Hello, where are your eco-friendly materials?
Certainly, there are many lexical variants in this request, sometimes it’s ”green”, sustainable, natural, bio-based, ”vegan”… This question is for sure the one that has been asked the most to us since the foundation of matériO’. If 20 years ago , a time where the awareness around environmental harmful disorders caused human activities was incomplete and underdocumented, this request may have seemed legitimate, we confess to be a little disturbed to still hear it today. Because, now, the environmental issues are too big for it to be taken with such a satisfactory Manichaean point of view by the different people involved.
The quest of the “ecological material “ became in only a few years the Holy Grail of every designer : a requirement, an apparent obligation, a new guideline, but truthfully an illusion we have to fight against. Indeed this label “sustainable“ would implicate that it exists intrinsically virtuous materials, good materials (concept that can be attached to the words “natural, healthy, recyclable, made from renewable ressources…”) no matter the use that is being made of them. And other materials damned to be excluded from our society because they don’t have the required abilities to be part of the VEM country club (Very Ecological Material). This quest could be praisable if it was not that simplistic, sterile, and in the end dangerous, because leading to a deadlock, and that for several reasons.
First, the reflex to face environmental issues with a material choice-making approach must be fought. It’s as if we take the problem upside down : materials should be considered following a global eco-conception approach, which by nature largely exceeds concret aspects of materialization. To take a first step thinking about the true nature of the project, the answers it has to bring, without any preconceived ideas, not fearing of making a clear board, escaping the established statements, that, allows to make emerge constructed and relevant solutions that transcend the simple aspects of materials. It is essential to do first things first, because the environmental impact of whatever building is directly related to the first architectural decisions, and on a less important side related to materials.
Then, and again, it may seems like an obvious thing to say but nevertheless necessary to be recalled : each project is unique. Thus, the material answer goes within an extended analysis of its context, its making conditions, its geographical and temporal implantation, its aims. No recipe, no standard solution, only tailor-made work. A material could be unfit for a construction site and a better solution for another one, both at the same time. Once again, it’s an illusion not to understand reality as a complexity.
The speeches on the interactions between materials and environment should be less caricatural, they are on top of things subject to reflection. It’s becoming urgent to reconsider our positions, to fight against established ideas on materials that appear sustainable. It seems necessary to us to forbid ourselves to use simplistically vocabulary, to ban the idea that it would exist “eco-materials “, eco being a prefix with too much connotations that it becomes dubious. There are no such things as “good“ or “bad“ materials, ecologically speaking. It’s an illusion, the only ecological materials that exist are the ones we don’t use. Instead, on each project, we should think in terms of lightness, frugality, less is more. We constantly have choices to make, decisions to take. That being said, we should not cut the corners of the most natural, available, renewable and sane material that exists : our brain, our grey matter.
That is why we affirm loud and clear that in matériO database, there is and there will be NO “eco-material “, ever. Instead, thousands of materials that sometimes may seem more humbly suitable for this or that project, the exercise consisting each time to try to minimise their use, and maximise their intrinsic qualities, thus reducing potential troubles they may create on the environment.