written by:
March 25, 2016
Perkins+Will, along with architecture/engineering firm Byce & Associates, used some simple strategies to make Newell Rubbermaid's corporate design center in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a healthy place to work.
Design center built with healthy materials and featuring midcentury furniture.

With brands like Sharpie, Calphalon, and Paper Mate under its umbrella, its no surprise that Newell Rubbermaid employs a large roster of industrial and graphic designers: almost 100 of them are gathered here, at their new design center, where a product can move from early research stages through design to prototyping.

Given the design-savvy nature of Newell Rubbermaid's work, it's no surpise they were sensitive to what materials they put into their new building. The project's principal architecture firm, Perkins+Will, actually maintains a precautionary list: an index of hazardous materials that their architects consult during their internal design process. It's all part of a growing awareness of how architectural materials can affect health.

 

 

Courtesy of 
© Steve Hall and Tom Harris
1 / 5
FSC-certified ash bordering "main avenue" of modern design center.

Elina Cardet, design director of interiors at Perkins+Will's Miami office, says that most 20th century building materials (steel, wood, glass, concrete) posed little health risk because they lacked synthetic materials (certain adhesives, PVC, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, etc.). Such materials can be carcinogenic as the human body has no way to neutralize their toxins. 

At the beginning of every project, Perkins+Will talks with the client to establish healthy materials goals. But what are the best ways to minimize health risks?

Courtesy of 
© Steve Hall and Tom Harris
2 / 5
FSC-certified ash wall decoration.

Part of it, says Cardet, is just to "keep it simple and give the client durable materials" that lack synthetics. In this case, that meant FSC-certified ash (seen here) that stands behind the reception and lines the design center's "main street" indoor walkway.

Courtesy of 
© Steve Hall and Tom Harris
3 / 5
FSC-certified ash bordering "main avenue" of modern design center.

The center's other healthy materials include stained concrete floors and low VOC paints on the walls and steel structure. However, when it comes to sticking to the basics, in some cases "we need to balance that impulse with eco-friendly synthetics," says Cardet. For example, "The solid surfaces are synthetic but carefully engineered to be healthy and can be recycled."

Courtesy of 
© Steve Hall and Tom Harris
4 / 5
Newell Rubbermaid design center built with healthy materials.

Cardet says architects and clients "need to increase demand for healthy synthetic materials"—that's the surest way that we can "put manufacturers on notice." To read more about potentially hazardous materials, consult the firm's precautionary list and their most recent report on PVC.

Courtesy of 
© Steve Hall and Tom Harris
5 / 5
Design center built with healthy materials and featuring midcentury furniture.

With brands like Sharpie, Calphalon, and Paper Mate under its umbrella, its no surprise that Newell Rubbermaid employs a large roster of industrial and graphic designers: almost 100 of them are gathered here, at their new design center, where a product can move from early research stages through design to prototyping.

Given the design-savvy nature of Newell Rubbermaid's work, it's no surpise they were sensitive to what materials they put into their new building. The project's principal architecture firm, Perkins+Will, actually maintains a precautionary list: an index of hazardous materials that their architects consult during their internal design process. It's all part of a growing awareness of how architectural materials can affect health.

 

 

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