UCLAx Cradle to Cradle: class 8


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This is one in a series of documents that follow my UCLA winter 2010 course titled Cradle to Cradle: Closed Loop Systems. This interdisciplinary course contributes to the school's Certificate of Global Sustainability.

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UCLAx Cradle to Cradle: class 8

  1. 1. UCLAx class 8 1 UCLAx Cradle to Cradle: class 8 Our eighth class was our second field trip, this time to the Santa Monica showroom of Steelcase. My first experience with Steelcase dates back only five years. I was attending the ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) Interiors 05 conference in Nashville TN and Steelcase was offering attendees a special deal on their Think office chair that brought the price down by nearly two thirds. At the time I was vaguely familiar with its environmentally favorable attributes, but the surprising comfort and variety of color options is what really captured my attention. Prior to that I had worked in offices with various Herman Miller chairs, including the Aeron, but was never totally comfortable. Maybe the Think chair was just right for my body size and shape. As part of the special offer available at the conference, I purchased a number of Think chairs for myself and several colleagues. A few years later when moving my office to a new location with additional staff, I turned to the Think chair again to outfit it. Even today, that’s the chair I’m sitting in while writing this post. So it was quite a thrill to do one of my classes at the Steelcase showroom and have my students experience first hand their great furniture design and also hear from them about how they make material decisions when designing a new line. We started the evening with refreshments donated again by Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market and general conversation. Then we moved up to the second level where Steelcase has a mock classroom with folding tables and chairs, a rolling podium system perfect for presenting, and an interactive white board. It worked perfectly for our class size. We went over some house cleaning issues and class updates before turning the class over to our hosts Danielle Razo and Diana Weichbrodt, both A+D workplace consultants. Their showroom and offices are located just off the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica on four levels of recently redesigned space. The new look is in keeping with the smooth, simple, clean lines of their furniture and the building makes an excellent backdrop. Danielle gave us a comprehensive tour of all four levels and all of their displayed furniture systems. It’s all so beautifully displayed that it makes you want to work in an office, or in their office. We tried out desks, cubicles, couches, lounge chairs, conference rooms, and even a workstation set up as a treadmill for those who like to walk when talking on the phone or other tasks. We saw the largest collection of Cradle to Cradle Certified furniture currently available from a single manufacturer. www.threadcollaborative.com ➜ threadcollaborative 11250 morrison street no. 201, north hollywood ca 91601
  2. 2. UCLAx class 8 2 After our tour, Danielle and Diana tandem presented a show called The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Materials Selection. It’s a course they deliver for architects and designers as part of continuing education efforts. The show focused on six key materials that impact their business - chrome plating, leather tanning, PVC and plasticizers, flame retardants, pesticides and insecticides, and stain resisters. For me, a few of the more memorable parts of the show were issues related to chrome. We tend to take for granted the amount of shiny objects we have in our daily lives. By and large, any metal with a shiny surface has a chrome plating. Although it’s a naturally occurring metal called chromium, direct human exposure can be toxic. In particular, hexavalent chromium is a well known carcinogen and has been used in the tanning of leather and in the creation of dyes and paints. Danielle and Diana showed a number of hidden camera photos taken in offshore chrome plating factories where only the slimmest precautions were being taken to protect workers from exposure to toxic substances. Awareness of the hazards associated with chrome has led Steelcase to move away from plating in favor of polished aluminum instead. It raises an important question when thinking about how products are made or when considering purchasing decisions - what do you really know about the resources used and processes employed during manufacturing? Companies who don’t question their processes are comfortable with the status quo and are more than likely contributing to environmental problems. Companies such as Steelcase are actively engaged in a discussion with their consumers to inform them about how design and manufacturing decisions are being made. I know I learned a great deal. And it seems like the students did as well. Thanks to Danielle, Diana, and Steelcase for a great evening. Click the icon below for more photos taken during our field trip: www.threadcollaborative.com ➜ threadcollaborative 11250 morrison street no. 201, north hollywood ca 91601