Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) and Interface share a vision of the power of design to positively impact not only the people and places, but the world itself, and we share a passion to make it happen.
To that end we’re recognizing an additional entrant into the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, an annual prize program through which BFI awards $100,000 to support the development and implementation of a solution with the potential to solve one of humanity’s most pressing problems.
“We are thrilled to have an additional entrant recognized and supported in this year’s Challenge,” said Elizabeth Thompson, BFI’s Executive Director, “Our mission is to support as many whole-systems approaches as we can, and Interface has joined us as dedicated contributors in the field.”
Interface chose Waterbank Schools, a transformative school design for poor regions in need of water. Headed by New York-based architects David Turnbull and Jane Harrison, the project, based in Africa, engaged a local community in using design to create a replicable, scalable building prototype designed to collect, store and filter rainwater. While the design used a new geometry, layout and materials, it was built for about the same costs as a conventional school.
“This simple design is an elegant and practical way of addressing sanitation, health, and education,” said Dan Hendrix, chairman and CEO of Interface, Inc. As Ray would have said, it is “so right, and so smart”. Turning business as usual on its head is something we at Interface not only applaud, but attempt to practice. We’re pleased to support Waterbank Schools by providing funding and access to experts who will help them expand throughout the developing world.”
Pushing boundaries, exploring new dimensions of ourselves and realizing the power of teamwork—these define the journey of a sustainability advocate and the #bikegreenapple tour group.
As sustainability advocates, we continually see beyond the horizon and lead others to explore the world of restorative, healthy, inspiring, and resource efficient buildings. In regard to schools we push for innovative design and collaborate with new partners with the goal of creating better buildings for occupants and generations to come. And while more and more schools are building or renovating with a focus on sustainability, there are still tens of thousands in disrepair, lacking modern infrastructure and unable to finance the improvements needed to create sustainable learning environments.
So, on November 12, nine strangers arrived in Washington, D.C. prepared to spread the message of the US Green Building Council’s Green Apple program and the importance of sustainable schools. Our group included environmental advocates, an engineer, sustainable designers and architects, environmental studies majors, and me, Interface’s Green Apple champion. The diversity of our backgrounds and experiences contributed to an immensely fulfilling journey with more laughs than I have had in a long time. Individual goals quickly evaporated and the success of the group became our shared responsibility. We were each heading into foreign territory – only one participant had ever participated in a multi-day bike ride and most had never visited WashingtonD.C., Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The distance we had to travel was not just a physical effort, but also a mental and emotional one. As we travelled we completed three service projects with schools in D.C. and Pennsylvania, Together, we upheld the higher purpose and 250 miles later, arrived in Philadelphia as a single unit. Physically, we arrived in one piece safely (no small feat for a bicyclist in an automobile-centric world). Emotionally, the journey showed us that we have the ability to accomplish great things when we’re willing to venture far beyond our comfort zone. We pushed boundaries and came out better people on the other side with a broader self-awareness.
During a stop in Gettysburg, PA, Harrisburg Area Community College President John “Ski” Sygielski, an avid cyclist and green schools champion, joined us for breakfast. As the president of a multi-campus community college system, he emphasized the importance of our journey and was grateful for our support of his schools. We volunteered with the environmental club at the HACC Lancaster campus cleaning up a stream and butterfly garden, and more importantly, created connections with people. Michael Walsh, HACC chief of staff and former deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, reiterated that our mission has a ‘noble purpose’.
Cycling through Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the heart of Amish country, reminded us of a simpler way of life—horse-drawn buggies, beautiful farms, no electricity, not even bicycles. We spotted historic buildings dating from the 1700’s, crossed majestic rivers, and rode through National Parks.
The trip can be summed up in one phrase we discovered at GeorgeWashingtonCarverHigh School in Philadelphia—“think beyond yourself”. #bikegreenapple accomplished that and more.
The #bikegreenapple schedule:
Day 1, Nov. 12: Service Project in Washington, DC
Day 2, Nov. 13: Cycle Washington, DC to Frederick, MD (55 miles)
Day 3, Nov. 14: Cycle Frederick, MD to Gettysburg, PA (42 miles)
Day 4, Nov. 15: Cycle Gettysburg, PA to Lancaster, PA (57 miles)
Day 5, Nov. 16: Service Project in Lancaster, PA
Day 6, Nov. 17: Cycle Lancaster, PA to Royersford, PA (57 miles)
Day 7, Nov. 18: Cycle Royersford, PA to Philadelphia, PA (37 miles)
Day 8, Nov. 19: Service Project in Philadelphia, PA
Ray Anderson opened his early speeches by saying, “Fellow astronauts on Spaceship Earth, we’re all in this together and we need each other.” It was a reference to Buckminster Fuller — “Bucky” — an iconic architect, inventor and thinker responsible for some of the world’s most enduring design truths.
Ray was born when Bucky was nearly 40 years old, and would have learned about his ideas as an industrial engineering student at Georgia Tech. Perhaps he heard some of Fuller’s most recognizable quotes and filed them away in his subconscious, only to have them resurface nearly 50 years later when he had his own epiphany: that the Earth was in trouble, and that business and industry were the only ones who could reverse the course of the damage. That’s when Ray challenged Interface, asking: “Unless somebody leads, nobody will. Why not us?”
This year, we sponsored the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, a competition that seeks to find ideas that “work for 100% of humanity” – Bucky’s goal, and in a way, Ray’s as well.
So right, and so smart, as Ray Anderson would have said. Interface is pleased to support Waterbank Schools by providing funding and access to experts who will help them expand their concept throughout the developing world.
Watch this space for an upcoming post in which we’ll identify the winner of the Challenge, as will a second prize: an award for a finalist whose big idea has struck a chord with those of us continuing Ray’s legacy.
As the African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child”.
As one company, we have learned we can have an influence on others. But add additional partners and our collective influence grows exponentially.
The mission of the Center for Green Schools at the USGBC is to create green schools for all within this generation. The Green Apple Day of Service is the action step to mobilize volunteers around the world to “transform our schools into healthy, safe, and productive learning places.” At the heart of Green Apple is the need to redesign our learning environments. Who better to lead this effort than interior design professionals?
In Minneapolis, Ariane Laxo, IIDA Northland board member and designer at HGA Architects, had identified the Day of Service as a potential company volunteer event. After being contacted by Interface, she expanded their scope and invited more partners. HGA chose the Lighthouse Academy of Nations, a college-prep charter school in Minneapolis where nearly all students will be the first in their families to attempt post-secondary education and 100% qualify for free or reduced cost lunch. Day of Service projects included helping classroom teachers organize their classrooms, installing carpet, building shelving, painting and more, with teachers, architects, interior designers, Interface employees, and others contributing time and talent. Donations were collected for ceiling tiles, light bulbs, paint, carpet tiles and desks for classrooms. While volunteering, Interface employee Ann Martin’s husband noticed that the bathroom countertops were in poor condition. He is a millworker and recently had some countertops returned that were a great solution for the school. He arranged for a future installation. The cascade of good deeds spurred by the Day of Service has been inspiring.
In Portland, OR, Denise Durell, IIDA Oregon president-elect, contacted local Interface Account Executive Karen Gilroy as soon as she heard about the partnership. Denise had a project in mind for daVinci Arts Middle School, a magnet school focused on the arts. This Portland public school was chosen because of its tie in to the arts—young designers and artists in the making attend this highly creative school. The goal of the Day of Service was to transform the Counseling office. This is a space where students come to get guidance, hang out with peers, and find resources for real “teen” world issues.
More than 30 people participated and the day looked like a ‘while you were out’ design TV show. The imagination and professional design vision from the team, utilizing donated furniture, carpet, paint, and fabric, led to a beautiful and highly functional new space. Check out the before and after pictures in the slide show. You will not recognize the space.
The talent, passion, and professionalism of IIDA members brought a deeper dimension to our Green Apple projects. We thank IIDA for partnering and look forward to collaborating again in the future.
To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart. ~Thomas Watson, Sr.
What is one issue that will energize and unite a global company around a single goal? Connecting with our children.
The Green Apple Day of Service, spearheaded by the Center for Green Schools at the US Green Building Council, offers an opportunity to take action – devoting time and resources towards improving schools and engaging with students.
Interface is proud to be a corporate sponsor of Green Apple for the second year and involve our associates in this worthwhile effort leading 40 projects globally.
Sustainability can’t be tackled alone so we chose to partner with many organizations to broaden our impact. We partnered with local USGBC chapters. We invited members of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) to leverage the power of design to create better learning environments. Other manufacturers, including the furniture and fabric industries, joined us to donate products and services to transform educational spaces.
Interface associates from around the world joined together to support Green Apple, planning projects with schools and learning organizations including:
installing carpet to brighten up classrooms from Brooklyn to Minneapolis, Detroit to Portland, Philadelphia to Georgia and Austin, TX to São Paulo, Brazil;
educating youth in Northern Ireland, France, the Netherlands, and Albuquerque on sustainability and our Net-Works project in the Philippines;
partnering with Lipscomb University and Lipscomb Academy Elementary School’s Green Team to teach the Nashville community about gardening;
Maxwell High School students (Atlanta-area) studying architecture and interior design participated in a design charette in partnership with IIDA Georgia and Teknion;
leading the Singapore Chinese Girls School’s Environment Club in dumpster diving and a conversation on waste and recycling;
Landscaping and building picnic tables at West Point Elementary school near the Interface factory in Georgia;
Jazzing up the Whitesville Road Elementary School’s (GA) media center with new carpet and defining a reading area;
Repurposing display rugs from FLOR stores across the country;
sharing our experiences about sustainability with the Paraisópolis favela, the largest favela in São Paulo, Brazil.
Advancing sustainability can often be portrayed as a technical problem with solutions led by engineers, architects, and scientists. But we have experienced that sustainability is equally about the human journey, and the Green Apple Day of Service has been a terrific opportunity to connect with that human element.
“At Interface our restorative mission inspires us to leave a positive social impact in a way that is good for our business,” said John Wells, president of Interface Americas. “Community outreach projects align with our sustainability mission, which considers our impact on the environment as well as on our communities.”
Personally, I found volunteering alongside associates from our manufacturing plants to be an incredible opportunity to build personal connections within our large global company. I installed carpet at the Boys & Girls Club in LaGrange, Georgia alongside two employees from our recycling operations, Theo Abner and Charles Miller, people I otherwise would never had spent time with. Our corporate culture benefits from these shared experiences and experiences new camaraderie. In addition the Boys & Girls Club serves many children of Interface employees, giving these kids a clean and inviting space to spend their afterschool hours.
Ray Anderson, the founder of Interface, often illustrated the importance of our sustainability work through a poem called “Tomorrow’s Child”, written by former Interface employee Glenn Thomas. The Green Apple Day of Service is an expression of our commitment to future generations.