Explaining Green Materials
The Medium is the Message
The design team built two displays to highlight the various types of information. One of them includes brochures about the county's sustainability and green business programs and the GreenSpec Directory which lists environmentally friendly building products.
The other shows samples of green-building materials with information about local suppliers, educational graphics about sustainable building topics such as passive solar design and window glazing, and photographs of local projects that demonstrate sustainable building strategies.
In selecting materials for building the displays themselves, the design team wanted to set a good example by using products that were sustainable, readily available, and durable, and that would maintain their natural appearance, highlighting their inherent beauty and textural appeal.
Furthermore, the designers wanted the displays to be compact and portable so they would fit in a limited space in the CDA's lobby and could be easily moved to other regional offices or events. They also wanted the displays to be easily modifiable so the information could be kept current.
The materials chosen for the construction include: biofiber wheat composite, biofiber sunflower seed hull composite, wood and particleboard certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), bamboo veneer, steel, and recycled glass countertop made from red traffic signal lights.
To effectively present the green materials display within a limited space, the design team incorporated a book metaphor using "pages" that the visitors turn to view the samples and informational graphics. The product samples are divided into various categories including roofing, insulation, paneling, flooring, framing, decking, foundations, and energy.
Each of these categories includes material samples and an information sheet with a text description of the product, its features, and its use. Also included is contact information for local suppliers.
These information sheets are printed from easily updateable computer text file templates. They are then laminated and attached to the bamboo veneer "pages" with Velcro tape so they and the materials can be easily removed for updating.
The displays also hold printed brochures for visitors to take with them. These include a list of all of the products and contact information featured in the display.
The Materials and Processes
Among the 25 products highlighted in these displays are: denim-and-cotton-based insulation, palmwood, bamboo, cork and linoleum flooring, recycled rubber roofing, fiber-cement siding, fly ash concrete, FSC wood, photovoltaic (PV) cells, wood-and-plastic composite decking, recycled carpets, natural paints, recycled glass, and cement-based countertops.
There are also five informational graphics explaining: indoor air quality, passive solar design, the Energy Star program, window glazing, and water conservation. Placed below the green material samples are color photographs with descriptions of residential and commercial green-building projects from the Northern California region.
Since the Green Building Resource displays opened, their reception has been consistently positive. Visitors to the county's building permit office are delighted to see the diversity of materials available, and they appreciate being able to see and touch the material samples, making their selection process more tangible than having to choose from a printed brochure.
Some homeowners comment that they weren't aware of these materials, or of their availability, and they now look forward to learning more about their use. And now, having once seen the materials, visitors also know where to find them again.
These displays will also go to other building permit and planning offices throughout Marin County. New relationships are being built between jurisdictions wishing to share the information contained in these displays. When not on the move, the exhibits will be housed at the CDA offices in San Rafael.
As news about the Green Building Resources displays has spread, the nearby cities of Berkeley and San Francisco have begun planning to develop similar displays as educational tools for their own green-building programs. They realize that a vital step in supporting this trend is to educate people about what's available.
Andrés Edwards is principal of EduTracks, an exhibit design firm located in San Rafael, California. The firm specializes in educational displays about ecological design, sustainable business, and biodiversity.
Also contributing to the displays were graphic designers Evan Naylor, of Millard/Naylor Design, and Todd Foreman, of Public Design. The displays were fabricated by Michael Faw, of Thingmaker.