywhere near meeting these kinds of inherent quality standards, it’s important to read the press release below, and to be alert to the hazard, as well as to ways you can mitigate it.

In earthquake-prone areas such as California, it is particularly important to bolt taller pieces of furniture to the wall in order to prevent tip-over in an earthquake (although that still won’t help with the problem of poorly constructed drawers falling out). In an earthquake, all bets are off as to what will or will not tip over due to construction quality, and you’ve got to assume that everything will fall over. Securing tall pieces to the wall is just plain a good idea everywhere else, too, for the reasons outlined below, just on general principles, and is the reason this new voluntary standard has been developed.

In future posts, I’ll address the question of what to look for in furniture construction of various types of furniture in order to ensure you get the best possible quality, which contributes to safety, comfort, usability, durability, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness, as well as pure pleasure and enjoyment.

Please click on the posts feed button on the top right side of this blog’s home page if you’d like to subscribe to this blog to be automatically notified about any new posts, and on the comments button if you want to follow the comments.

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(05/18/2009) AHFA Will Use Consumer Website to Help Educate Parents About Furniture Tip-Over Hazards
By: Jackie Hirschhaut, 336/881-1016

HIGH POINT, N.C. – ASTM International has released a revised furniture tip-over standard requiring manufacturers to include a “tip restraint” with each chest, door chest and dresser taller than 30 inches.

“Tip restraints attach the piece of furniture to an interior wall, framing or other support to help prevent the piece from tipping over,” explains American Home Furnishings Alliance Vice President Bill Perdue, who served as co-chair of the furniture safety subcommittee that worked on the revised standard. “Furnishings that comply with the new standard also will carry a new warning label that cautions parents not to open more than one drawer at a time, not to place televisions or other heavy objects on the top of the product, and not to allow children to climb on drawers.” (more…)

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remodelling-buyers-market

If you’ve put remodelling and redecorating plans on hold because of the economy and thinking you can’t afford to do it right now, it’s definitely time to rethink that position, for a variety of reasons.

If you’re like many people, you’re likely spending more time at home these days instead of out and about, eating out, going to theater and concerts, travelling, etc. So why not be sure the space you’re spending all this additional time in is your dream place to be?

Unlike the money you spend on vacations and the like, which brings fleeting joy, the money you invest into your home may pay back when it comes time to sell, but just as importantly (or even more so), it will also reward you psychically and emotionally every single day you live there by making your home even more comfortable for every day living. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to come home at the end of each day and feel that thrill of being in a space that you love and that nurtures you no matter what else is going on in your world? To have a home that you actually don’t even want to leave?

You don’t have to spend a lot of money, if you don’t want to or really can’t afford to – even just a fresh coat of paint, some new throw pillows, a new painting or area rug, or moving the artwork or furniture you already have around to different locations can give you a facelift and needed boost. New lighting, new fixtures, and new hardware for your doors and cabinetry are other inexpensive upgrades that can pack a lot of punch.

Don’t know quite what to do, and can’t afford to hire a designer to do the whole thing? Most will consult on an hourly basis to give you any needed advice that can help you avoid expensive mistakes, and to get you pointed in the right direction to complete the job yourself.

However, if you can possibly come up with the cash, now is very definitely the time to go ahead those more major remodelling projects you’ve been putting off, or to remodel a home you’d hoped to sell but now find you have to remain in.

(more…)

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Cricket looking more disgruntled than she really was at the time

Cricket looking more disgruntled than she really was at the time

I’m sitting here with Cricket on my lap, my boyfriend’s cat who’s “on loan” for a few days, since I volunteered to cat sit while he’s out of town. It’s been a few years since I had a kitty of my own in the house, my beloved old Standard Poodle Fennel

Fennel

Fennel (RB) at "summer camp" - where I used to board him when I traveled.

died last fall, and I’m still hunting for my next puppy, so I’ve been completely petless for a little while now – for the first time in 18 years. It’s really weird. Although I live about half time with Cricket and her daddy, it’s really not the same as having one of my own, in my own home all the time. So, while I really miss my guy, I’m really enjoying having Cricket here, and as I deal with the fur and litter box, I’m reminded of all of the fun – and the hassles – of pet ownership – including the implications for interior design.

Anyone who has ever had a pet knows that they pose a challenge to having and maintaining a beautiful home, even when they’re very well trained. Accidents and messes are just a part of life with an animal in the house, which includes vomiting, tracking dirt in, and anything from occasional incontinence to outright bad behavior making them soil anywhere they want, as well as other issues such as cats scratching the furniture, climbing the drapes, etc. The soiling issues also get worse as the pet ages, or if it develops health problems.

People often ask me how they can still have a nice home when they share it with pets, so here are some thoughts.

PREVENTION FIRST

No matter what materials you choose for your home, your first line of defense is obviously to make sure that Fido or Garfield are well-trained so that they do their business where they are supposed to, and use scratching posts, climbing towers designed for the purpose, and their own chewtoys instead of the furniture and drapes to exercise their natural instincts to chew, climb, and scratch. Keeping the critters off of the furniture altogether will help preserve it, but for most people these days, that’s not an option, and you still have to deal with the floors anyways.

Regular bathing and grooming of your pet will also keep it clean and prevent shedding, which will help immensely with maintaining the cleanliness of your home.

WHAT’S UNDERFOOT?

(more…)

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Please join us and forward this invitation:


Green Science Policy Institute Symposium: The Fire Retardant Dilemma
Fridays, May 8, and September 25, 2009, 8:30am – 4:00pm
150 University Hall, UC Berkeley, 2199 Addison Street, Berkeley

o Susan D. Shaw, director, Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI), Blue Hill, Maine, Bioaccumulation and Health Risks of PBDEs and PFCs in Marine Mammals: Are We Running out of Time?
o Dr. Richard Murphy: Director of Science and Education, Holly S. Lohuis: Education/Research Associate, Ocean Futures Society Fireproof Killer Whales – J. M. Cousteau alerts the public to PBDE contamination
You can see their findings of PBDEs in Killer Whales on April 22 on PBS
Jean-Michel Cousteau Ocean Adventures
April 8 Sea Ghosts (Beluga Whales), April 22 Call of the Killer Whale
o Donna Mensching, DVM, University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine The ABCs and PBDEs of Feline Hyperthyroidism: Current Findings on a New Epidemic
o Kris Senecal, Research Biologist, US Army Natick Soldier Center, Protecting our Troops from Fire Injuries as well as Fire Retardants
o Carl Cranor, UC Irvine Toxic Torts: Science, Law and the Possibility of Justice

Panel Discussions:
o Can hyperthyroid disease in cats and health problems in marine mammals be related to exposure to fire retardants or other chemicals?
o How can we protect marine mammals, our troops, our pets and our families from halogenated flame retardants and other persistent organic pollutants?

This symposium series brings together contributors from industry, government, academia, and citizens groups to share information on fire retardant materials and policies and how to protect human and environmental health by reducing toxics in consumer products. This session will be focused on health impacts in marine mammals and cats and will also have a speaker on legal aspects of the issue and another from the army, where the fire retardants are needed to protect our troops.


For questions or to register for the session : FRDilemma@gmail.com or 510 644 3164.
Previous speakers at: http://greensciencepolicy.org/?page_id= <http://greensciencepolicy.org/?page_id=10>

Kind regards,
Arlene

Arlene Blum PhD
Arlene@arleneblum.com
Visiting Scholar, Chemistry
University of California, Berkeley
Executive Director, Green Science Policy Institute
Telephone: 510 644-3164 Mobile: 510 919-6363
Web: www <http://http://www.greensciencepolicy.org/> .greensciencepolicy.org <http://http://www.greensciencepolicy.org/> , http://www.arleneblum.com <http://http://www.arleneblum.com/>

The Green Science Policy Institute provides unbiased scientific information to government, industry, and non-governmental organizations to facilitate more informed decision-making about chemicals used in consumer products in order to protect health and environment world-wide.

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Move over, Japan; these Dutch designers may give you a run for your money in the department of joinery without screws or glue.

The innovative new office of Amsterdam ad agency Nothing was designed by Alrik Koudenburg and Joost van Bleiswijk using nothing (hah!) but interlocking pieces of reinforced cardboard – 500 square meters of it, and 1,500 separate pieces. That’s it. No glue, no screws, no tape, staples, etc. Just interlocking parts, like a giant custom-made Tinkertoy set.

The detail is amazing. Look how much it looks like actual steel beam construction.

Talk about green – and an incredibly economical way to fit out a new space.

I wonder how well those desk and table surfaces will hold up, though, especially once someone inevitably spills coffee or food on them. Maybe they’ve been treated with some kind of sealant – hopefully a green one.

Photos by Joachim Baan – more available here.

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