Mind & Matter


Life After Plastic

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Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of joining a panel of speakers at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC to discuss “Life After Plastic.” The public event was part of NBM’s environmental awareness series entitled “For the Greener Good: Conversations That Will Change the World,” moderated by Lance Hosey, President and CEO of GreenBlue, and included Jay Bolus, VP of Technical Operation at McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, and Robert Peoples, Director of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute.


For much of the event, the discussion centered on the environmental pros and cons of synthetic and bio-based plastics. However, the audience also prompted several questions about the future implications of projected oil shortages on the built environment. One point I raised is the fine line between durability and persistence: architects generally want building materials to endure, yet the public dislikes materials (such as plastics) that persist in the environment after their “first lives” are over. Therefore, the process of temporal programming and life cycle assessment must continue to develop as critical sustainable design methods for architects.


Details of the Life After Plastic conversation may be found on the National Building Museum’s website here.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.