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One of the industry’s biggest votes on design innovation is officially underway — help select the winners of the 2024 A+Product Awards! VOTE NOW > 

Environmental awareness has become one of the fundamental drivers for innovation in architecture. There are currently thousands of groundbreaking products in development that have been conceived by the minds of radical thinkers, each to help architects and designers make better choices for the planet.

From the technological building systems we choose for our projects to considering the carbon impact of where a product comes from to have a better awareness of the materials our products are made out of. Our decisions as architects and designers can have a long-lasting impact on the world around us. While many sectors are charging forward, the field of materials is rapidly progressing and reshaping how we approach design specifications.

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For practicing architects, understanding and utilizing materials isn’t just a professional responsibility; it’s part of a larger goal of confronting and addressing accountability. Materials are being viewed not just as components of construction but as a vital resistance to a much broader ecological issue in the industry.

Their role extends far beyond construction sites. Making positive choices can help us fulfill our personal targets for our environmental stewardship, marking a significant effort in our journey towards more thoughtful, responsible design. In particular, the following eight visionary manufacturers and A+Product Award winners are leading the way in the field of innovative materials, succeeding in making the job of architecture and design easier and more fulfilling.


Vertigo Acoustic Wall Panels and Lighting by Feltouch

Popular Choice Winner, 2022 A+Product Awards, Furnishings, Fabric & Textiles

The Vertigo Acoustic Wall Panels and Lighting series by Feltouch brings a fresh perspective to PET felt design, merging sustainability with creative expression. Crafted from recycled PET bottles, the panels are part of a commitment to environmental responsibility. Since it is a recycled product, it pollutes the environment less and consumes 90% less water in its production compared to regular textiles.

The series stands out in an over-saturated market not only for its eco-friendly qualities but also for its versatility and style. The variety of forms — 3D trapeze, cloud, lighting, pattern, mono, and corner — allow for endless customization. The large wall panels have an aesthetic appeal and functionality, which sets Felttouch’s acoustic solutions ahead of their competitors.

In addition to their visual impact, the Vertigo panels are highly effective, absorbing echoes to improve focus and clarity in interior spaces. Their high acoustic performance makes them a popular choice for the design of commercial and educational spaces. In addition, when the product breaks down or cannot be repaired, it can be recycled and turned into raw material demonstrating a dedication to sustainability and lifecycle that goes beyond the norm.


MetaMetal by Pure + FreeForm

Popular Choice Winner, 2022 A+Product Awards, Finishes, Walls & Wall Coverings

MetaMetal by Pure + FreeForm is an exciting innovation for the metal architecture industry, outperforming traditional offerings to inspire creativity and imagination. MetaMetal’s composition is what makes it so unique. Made from minimally processed aluminum and organic pigments and resins, the product is 100% recyclable with a significant portion of post-consumer recycled content. It is backed by a 20-year warranty and boasts a life cycle of up to 60 years.

This collection is characterized by its unique patterns and gloss-matte effects, which introduce a novel dimension to surface design. Each skin within the series not only references important archetypes but also accentuates the nature of metals, blending beauty, functionality and performance seamlessly. This approach to materiality, focusing on beautiful details, has a huge impact on the physical spaces where such products are used. The versatility, formability and lightweight nature of the MetaMetal collection make it suitable for a range of applications, including exterior cladding, acoustical ceilings and interior paneling.


Newtro Ceramic Mosaic Tile by Emser Tile

Jury Winner, 2022 A+Product Awards, Finishes, Walls & Wall Coverings

Newtro Ceramic Mosaic Tile by Emser Tile is a standout product that offers a harmonious blend of natural aesthetics and impressive functionality. Waterproof, durable, low-maintenance and fire-resistant, these tiles, characterized by their natural, tactile appearance, are a fantastic choice for any project. The combination of outstanding properties makes Newtro tiles a practical yet stylish option for a wide range of applications. From a sustainability perspective, these tiles boast an exceptional lifecycle of 50 to over 100 years, significantly longer than the typical lifespan of a tile.

The Newtro range is available in eight colors. The geometric shape and textured gloss finish of the tiles offer a modern yet timeless design that provides architects and designers with a palette to adapt to various settings and design requirements.


SunGuard SNR 50 coated glass by Guardian Glass

Popular Choice Winner, 2022 A+Product Awards, Facades & Openings, Glass & Glazing

Guardian Glass, a leader in the glass manufacturing industry, showcases their technological expertise with SunGuard SNR 50. A coated glass that is a cutting-edge architectural product at the forefront of energy efficiency design. This glass is particularly notable for its solar heat gain coefficient of 0.25, indicating its proficiency in minimizing solar heat while maximizing light transmission. Great for architects aiming to enhance efficiency while also improving comfort within a building without sacrificing the all-important natural light.

The versatility of SunGuard SNR, 50 in thickness and substrate options, proves its suitability for various applications, from sleek commercial exteriors to expansive architectural projects in both urban and natural settings.


STFE (Structural, Transparent, Fluorinated Envelope) by Serge Ferrari S.A.S.

Jury Winner, 2022 A+Product Awards, Facades & Openings, Building Envelopes, Cladding, & Roofing

STFE (Structural, Transparent, Fluorinated Envelope) by Serge Ferrari S.A.S. is a pioneering material in the field of architectural design, particularly suited for expansive applications such as malls, airports, and stadiums. This innovative flexible composite membrane is crafted from lightweight polyarylate mesh, offering both structural strength and sleek transparency, a combination that is ideal for large free-span designs. STFE’s 50% light transmission capability creates a glass-like effect with minimal glare, enhancing daylighting performance and occupant comfort and has even been used to support plant growth in spaces like botanical gardens and greenhouses.

It’s lightweight, being ten times lighter than glass, the need for additional support structures and steel cables is significantly reduced, thereby minimizing build impact and simplifying installation. STFE’s unique properties make it an excellent choice for building skins, where the balance of protection and openness is often desired.

Its longevity and safety are also noteworthy, as it is durable, lasting over 30 years, and meets various fire retardancy certifications such as ASTM E84, NFPA 701, and CSFM T19. STFE has been incorporated in landmark projects like the Istanbul Airport and the Grand Palais éphémère in Paris, home of the Summer 2024 Olympics.


Accoya Wood by Accoya

Jury Winner, 2022 A+Product Awards, Best of the Year, Innovation

Accoya Wood by Accoya Photo by Tanveer Badal

Accoya Wood exemplifies a significant advancement in sustainable building materials through its innovative use of acetylation technology. This process transforms fast-growing FSC-certified wood into a high-performance material with properties that rival or surpass those of traditional, more environmentally taxing alternatives. Accoya Wood stands out for its impressive 50-year above-ground and 25-year in-ground or freshwater warranty, a testament to its extreme durability and stability. This transformation of wood opens up new possibilities for its use in a variety of settings, providing a sustainable alternative for construction and design projects. Accoya Wood’s products boast a low or even negative CO2 cost across their lifecycle, further contributing to a more sustainable world.

The environmental credentials of Accoya Wood are further solidified by its Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold status, reflecting its exceptional performance across multiple sustainability metrics, including material health, reutilization, energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. Additionally, Accoya Wood contributes to LEED and BREEAM certifications and holds several other environmental certifications. This focus on sustainability, coupled with its innovative approach to wood treatment, positions Accoya as a leader in the field, offering a product that not only meets the demands of today’s environmentally conscious society but also aligns with the goals of circular economy and responsible resource utilization.


Saflex FlySafe 3D bird-safe interlayer for glass by Saflex

Popular Choice Winner, 2022 A+Product Awards, Best of the Year, Positive Impact

Worldwide, billions of birds are killed by collisions with glass windows and building facades. Saflex FlySafe 3D by Eastman, in partnership with SEEN AG, aims to help tackle this issue. Unlike traditional bird-protection solutions that rely on surface treatments like decals or etching, Saflex FlySafe 3D employs a three-dimensional reflective sequin pattern embedded between two layers of glass. These sequins catch the light at varying angles, creating a subtle sparkling effect that effectively deters the birds, a method proven more effective than traditional two-dimensional patterns. This innovative design requires less than 1% coverage of the glass area, substantially lower than other solutions, thus preserving the visual integrity of glass façades while offering a durable and long-lasting solution.

Saflex FlySafe 3D is not only a pioneering product, it also helps meet standards such as the LEED SSpc55 pilot credits for bird collision deterrence. The effectiveness and aesthetics of Saflex FlySafe 3D have been endorsed by Collision Laboratories in Hohenau-Ringelsdorf, Austria, and recognized by ornithologists, marking it as a highly effective and aesthetically pleasing solution to a growing environmental concern.


Graphic Perf® Solution Exterior by Arktura

Popular Choice Winner, 2022 A+Product Awards, Best of the Year, Commercial Design

Arktura is known for its expertise in combining advanced technology with inspiring design by bringing bespoke architectural solutions to life. Graphic Perf® Solution Exterior is a fusion of artistic vision and technological innovation. The process begins with an image, which is then transformed through proprietary software into a pattern of variably sized holes, accurately reproducing the gradations of light and dark of the original image.

The advanced manufacturing technology allows for infinite variations in hole size, preserving the clarity and integrity of the input image. The result is a panel system that gives architects and designers the ability to inscribe images, text, or patterns onto exterior panels, with an unprecedented level of customization and creativity.

Above looking great, Graphic Perf® Solution Exterior is designed with a keen awareness of environmental considerations. These panels can be tailored to local weather and seismic conditions. They can play a critical role in heat and sunlight filtration and rain protection.

One of the industry’s biggest votes on design innovation is officially underway — help select the winners of the 2024 A+Product Awards! VOTE NOW > 

The post Environmental Innovation: 8 Materials at the Forefront of the Sustainable Design Revolution appeared first on Journal.

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