From flax to potato skins to cacao, the new materials making inroads into architecture

·2-min read
Located in the city of Pedernales in northwestern Ecuador, the "Cacao Eco Village" project was designed by the Italian architect Valentino Gareri, who imagined buildings constructed from recycled cocoa fibers.

From bridges and houses to furniture, what if polluting raw materials could be replaced with more sustainable alternatives? Such has been the aim of several projects around the world in recent years, each as surprising as the next.

A Dutch bridge, made with hemp and flax fibers

On Earth Day, April 22, the inauguration of a new kind of bridge in the Netherlands made the news. Here, there was no sign of concrete, but a structure composed entirely of hemp and flax fibers and bio-resin. Sensors have been installed on the construction to evaluate the bridge's strength over time, including its ability to withstand weather and vibrations. Behind this innovative project is a French company called Eco Techni Lin, headed by Thibault Roumier.

Widely used in the textile industry, but also in the automotive and sports industries, flax has the major advantage of requiring much fewer resources and growing autonomously in many regions, both in Normandy and in the Netherlands. It's a material that could therefore have a real future in the construction sector.

Eyeglass frames made from potato peelings

Still in the spirit of opting for more ecological and sustainable materials, others draw their inspiration from plants. While it's no longer surprising to see shoes made from apple leather or grape skins, we could one day come across furniture or eyeglass frames made from... potato peelings!

This was the original idea of two English graphic design students who developed a material from potato peelings that can be used as a panel-like product for furniture making, like MDF. The objective was to propose a more ecological alternative to medium density fiberboard, while limiting food waste. It was an end-of-year project launched in 2019, which eventually turned into a real business and gave rise to the " Chip[s] Board " range, still on the market today. In addition to furniture materials, the company now offers eyeglass frames made from potato peelings, as well as a range of translucent pure and fiber-reinforced bioplastics for fashion and interior design.

Buildings designed with recycled cocoa fibers

It is this year that work is expected to start on the " Cacao Eco Village ." Located in the city of Pedernales in northwestern Ecuador, this eco-village project was designed by the Italian architect, Valentino Gareri, who designed buildings made with recycled cocoa fibers with the help of a 3D printer.

Carried out in collaboration with chocolate maker Muze and the Avanti organization, the project plans to build a cocoa processing plant there in order to "produce new ethical cacao-based products that are highly traceable, offsetting carbon footprint." Entirely eco-designed, the future houses of the eco village will be equipped with a roof that can collect rainwater, as well as natural ventilation.

Léa Drouelle

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting