Stockholm showcases what could be the world’s most sustainable material

Stockholm – Potato, wheat bran, lemons, limes and water… not a recipe for a particularly strange meal, but the components of the world’s first 100-per-cent biodegradable sound-absorbent material, Baux Acoustic Pulp, which launched at the Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair last week.

When mixed with sustainably harvested Swedish spruce and pine and plant-derived wax, these household ingredients become a strong, fire-resistant and water-repellent substance, which Swedish studio Form Us With Love has transformed into geometric wall panels for architects conscious of their environmental legacy. ‘The degradation of our natural environment is a global topic of increasing urgency, and we can no longer afford to turn our backs or cut corners,’ said Baux CEO Fredrik Franzon.

Since launching five years ago, Baux had tested between 50 and 60 materials before discovering a group of researchers from the Royal Institute of Technology that had found an ideal 100-per-cent bio-based solution using biomimicry – a process where you try to find answers from nature itself. ‘Previously we’d looked at using moss and different types of mushroom, but they always fell down on aesthetics, functionality or (the most challenging) fire-resistance, but then with this collaboration it all came together,’ explained Franzon.

The stand’s quiet elegance reflects a wider move away from extravagant scenography as well as an increased will to showcase green credentials

Baux Acoustic Pulp finds its strength in citrus peel, which reacts with the fir’s cellulose molecules to create a super-strong binding. The mixture is spread into a 3D mold, with a strong honeycomb structure inspired by bees, pressed and dried under a 40-tonne vacuum and then nano-perforated for excellent sound absorption. Leftovers are recycled into the next batch and the entire factory runs fully on hydropower.

Form Us With Love was brought on board to transform the rather organic-looking pulp into something architects would want to use. ‘Because it’s a brand-new material, we wanted to create a structure that people could relate to, so folding paper was a natural inspiration,’ said Form Us With Love creative director John Löfgren. Developing three origami-like patterns – a stripe and then a tight and loose zig-zag – the designers altered the overall colour of the pulp by adding between 0-30 per cent wheat bran, retaining its flecked appearance for a tactile look.

Everyone feels like this material is at least 20 years too late

For the Stockholm Furniture Fair, the design studio created a simple, enclosed structure for Baux that both showcased the potential of Acoustic Pulp on walls and in booths, as well as luring visitors in to discover the two-year-long R&D process. Its mission and quiet elegance won this year’s Best Stand prize, reflecting a wider move away from extravagant scenography as well as an increased will to showcase green credentials. ‘Everyone feels like this material is at least 20 years late,’ Löfgren said. ‘Sustainable processes like this are going to compete with and defeat companies that don't do it.’

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