The Circular Economy framework takes away doubt and uncertainty in rules and regulations.
Circular development of materials
Gispen takes responsibility for all its products, as well as the materials these products consist of. We are always looking for ways to improve our products’ score on the circular ladder. A specific need for a certain type of product sometimes leads to a search for new materials. The same goes for our acoustic panels (e.g. a workstation dividing screen, room divider or mounted to the wall separately). These panels have tremendous acoustic value, but they are made of non-biodegradable materials which are hard to separate. There is room for improvement here.
CIMO workstations with acoustic dividing screens
Tomato plants, oyster mushrooms and sustainable design
Sometimes different developments just happen to coincide. In early 2018, we crossed paths with SIGN (Dutch Foundation for Innovation in Greenhouse Horticulture), which happened because of their wish to recycle waste materials produced by the greenhouse horticulture industry. They had already come to the conclusion that the residual material from the oyster mushroom has acoustic potential. They also found that when you grow oyster mushrooms on the stems and leaves of tomato plants, you get a kind of bio-styrofoam! All that was left was to find an application for the new material; they contacted Gispen because they thought that an application in interior design would be a suitable one. The result is an innovation which – in turn – has led to a great circular co-creation. We now develop acoustic panels in collaboration with SIGN, Avans University of Applied Sciences and Fungalogic.
Residual material from tomato stems from Dutch greenhouses
We each have our roles within this circular co-creation. SIGN’s incentive is to come up with a waste flow solution for greenhouses; Avans University of Applied Sciences and Fungalogic have found a way to produce a bio-degradable material with the use of mycelium and Gispen has circular goals to achieve. We help one another in achieving our goals by sharing knowledge.
In order to ensure that this development is up to Gispen’s standards (CE value, quality, construction and price), we came up with a programme of requirements. The programme includes, for example, that the acoustic value must be consistent and that the acoustic panel must have a modular application. The panels must also be suitable for use within the existing structure, and the material must look aesthetically pleasing.
The first successful tests of acoustic panels.
We started by drafting a concrete plan, making it clear for all involved parties what they should focus on, which really helps when there is much testing and discovering left to do. We grow the foam in a container of sustainable OSB sheets, producing an acoustic panel that is sturdy enough to carry the weight of the frame. The first tests were not a direct success. The composition of the tomato stems, hemp and oyster mushrooms is rather delicate: if the mixture is slightly off you are left with a material that is completely useless. After a few tries we managed to get the mixture just right, and our first acoustic panels are now a fact.
Besides construction and production, the cost of development is also a factor that should be considered carefully; no one will opt for a sustainable alternative when the cost is too high. Take the production process, for example, which takes slightly longer than the current process (and is therefore more costly). Because the foam ‘grows’ in its cast, however, we can incorporate the manufacturing of all the mounting hardware in the same process. Making up for lost time!
After having produced the first small samples, we must now move on to testing larger panels. The climatic conditions are very decisive for the growth process. If anything, the environment must be completely sterile.
We are still in the middle of the development process but the first results are promising. If this test is successful, we will search for other applications for this material, in order to make all Gispen products as circular as possible. This is, after all, what we stand for: sustainable design.
Want to keep up to date?
We expect to launch our first acoustic panels in the summer of 2019. We will continue to keep you informed on the process via our website and social media platforms. Would you like to learn more about the process and the possibilities for your interior? Please contact Sarah Schiffer.
The professional’s thoughts
‘My most successful product development can’t be found in one particular product or action. The success is most tangible in bringing people, mindsets, designs and materials together. By inspiring others and including people in our circular economy, partnerships are created that truly make the world a better place.’