Biomasonry products from macroalgae: a design driven approach to developing biomaterials for carbon storage
Kate Scardifield, Nahum McLean, Unnikrishnan Kuzhiumparambil, Peter J. Ralph, Nicolas Neveux, Geoff Isaac
Journal of Applied Phycology, September 2023
Lowering the embodied carbon of building materials requires a transition away from fossil derived products towards bio-based alternatives, alongside the design and development of new clean tech biomaterials that can function as carbon sinks. This paper explores gaps and opportunities for the development of seaweed-based construction materials that can support atmospheric carbon removal through algal photosynthesis and provide carbon storage solutions within the built environment. Utilising a biorefinery framework our research aims to valorise residual seaweed biomass where it’s being grown for waste-water management and to identify value-added opportunities for this seaweed by-product. We present as a case study the design of seaweed ‘biobricks’ and the construction of a 1:1 scale prototype, demonstrating what biomasonry products from macroalgae can look like. Our paper highlights the value of interdisciplinary methodologies that combine materials science with design research, and the role of design prototypes in showcasing novel biomaterials and new sustainable forms of biodesign.
Towards circular material futures: Development of innovative solutions to recycle and re-purpose existing pre-farm gate waste
Lee Clemon, Tim Schork, Nick Bennett, Stefan Lie, Matthias Guertler, Geoff Isaac, Ella Williams
Agrifutures, April 2023
This research sought to explore emerging and existing options for on-farm plastic waste, with a focus on circular economy principles. Consideration was given to international research and how this could be applied in the Australian context. The report provides guidance on improvement potential throughout the lifecycle of on-farm plastic waste, including establishing priority listings to align waste mitigation and recycling efforts with geographical concentration and existing technologies that could be transitioned to business models for handling existing plastic waste streams.
Wood a poor substitute for plastics in furniture
Plastiquarian, Issue 63, Winter 2022
Australian, mid-century designer Grant Featherston is best known for his Contour series of chairs featuring bent plywood shells. However, in the late 1960s and early 1970s Grant, together with his wife Mary, experimented with a range of plastics to develop several chair designs. Grant was always interested in producing affordable well-designed furniture for the mass market and he was an early convert to the potential offered by plastics to produce designs more economically. Operating in a relatively small and remote market the challenge was to find manufacturers with sufficient resources and to encourage them to make the significant investment required to produce plastic furniture. The market was simply insufficiently large enough to persuade most manufacturers to invest in injection moulding equipment. Undeterred the Featherstons succeeded in gaining support to produce several designs produced using lower cost plastic technologies. Eventually a car seat manufacturer was persuaded to make the necessary investment required to develop the Numero series, at that time the largest single-shot injection moulded seating solution ever produced. This article traces the Featherstons’ experiments in plastic seating solutions.develop
Design for the environmental emergency: Plastic chairs and the transition to low-carbon product design
PhD dissertation, University of Technology Sydney, September 2022
Analysing the intersection between plastics, environmentally-conscious design, and consumption through a focused study of plastic chairs, this dissertation casts new light on best practice for sustainable furniture design. Product designers and furniture manufacturers are responding to mounting environmental concerns by experimenting with renewable carbon plastics (recycled plastic and bioplastics). A quantitative eco-audit tool is developed to enable a comparison of 32 chairs made from renewable carbon-based plastics and demonstrate that the best outcomes for sustainable design incorporate existing materials (recycled plastics) and traditional moulding technologies. The multi-level perspective (MLP) transition framework is used to identify strategies to scale-up the use of renewable carbon plastics in design. Providing a methodology for designers to embrace a more sustainable approach to the design of plastic products, this dissertation is also a call to arms for urgent action to mitigate the most devastating impacts of the environmental emergency.
Can plastic be 'green'?
Conference: Design as Common Good, Swiss Design Network, Bern, Switzerland, March 2021
Using case studies of plastic chairs, this paper examines if product designers can successfully reduce the environmental impact of their work by embracing recent innovations in plastics. The 21st Century has seen growing interest, from both designers and manufacturers, in experimenting with alternatives to virgin fossil- based plastics, including recyclates and bioplastics. A simplified eco-audit tool has been developed to enable comparison of the environment impact of 32 chairs made from renewable carbon-based (‘green’) plastics. Preliminary findings suggest that designers experimenting with recycled materials are more likely to succeed in reducing the environmental impact of their work, compared with those working with bioplastics or natural fibres. Hybridisation is identified as a key common strategy among those working with ‘green’ plastics. This research is of particular interest for designers seeking to reduce our dependence on fossil-based plastics, supporting their central role in the systems-level change required to address the climate emergency.
Plastic chairs: Addressing the environmental emergency
Fusion Journal, July 2020
Geoff Isaac with original photography by Nic Bailey
Thames & Hudson, 2017
This is the first book to celebrate the life and work of Grant Featherston (1922-1995), the Melbourne-based industrial designer most well-known for his Contour chairs. This collection was designed and developed in the early 1950s and remains highly sought after by mid-century collectors in Australia and overseas.
Featherston, later joined by his second wife, Mary, designed hundreds of chairs over the next 30 years; however, this astonishing Australian industrial design partnership has gone largely uncelebrated until now. This monograph focuses on the chairs produced between 1947 and 1975 and presents a new biography of the designer, drawn from archival research and interviews with his peers. It is extensively illustrated with over 250 beautiful photographs and includes a selection from the previously unpublished personal achieve of Ian Howard, the former Managing Director of Melbourne-based manufacturer Aristoc (with whom Grant worked for 13 years).