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  • The Challenge of Specification

    Increasingly large clients want bespoke items, such as this custom ‘Santander Red’ fabric designed and manufactured by Chieftain Fabrics for Pledge, pledgechairs.co.uk

    Recently, Design Insider noted that a smooth specification process can help ensure a project impresses while saving time and money for client, designer and supplier.

    Although we live in a world of constant change, both sides need to retain a level of flexibility.

    Design Insider also notes how;

    Traditionally there has been a lot of bespoke work…but that hasn’t really been the case for fabrics, which are much more intensive to set up. This has changed – and not just at the top end of the market. Big franchises want something unique for their brand.

    Gordon points out that ‘supplier performance excellence gives companies competitive advantage. To the extent that suppliers perform well, companies enjoy a competitive boost, since this performance is reflected in lower costs, improved responsiveness to customers, better-quality goods and services and technological advantage’. Design Insider also notes that the specifier should consider whole-life costs when selecting various products for a fit-out. Products can appear cheaper in the short term, but often they won’t come with sufficient warranties or guarantees. In specification it tends to be all about value for money as opposed to bottom-line costs.

    Keeping up with a fast moving marketplace is also a challenge to many designers who have an opportunity to offer innovative solutions. One recent development, according to the telegraph.co.uk, is the phenomenon dubbed ‘showrooming’, in which people use their phones to examine whether their prospective purchases are available cheaper online or elsewhere. This places conventional Contract suppliers with a real challenge as ‘showrooming’ offers immediate transparency. However, this can also lead to problems as contract suppliers specialise in ensuring their supplied products meet the special requirements and regulations that apply to all furniture used for commercial purposes – fire regulations, levels of usage, resistance to abrasion, pilling, soiling, seam strength, etc.. This also forces suppliers to be more flexible too. According to Design Insider, ‘The whole relationship between supplier and client has changed. It’s much more stressful but much more creative’.

    In summary,  there is a challenge of specification, but a clear, knowledgeable, specification process can ensure a project impresses and ultimately saves the client time and money.


    References

    Slideshare.net, (2015). The Art of Planning and Writing Specifications and Requirements . [online] Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/Tanel/the-art-of-planning-and-writing-specifications-and-requirements-ism-conference-0410 [Accessed 28 May 2015].

    Thebcfa.com, (2015). Design Insider. [online] Available at: http://www.thebcfa.com/res/Design%20Insider%202015%20Smaller1.pdf [Accessed 28 May 2015].

    Gordon, S. R. (2008) Supplier Evaluation and Performance Excellence: A Guide to Meaningful metrics and successful results. Florida, USA: J. Ross Publishing.

    Warman, M. (2013). The future of shopping: from high street to iStreet. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/9821702/The-future-of-shopping-from-high-street-to-iStreet.html [Accessed 29 May 2015].

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  • Do low prices = poor quality?

    Benjamin Franklin said that “the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”.

    This is something we see on a daily basis with contract fabrics.

    Should you complete a search for ‘poor vinyl furniture’ you will be served a collection of images where vinyl fabric appears to be cracking and falling apart. Naturally, owners become very annoyed and then vent anger on various websites, enraged that the colour is fading, rubbing off or that the material is flaking – telltale signs of poorly manufactured vinyl products.

    With the power of social media, consumers are now fully empowered to express their dissatisfaction with poor quality products and express their unhappiness. YouTube hosts an assortment of videos from irate customers, one titled ‘Don’t buy a sofa from DFS until you have seen this!’ has over 83,000 views. The video gives an indepth review of the poor quality fabric used in a couch and viewers with a similar experience are able to add comments and show support.

    In 2010, BBC News reported on how a court sanctioned £1,800 payouts to 408 claimants in a multimillion-pound compensation battle over so-called “toxic sofas”. Certain couches sold in the UK contained chemical sachets with dimethyl fumerate – or DMF – placed inside the sofas to stop them from going mouldy during storage. However, when the sachets got warm, the chemical evaporated into the air causing painful blisters and sores for people sitting on the sofa.

    Time Magazine published an article asking ‘Does a Low Price Mean Good Value or Bad Quality?’, the article notes that;

    because consumers can’t know everything about a product, we fill in the gaps with our own (naïve) theories to help us make decisions about whether the cheaply priced product is a terrific deal or a piece of junk.

    When we choose a product or service exclusively on price, we have to ask if the low price = poor quality as people end up always paying more in the long run, as the lowest price tends to force shortcuts at some point, especially in relation to products that are manufactured. Unfortunately, these shortcuts may not be be initially apparent.

    But what do buyers actually want ?

    According to Brooks, the top three reasons that people buy from a particular suppliers are:

    1. An Easy, “No-Brainer” Relationship
    2. Reliability and Dependability
    3. Predictability

    An Easy, “No-Brainer” Relationship is when you provide your prospects and customers with a relationship in which they get what they want, when they need it, on time and in good shape. Reliability and Dependability is ensuring People know that they can rely on you. Predictability is when all of your actions and behaviours have been consistently professional and always handled effectively and efficiently, customers will be able to say you are “predictable” based on your past relationship and reputation.


    References

    Tuttle, B. (2015). Does a Low Price Mean Good Value or Bad Quality?. [online] TIME.com. Available at: http://business.time.com/2012/11/14/does-a-low-price-mean-good-value-or-bad-quality/ [Accessed 16 Apr. 2015].

    Eyesonsales.com, (2015). 12 Things Your Buyers Want Other Than Lowest Price. [online] Available at: http://www.eyesonsales.com/content/article/12_things_your_buyers_want_other_than_lowest_price/ [Accessed 18 May 2015].

    BBC News, (2015). ‘Toxic sofa’ claimants win payouts over DMF – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-11998238 [Accessed 19 May 2015].

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  • Crib Test Explained

    British Standards are the standards produced by BSI Group which ‘Set up standards of quality for goods and services, and prepare and promote the general adoption of British Standards’ (Wikipedia, 2015).

    In relation to furniture and upholstery there are a number of British Standards which must be observed. Furniture standards and regulations worldwide, such as BS 4875 (structural testing of domestic and contract seating), impose strict flammability testing for fabrics used in the upholstery process.

    According to FIRA, the Furniture Industry Research Association,

    flammability testing is increasingly important, with the effects of different tests (match, cigarette, crib 5 and crib 7) showing the effects of different ignition sources on fabrics and fillings as specified in the many aspects of BS 5852.

    FIRA also point out that the fabric is subjected to a series of ignition sources to cover the intensities of actual sources that might be encountered in various end use environments. The typical tests include:

    Ignition source 0 – smouldering cigarette
    Ignition source 1 – match or equivalent gas flame
    Ignition source 2 – gas flame
    Ignition source 3 – gas flame
    Ignition source 4 – wood crib
    Ignition source 5 – wood crib
    Ignition source 6 – wood crib
    Ignition source 7 – wood crib

    Over time and use, these test names have been abbreviated in the furniture and upholstery industry to ‘cigarette & match’, ‘Crib 1’, ‘Crib 5’ etc. and are therefore commonly simply referred to as ‘Source 5’ or ‘Crib 5’.

    So what is involved?

    The objective of the standard is to measure the ignitability of upholstered furniture material. According to BS 5852, the ignition sources for some of the tests include:

    Ignition source 0
    A smouldering cigarette is used as an ignition source.

    Ignition source 1
    A match or equivalent gas flame, using 45ml of butane gas from a burner, is used as the ignition source.

    Ignition source 3
    A gas flame, using 350ml of butane gas from a burner, is used as the ignition source.

    Ignition source 5
    A wooded crib, made of dry wood stacked in a lattice formation weighing 17g, is used as the ignition source.

    According to Fr-one.com the wooden crib is composed of small ‘wooden planks, glued together’ akin to Jenga blocks. The crib is placed on the test rig and ignited with a match. If no flaming or progressive smoldering is observed on both cover and interior material, the test is recorded as ‘no ignition’ and the material passes the test.

    Figure 1: Ignited Wooden crib – Ignition source 5 or ‘Crib 5’ Credit: www.satra.co.uk

    British Standard indicate that the size of the Crib vary depending on the test and are conducted within specified temperature and humidity ranges. Each test is conducted in duplicate and both tests must satisfy the pass/fail criteria in order to comply with the test requirements. Typical pass/fail criteria for Crib 5 include escalating flaming, flame passing through the full thickness of the fabric or any fabric that continues to flame 10 minutes after igniting the crib.

    Ferco seating, who produce a wide choice of seating for auditoria of all types, present a video on YouTube where two test seats are ignited – One with Crib 5 rated fabric and one without. At 2:51, the wooden crib is placed on a seat and ignited;

    The video is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxRkDekn7kk


    References

    Wikipedia, (2015). British Standards. [online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Standards [Accessed 20 Apr. 2015].

    Fira.co.uk, (2015). FIRA – Technical Information – Registered Article. [online] Available at: http://www.fira.co.uk/technical-information/article/32/how-is-ignition-resistance-measured [Accessed 20 Apr. 2015].

    British Standards (2006) BS 5852:2006 Methods of test for assessment of the ignitability of upholstered seating by smouldering and flaming ignition sources. London.

    Fr-one.com, (2015). FR Fabric Standard | British BS 5852 source 0, 1, 5 (Cigarette, Match) and (Crib 5). [online] Available at: http://www.fr-one.com/en/standard/british-bs-5852-source-0-1-5-cigarette-match-and-crib- [Accessed 21 Apr. 2015].

    Satra.co.uk, (2015). Spotlight – Upholstered contract furniture flammability. [online] Available at: https://www.satra.co.uk/spotlight/article_view.php?id=289 [Accessed 30 Apr. 2015].

    YouTube, (2015). Ferco Seating Crib 5 Seat Fire Test. [online] Available at: http://chieftainfabrics.com/24 [Accessed 21 Apr. 2015].

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  • The Good and the Bad Vinyl Fabrics

    Side by side comparison, a poorly produced vinyl fabric will ‘look’ the same as a highly engineered version.

     

    A known idiom reminds us not to be ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ and in almost any purchase or specification decision we can easily get seduced by a lower price and not fully realise the actual cost. We have all experienced this in one form or another, but is this apparent in a fabric specification decision? Surely fabric is fabric?

    Unfortunately, not all fabrics are created equally and vinyl fabric is no exception. As vinyl is a synthetic material, it can be manufactured in many ways. The marketplace has both ‘The Good and the Bad Vinyl Fabrics’. Matkovic ́ et al highlights some of the factors that contribute to good quality vinyl production which include;

    • using good quality raw materials,
    • ensuring precise control of how PU paste with the paper passes through the dryer at the correct speed of 10 mm/min,
    • how the temperature needs to be adjusted to 80℃ to allow drying of various solvents which need to evaporate.

    Not correctly managing any of these steps can have dramatic effects on the end product. Unfortunately, to look at the product, even in a side by side comparison, a poorly produced vinyl fabric will ‘look’ the same as a highly engineered version. The difference only becomes apparent after some use.
    In ‘Coated Textiles: Principles and Applications’ Sen points out that upholstery fabric is made up of layers fixed to a cotton base fabric;

    These fabrics contain a knitted base fabric, a polyurethane foam middle layer and a wear-resistant top coat…The composite is then foamed, cross-linked, and laminated to a textile base…An important requirement of the upholstery fabric is that it should have proper flame-retardant additive to reduce the ignitability of the products.

    Additional ingredients can also be added to improve the fabrics performance. For instance UV (ultraviolet) stabilisers can also be added to protect the fabric in direct sunlight. Again, from looking at a highly engineered fabric, compared to a poor grade one, there is no way of knowing if the product has UV stabilisers included and again this will not be known until the fabric starts to fade or flake after exposure to sunlight.
    Even the quantity used in each layer has a massive impact on the vinyl and the cost associated with producing it. Coated Textiles: Principles and Applications points out that;

    Upholstery-grade cloth has a thick foam layer ranging from 360 to 480 grams per meter squared, a top layer of 180 to 360 grams per meter squared.

    Producing vinyl fabric below these tolerances, which is common practice in cheaper grade vinyls, will naturally result in an inferior product, yet may remain unknown to the buyer. Typically, cheaper vinyl manufacturers use less expensive ‘fillers’ and as Sen further points out, ‘the primary role of a filler in PVC is reduction in cost’. Extensive use of filler in the production of a fabric will again have no initial visual indication.
    Again, performance would only become apparent when in situ.
    One major furniture store in the UK, DFS, came under heavy criticism for supplying poor quality furniture recently. The knock on effect was damage to the DFS brand and an investigation by BBC TV who pointed out that due to the poor quality fabric being used in their leather and faux leather sofas, they failed the necessary standards for UK fire safety regulations and were therefore shown as illegal for sale in the UK. Secondary costs such as the re-upholstery and transport are never factored in along with the damage caused to the brand and negative publicity generated. As a specifier, supplier or manufacturer of furniture, is it worth the risk? If you visit a restaurant, store or office and notice poor quality upholstered furniture where the colour is fading, rubbing off or the material is flaking, what impression does this create? What does this communicate about the organisation or brand?

    As highlighted in Mix Magazine March 2015 edition, as dealerships evolve and respond to a marketplace that views furniture as part of brand identity, contract furniture companies, are under constant pressures to deliver quality products with the correct margins. They can easily be seduced by a lower fabric price. However, for their customers, they are the centre of knowledge and excellence and must examine their client’s needs objectively and supply a coherent solution. Thinking ‘fabric is fabric’ can easily lead to poor quality selection with the end result being threefold:
    damaging the relationship with the client,
    weakening the ‘consultant’ position,
    having to absorb the additional cost of having to collect, transport, re-upholstery and re-deliver.

    • damaging the relationship with the client,
    • weakening the ‘consultant’ position,
    • having to absorb the additional cost of having to collect, transport, re-upholstery and re-deliver.

    All of which epitomises ‘penny wise, pound foolish’.


    References

    Matkovic, V, Cubric, I, and Skenderi, Z. (2014) ‘Thermal resistance of polyurethane-coated knitted fabrics before and after weathering’, Textile Research Journal, November 2014 vol. 84 no. 19. pp. 2015-2025.

    Sen, A. K (2007) Coated Textiles: Principles and Applications, Second Edition, Florida, USA:CRC Press, pp.148

    BBC, (2015). Your Money Their Tricks – DFS sales tactics – BBC One. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/r5pvRcspQH8jjJ5JJpNkvq/dfs-sales-tactics [Accessed 16 Apr. 2015].

    Furniturenews.net, (2015). Furniture retailers implicated in BBC’s fire regulation investigation. [online] Available at: http://www.furniturenews.net/news/articles/2014/01/1675215348-furniture-retailers-implicated-bbcs-fire-regulation-investigation [Accessed 16 Apr. 2015].

    Mixinteriors.com, (2015). Spotlight: The Dealer Market | March 2015. [online] Available at: http://www.mixinteriors.com/march-x2015/i/630/desc/spotlight-the-dealer-market/ [Accessed 17 Apr. 2015].

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  • Can we avoid Phthalates?

    Currently, Phthalates are almost everywhere.

    What are Phthalates?
    Phthalates are a group of chemical compounds used in the production of plastics such as PVC to make them softer and more flexible. Phthalates were first introduced in the 1920s and are used in a wide variety of products from building materials, personal-care products, medical devices to pharmaceuticals, food products, and textiles. Essentially they are contained in a multitude of everyday plastic products.
    When present in these products, phthalates can be released because they are not chemically bound to the plastics. This may lead to human exposure the net effects of this exposure remain somewhat vague.

    Where are Phthalates?
    In 2003, researchers at the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) documented:

    People are exposed to phthalates by eating and drinking foods that have been in contact with containers and products containing phthalates. To a lesser extent exposure can occur from breathing in air that contains phthalate vapors or dust contaminated with phthalate particles.

    The Guardian points out that phthalates are next to impossible to avoid. They are in multiple household items, personal care products, fragrance, household cleaners, and food. The article notes that:

    In food, for example, even milk packaged in glass may have passed through plastic tubes on its way from the cow to the bottle, taking DEHP along with it. “Milking machines use a lot of plastic and DEHP is free and very lipophilic (fat soluble), and milk is full of lipids, so it just pulls the DEHP out of the plastic tubing and into the milk,” explains Robin Whyatt, professor of environmental health sciences at the Columbia University Medical Center and the lead author on several landmark phthalate studies (Westervelt, 2015).

    Various other pieces of research and articles point out that phthalates are endocrine disruptors. The American Chemical Council note that disruptors ‘substances mimic a natural hormone, fooling the body into over-responding to the stimulus (e.g., a growth hormone that results in increased muscle mass), or responding at inappropriate times (e.g., producing insulin when it is not needed)’.
    Similar to phthalates, BPA which stands for bisphenol A is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s. According to the Mayo Clinic,

    BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles. Epoxy resins are used to coat the inside of metal products, such as food cans, bottle tops and water supply lines.

    Currently, there appears to be a re-assessment as to how we manufacture and utilise plastic. The US decision on BPA may well have a knock-on effect to Phthalates in the EU. In 2012 Time magazine asked the question ‘When the evidence is scary but uncertain, what will the federal government do?’. According to the same article,

    On March 30 (2012), the FDA announced that it was rejecting a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to ban BPA from food packaging. “While evidence from some studies have raised questions as to whether BPA may be associated with a variety of health effects, there remain serious questions about these studies, particularly as they relate to humans,” the FDA wrote in a statement following its ruling.

    However, in 2013 a California court went against these findings, and introduced a ruling specific to the state of Califormia.

    The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced that it intended to add BPA to California’s Proposition 65 list of harmful chemicals and require companies to warn consumers when their products can expose them to BPA.

    Are Phthalates dangerous?
    Recent EU studies conclude that more research into the use of Phthalates is required. In 2010 Reuters compiled a ‘Special Report: The problem with phthalates’ and noted that Professor Richard Sharpe, an expert in male reproductive health at Edinburgh University, believes that “understanding whether or not phthalates play any role in human male reproductive disorders is pivotal.” Animal studies, he says “point clearly toward effects, but human studies are very mixed.”

    What is the future of Phthalates?
    Allan (2014) highlighted that the Danish Environment Minister wanted to ban all Phthalates from December 2015 but a previous decision of the European Court from 2013 obscured this and demanded them to wait for the normal procedures and decisions of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), that is currently assessing, whether there is basis for an EU-wide ban.
    Similar to what happened in the US, where California decided to interpret the results in relation to BPA and list it as a harmful chemical, individual states in the EU could take a similar approach with Phthalates and require companies to warn consumers when and where they are present.


    References:
    Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks of the European Commission (2008) ‘Phthalates in school supplies’.Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/health/opinions/en/phthalates-school-supplies/about-phthalates-school-supplies.htm [Accessed 24 March 2015]

    Phthalate (2015). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phthalate [Accessed 23 March 2015].

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2003) Phthalates FactSheet. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/pdf/Pthalates_FactSheet.pdf [Accessed 23 March 2015]

    Endocrine Studies (2015). Available at: http://phthalates.americanchemistry.com/Research-Phthalates/Endocrine-Studies [Accessed 1 April 2015].

    Phthalates (2014) Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/Ingredients/ucm128250.htm [Accessed 24 March 2015]

    Phthalates (2015) Available at: http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Business–Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/Phthalates-Information/ [Accessed 24 March 2015]

    Walsh, B. (2012) Why the FDA Hasn’t Banned Potentially Toxic BPA (Yet). Available at: http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2110902,00.html [Accessed 1 April 2015].

    Westervelt, A. (2015) Phthalates are everywhere, and the health risks are worrying. How bad are they really? Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/feb/10/phthalates-plastics-chemicals-research-analysis [Accessed 23 March 2015]

    Harrison, P. (2010) ‘Special Report: The problem with phthalates’. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/10/18/us-plastics-health-idUSTRE69H1PM20101018 [Accessed 24 March 2015]

    Chemical & Engineering News (2005) ‘EU Bans Three Phthalates From Toys, Restricts Three More ‘, Volume 83, Number 28 pp. 11

    Allan. (2014) ‘EU OVERRULES A DANISH NATIONAL BAN OF FOUR PHTHALATES’. Available at: http://nipsect.dk/eu-overrules-a-danish-national-ban-of-four-phthalates/ [Accessed 24 March 2015]

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  • What happens to your project if your supplier runs out of stock?

    Poor risk management can have serious knock on effects on your project. According to the 2006 publication Risk Management in Design, “the most obvious areas of design risk involve three standard categories – errors, omissions, and scope definition.” This article will be dealing with omissions as part of the risk management function of avoiding pitfalls and managing opportunities.

    The UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), say that “most of your attention to risk will be to avoid or reduce the likelihood of events that might cause your project to be thrown off course. To manage and mitigate risks, you first need to identify them, assess the likelihood of them happening and estimate the impact they might have on your project.” In terms of risk management planning, some of the steps BIS recommends include prevention, risk reduction and having a contingency plan in place.

    Should none of the above steps be in place, you might find yourself having to deal with the knock-on effects of unforeseen events. In their 2011, book “How to Manage Project Opportunity and Risk: Why Uncertainty Management can be a Much Better Approach than Risk Management,” Stephen Ward and Chris Chapman (linked to the book chapter) outline the following example of a knock-on effect: When things go wrong in activity A, the cost of activity A goes up and the delays impact on activity B. The cost of activity B then increases as a consequence. Other variables affecting the cost of activity B are knock-on effects that might occur. For example, resources set aside may no longer be available, and attempts to catch up lost time may lead to double or triple shift operation or changes to more expensive technology.

    One such chain of unplanned events might occur if your supplier discontinues the line you had specified for the project at hand, and you don’t have a substitute in place.

    If we translate Ward’s and Chapman’s example into our out-of-stock scenario, it is safe to say that a supplier running out of stock may slow your project down, as well as affect other areas of your project. To avoid not delivering on-time and on-budget, and consequently letting your client down, a specification manual listing specified manufacturers and noting quality standards as outlined by Cindy Coleman, the editor in chief of Interior Design: Handbook of Professional Practice, would be highly recommendable. Coleman also says “customers expect good experiences, and they deserve them… goods and services are not enough.”

    Numerous factors contribute to and influence an interior designer’s service delivery – alliances, partners, contractors, and subcontractors. A well-researched choice will inform you on the probability of your supplier running out of stock. If the probability is low, The President of Passionate Project Management, Belinda Fremouw feels it is sufficient to develop a contingent response strategy designed to only be implemented if the risk event occurs as opposed to taking proactive action on the risk. She further recommends documenting a “Plan B” well in advance as that “will ensure that the project team is able to react to the risk in an expedient manner while hopefully minimizing any type of negative impact.” To conclude, don’t let your client down by letting your supplier leave you stranded.

    This article is based on the best project management practices.

  • The history of vinyl fabric

    Accounts of plastic and rubber stretch back to discoveries by Columbus in 1492. According to John Martin’s book, The Romance of Rubber, Columbus noted ‘a simple game which he saw being played with a ball that bounced’. Martin also explains that

    In 1731…La Condamine, wrote of a tree called “Hevea”.
    “There flows from this tree a liquor which hardens gradually and blackens in the air”.
    He found the people of Quito (Ecuador, South America) waterproofing cloth with it, and the Amazon Indians were making boots which, when blackened in smoke, looked like leather.

    Wikipedia notes that German professor, F. J. Otto had produced guncotton in 1846 and was the first to publish the process. According to Fungs’ book, Coated and Laminated Textiles,

    nitro-cellulose was discovered and developed as a fabric coating material for cotton. The material became known as ‘gun cotton’, ‘pyroxylin’ and ‘collodion’, and was used in many applications (Fung, 2000).

    Technology in Society wrote about how polyvinyl chloride (PVC) was discovered,

    In 1860, Hofmann observed that vinyl-bromide, a colorless liquid, changed into a white porcelain-like mass. This process was a mystery to him, and he referred to it as a ‘metamorphosis’. In 1872, Baumann, elaborating on these results, became the first to make polyvinyl chloride, a white milky precipitate made by putting tubes filled with vinyl chloride in direct sunlight. Like other chemists of the time, Baumann showed no interest in applying the new material.

    ‘The newer plastics appearing…marked a fundamental shift in the way new materials came into existence’, is highlighted in the book ‘American Plastic: A Cultural History’. Meikle points out how previously, items were made from natural materials such as wood, ivory, tortoiseshell, agate and coral. Americans refused to buy household or personal products made from an earlier synthetic resin called Celluloid, invented in 1869, unless it resembled ‘natural’ materials.

    Fabrikoid, which became a Du Pont product, was initially marketed as one of the first faux leathers which had widespread success. According to the Du Pont website;

    Produced by coating fabric with nitrocellulose and marketed as artificial leather, Fabrikoid was widely used in upholstery, luggage and book bindings during the early 20th century. In the 1920s, Fabrikoid became the preferred material for automobile convertible tops and seat covers…but by the 1940s new, more durable vinyl-coated fabrics overtook the market.

    Following this, Du Pont launched a new product which was initially called Corfam which was supposed to replace leather as explained by Kanigel. His book further outlines

    Corfam was no tacky low-life vinyl. It was protected by a slew of patents covering every stage of its manufacture…It was leather-like. It was synthetic leather. Artificial leather. Imitation leather. Fake leather. Or, to use the French word that slyly slips around the stigma of fake, faux leather.

    However, some years later, Du Pont made the decision to ‘terminate the production of Corfam, which had failed despite heavy investment in technology and consumer research’ (Du Pont, 2014).

    Mulder and Knot outline how PVC’s relative non-flammability, durability, insulation properties, and resistance to humidity and various chemicals were practical reasons for its broad incursion into the consumer market.

    Kanigel highlights that it was Naugahyde faux leather that became the emblem of the 1950s. Naugahyde was adopted by the D.I.Y. craze of the era. Top end designers used it, ‘even chairs in the United Nations building in New York, it was everywhere’.

    By the mid 1960s Uniroyal, the manufactures of Naugahyde, had numerous look alike competitors; the world’s premier maker of imitation leather was itself being challenged by imitators’.

    Today, much attention is now shifting to the recyclability of vinyl fabric and PVC.

    As ‘vinyl’, is a thermoplastic material made of 57% chlorine (derived from industrial grade salt) and 43% carbon (derived predominantly from oil / gas via ethylene), PVC is extremely durable (it is commonly used to make long-lasting products, often with a life-expectancy exceeding 60 years). Thanks to its unique polymer structure, PVC products are well suited for recycling when they come to the end of their life (recovinyl.com, 2015).

    Fung highlights that Du Pont are still at the forefront of vinyl fabric research and are currently examining how to manufacture biodegradable polymers by using plants as the starting material. The end result may eventually see significantly less non-renewable oil being made into textiles.


    References:

    Martin, J. (2007) The Romance of Rubber. Available at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4759/4759-h/4759-h.htm [Accessed 31 March 2015]

    Nitrocellulose (2015). Guncotton. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitrocellulose [Accessed 9 April 2015].

    Fung, W. (2000) Coated and Laminated Textiles. Cambridge: Woodhead Publishing Ltd.

    Du Pont (2014) 1910 Artificial Leather. Available at: http://www2.dupont.com/Phoenix_Heritage/en_US/1910_detail.html [Accessed 31 March 2015].

    Meikle, J.L. (1995) American Plastic: A Cultural History. New Jersey, USA, Rutgers University Press, p.p. 82

    Mulder, K. and Knot, M. (2001) ‘PVC plastic: a history of systems development and entrenchment’ Technology in Society. Volume 23, Issue 2, April 2001, Pages 265–286

    http://www.sciencedirect.com.ucd.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S0160791X01000136

    Semon, W.L. and Stahl G.H. (1982) History of vinyl chloride polymers. New York: Marcel Dekker, pages 199–214

    Kanigel, R. (2007) Faux Real: Genuine Leather and 200 Years of Inspired Fakes. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

    Du Pont (2014) 1986 Richard E. Heckert. Available at: http://www2.dupont.com/Phoenix_Heritage/en_US/1986_b_detail.html [Accessed 31 March 2015]

    Naugahyde (2015) INNOVATION THAT MATTERS. Available at: https://www.naugahyde.com [Accessed 31 March 2015]

    Martin, J. (2007) The Romance of Rubber. Available at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4759/4759-h/4759-h.htm [Accessed 31 March 2015]

    Recovinyl (2015) PVC, a Recyclable Material – Ideal for Reprocessing. Available at: http://www.recovinyl.com/pvc-recyclable-material-ideal-reprocessing [Accessed 2 April 2015].

  • Impact of REACH on the upholstery industry

    What is REACH?

    REACH is ‘a regulation of the European Union, adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals’. REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals and it entered into force on 1 June 2007 (echa.europa.eu 2015).

    According to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive, ‘A major part of REACH is the requirement for manufacturers or importers of substances to register them with a central European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)’ (hse.gov.uk 2015).

    How does REACH affect industry?

    Almost any business such as electronics, toys, textiles and tyre, etc, are all affected by REACH. For instance, any company that manufactures or imports goods into the EU have to ensure that any REACH classified material contained in their products does not exceed restrictions defined by REACH. For example, if a company imports foam for use in seating, the manufacturing company is responsible for ensuring all ingredients contained within the foam are registered with REACH.

    PwC report that being REACH compliant ensures that your company’s licence to the market is secured. The International Accounting Standards Board published guidelines highlighting that in addition to a registration fee, an entity might have to pay the following costs:

    • preparing the technical dossier and the chemical safety report
    • performing the chemical safety assessment
    • IT costs to track information required for REACH registration and supply chain management (ifrs.org, 2008).

    From research, it is evident that one of the biggest impacts REACH will have on industry will be the cost of implementing REACH compliance.
    TE Online (2009) reported that the impact of REACH on a textile company is dependent upon the following facts:

    Positioning of the company in the supply chain.
    The company’s sourcing destinations.
    Location of production process – whether based in EU or outside EU.
    (TE Online, 2009)

    The article further explains that in general, importers and manufacturers of textile and other textile products, will have certain obligations under the following two conditions:

    If a chemical is intended or foreseeable to be released from the textile product, for example, it may release some fragrance, then it has to be registered with ECHA (The European Chemical Agency).

    A textile product contains “substance of very high concern” (SVHC).

    How does REACH affect the upholstery industry?

    As the upholstery industry uses many parts from a range of suppliers in a complex web of supply chain management, upholstery businesses will need to look at any piece that is imported from outside the EU and determine if it’s REACH compliant. Likewise, suppliers in the EU need to establish if all ingredients are registered with REACH.

    Everything from dyes, paints, fabric, foams and coatings not manufactured in the EU, require registration once over the import threshold of 1 ton per year. The end result of this cataloging will be higher prices for all end users.

    Gerald Ondrey reported in Chemical Engineering (2007) that REACH will impose across-the-board costs for registration, testing, and for writing up risk assessments and highlights the costs for the downstream industry, which will need to reformulate its preparations – a very time-consuming affair, assuming that suitable alternatives exist.

    Chemical Week also voiced concerns. In a similar report, Alex Scott noted that ‘Chinese companies in particular could gain competitive advantage securing cheaply and quickly chemical safety data required under REACH by joining REACH data consortia at a late stage of REACH registration’ (Chemical Week 2007).

    Metal Bulletin in 2011 highlighted that:

    REACH regulations are driving us all into the Dark Ages by removing incentives to explore applications for new and exciting materials within the EU. They have a deadening effect on all industry, and catalyse the migration of manufacturing business to East Asia.
    (Metal Bulletin, 2011)

    However, the positive effects of REACH to date have been published in a report titled ‘Interim Evaluation: Impact of the REACH Regulation on the innovativeness of the EU chemical industry’ 2012. This report notes:

    46% of the respondents indicated that there was an overall increase in expenditure on R&D and other innovative activities

    49% of survey respondents indicated that provisions within REACH led to a reduction in the need/costs for testing

    24% of respondents indicated that compliance has contributed to a better acceptance of their new products and technologies.

    42% of those that responded indicated that REACH has signaled a direction for R&D or other innovative practices related to health, safety and environmental protection that would not otherwise have taken place in their firm.
    (Centre for Strategy & Evaluation Services, 2012)

    The Centre for Strategy & Evaluation Services report also noted that at this stage it is too early to say what and where the net benefits to consumers, markets and society are from REACH.


    References:

    European Chemical Agency (2015). Understanding REACH. Available at: http://echa.europa.eu/web/guest/regulations/reach/understanding-reach [Accessed 26 March 2015].

    Health and Safety Executive (2015). The Registration Process. Available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/reach/regprocess.htm [Accessed 26 March 2015].

    PWC (2015). Impact of REACH on your organisation. Available at: http://www.pwc.nl/nl/reach/impact-of-reach-on-your-organisation.jhtml [Accessed 26 March 2015].

    TE Online (2009). REACH – Its Impact on Textile Industry. Available at: http://www.teonline.com/articles/2009/01/reach-its-impact-on-textile-in.html [Accessed 26 March 2015].

    International Accounting Standards Board (2008)Compliance Costs for REACH. Available at: http://www.ifrs.org/Meetings/MeetingDocs/Interpretations%20Committee/2008/November/0811-ob3-compliance-costs-for-REACH.pdf [Accessed 27 March 2015].

    Ondrey, G. (2007). EU CHEMICALS LEGISLATION EXTENDS ITS REACH. Chemical Engineering, 114(3), 22-27. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/194449630?accountid=14507 [Accessed 26 March 2015].

    Scott, A. (2007). Reach is likely to challenge EU competitiveness. Chemical Week, 169(19), 29. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/222546586?accountid=14507 [Accessed 26 March 2015].

    Metal Bulletin (2011). Reach-ing absurdity: EU policy on strategics. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/858908173?accountid=14507 [Accessed 26 March 2015].

    Centre for Strategy & Evaluation Services (2012). Interim Evaluation: Impact of the REACH Regulation on the innovativeness of the EU chemical industry. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/chemicals/files/reach/review2012/innovation-final-report_en.pdf [Accessed 27 March 2015]

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  • ‘The School on the Terraces’ sets an example for how the school of the future should look

    2016 will see the completion of a new primary school in the heart of Denmark’s city of Aarhus that will replace the existing school N.J. Fjordsgades Skole. The city of Aarhus commissioned an expert team including contractor Hoffmann, Henning Larsen Architects, GPP Architects, landscape architects Møller & Grønborg and consulting engineer NIRAS to build a “healthy, inspiring learning and teaching environment centred on the pupils, staff and guests – and where efficiency, comfort and responsibility are key elements.”

    Source: www.archiscene.net

    Source: www.henninglarsen.com

    To create such space, the project team took an integrated energy design approach and combined it with state-of-the-art principles for learning and play. Signe Kongebro, Erik Hansson and Martha Lewis worked on the strategy for sustainability that will meet the energy requirements of the 2020 Danish building code.

    Henning Larsen Architects detail the key elements of the sustainability strategy. These are energy, indoor climate and materials. When combined together they create a healthy, efficient, and comfortable environment for all stakeholders. The project’s sponsors feel that “the new building sends a clear signal of Aarhus City’s emphasis on sustainability and energy consumption and demonstrates a school that actively contributes to future-proofing the society which the pupils will form part of in the future.”

    To build a healthy school, architects say “a variety of measures have been incorporated, including a well-insulated building envelope with a heat loss factor that exceeds the 2020 energy code requirements by 50 percent… All materials are selected on the basis of life span, quality, operation and maintenance.” Furthermore, they say that design for the new school is based on “the growing body of research showing that children learn more in a good indoor climate.” Such conditions were achieved by taking into account the environmental and health-related impact of materials, as well building design, orientation and positioning of windows.

    The new school is organised as a four leaf clover with the four clusters interconnected via three atria. The new structure is a result of putting “daylight, human scale and dynamic spaces as an integral part of the new building. Each cluster features a small common square with niches, reading hammocks, mobile workshops and multi-purpose furniture.” They function as a standalone unit with own unique identity, thus dividing the school into smaller units. Each unit incorporates the outside terraces as open workshops hence enabling both indoor and outdoor active learning.

    Source: www.archiscene.net

    Source: www.archiscene.net

    The new building will spread across 15,000-square-metres, and will offer afterschool programmes as well as day care. Henning Larsen Architects believe its two faces – the urban look and the green landscape for activity, make it a unique environment for all stakeholders. Kristian Würtz, Alderman in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in Aarhus believes “it is an excellent proposal for how the school of the future should look.”

    This article is based on the official information surrounding the construction of ‘The School on the Terraces.’

  • How The Royal London Hospital used design to be less intimidating

    The Royal London Hospital is one of six hospitals owned and managed by the largest NHS Trust in the UK – Barts Health. The trust is one of Britain’s healthcare providers leading the way in improving patient experience. One of the strategies for making this a reality is funding a charity organisation, Vital Arts, to drive arts programmes that transform the hospital experience for all stakeholders.

    In their preparation to transform the Royal London’s interior, Vital Arts conducted a series of consultations with hospital staff and patients to choose fifteen designers and artists for the project. Each of them was given a specific area to decorate, including reception areas, play spaces, elevator lobbies, and various ward settings. To make the interior less intimidating for all, the artists had to consider multiple factors prior to creating a colour palette that would deliver the brief.

    Some of the most predominantly used colours in this project include green, yellow, orange, and blue. This direction might tally with a 2012 interview in Healthcare Design magazine, with director of colour marketing for Sherwin-Williams, Jackie Jordan. Jordan recommends a balance of warm and cool colours for healthcare settings. “Cool colours tend to be more calming, so things that are in the blues and the blue-greens, really put people at ease because they do bring a sense of tranquility”. She further explains how “soothing colours can affect a patient’s mood and even contribute to the healing process.” On the other hand, stimulating colours such as vibrant yellows and reds for children’s hospitals, specifically activity rooms “where children are going to have some fun for the day participating in crafts, for example.”

    The new interior design of the Royal London includes painted illustrations, wood pieces, porcelain sculptures, and other 3D design elements. Director of Nursing and Governance for Children at Barts Health NHS Trust, Sally Shearer said “these fun designs are an important part of our commitment to easing children’s fears of being in a seemingly strange and scary building, to instead create a warm and comforting place of healing.”

     

    Respiratory (Ward 7E) by Miller Goodman. Source: vitalarts.org.uk

    Haematology (Ward 7F) by Donna Wilson. Source: vitalarts.org.uk

    Trauma and gastroenterology (Wing 7D) by Morag Myerscough. Source: psfk.com

    The idea of creating a world away from the ward is based on research proving the positive effect of environments that help reduce patient’s anxiety, both in children and adults. Those effects amount to an increase in patient’s appetite, better response to treatment, even pain relief. Textile artist Ella Doran who designed the bedside curtains with a panoramic view of the Thames confirmed the project’s success. “A seminal moment for me was when a three-year-old girl stopped crying the moment she saw the curtains, pointing excitedly to the hidden cats and rabbits. That’s when I knew my design had worked.” The Trust feel that the new interior helped in making the hospital less scary for kids, in addition to helping nurses bond and build trust with their small patients, which makes performing medical tasks much easier.

    This article is based on industry research and the official information surrounding the project.

     

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