Category Archives: Greenbuild

Who Needs Beauty?

There’s a tantalizing mystery in our intuitive response to beauty and the sensual experience and associated pleasure from what we hear, touch, taste, smell or see. Science now tells us that we don’t simply desire this kind of beauty; we need it. In an era when we spend most of our time indoors, it is more important than ever that we fulfill this basic human need to #MakeBeautyHappen in our built environment.

Human intuition, neuroscience and building research are converging to tell us that beautifully designed spaces can bring out the best in people. So how does beauty become a functional design element and not just an aesthetic factor? 

Biophilic design helps us marry beauty to function in our built environments (well-placed windows that not only provide a view to the outside, but also allow in more natural light and lessen energy costs) in the same way that nature uses beauty (vibrantly colored blossoms that attract bees for cross pollination).

Some of our most enduring, beautiful and iconic buildings and spaces, including many Frank Lloyd Wright designs and Grand Central Station, meet the definition of biophilic design. We always knew these designs made us feel good, but now we know why. Research shows that people are more productive, learn better, heal faster, and have lower stress levels in spaces embodying the principles of biophilic design.

Biophilic design

Some of our most beautiful and iconic buildings and spaces meet the definition of biophilic design, like Tanner Springs by Atelier Dreisetl and the Fallingwater house by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Considering the positive, measurable impact of biophilic design on a building’s inhabitants, can a building be “green” without beauty?

We believe the answer is “no.” A high performance, green building should do more than lower environmental impacts. It must also renew and inspire the people who use them.

Beautiful, biophilic design offers a means of reliably producing these benefits, potentially making beauty one of the most important drivers of ROI for a building owner. The increased productivity of building occupants, whose salaries surpass the cost of any building over time, more than justifies making beauty a design priority.


Companies like Google recognize the benefits of biophilic design on its employees and are implementing these strategies to improve the quality of their work environment.

Can beauty also save the world?

Author Lisa Samuels claims that “Beauty wedges into the artistic space a structure for continuously imagining what we do not know.” In other words, beauty can be a catalyst for creation. We believe that beautiful, biophilic spaces can help bring out the kind of compassionate, creative thinking needed to solve the world’s biggest problems. We call this kind of creativity “beautiful thinking,” and we believe it holds the key to unlocking the next wave of social and environmental innovation. We’ve already seen the results of beautiful thinking in restorative system projects like Waterbank Schools and Net-Works. And we hope these are just the beginning.


The latest research and guidance on the methodology of biophilic design are the subject of the new Terrapin Bright Green report The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design.

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Restorative is…

Mikhail Davis

At Greenbuild this year, we did not so much have a message as we had a question:

What does it mean to be a restorative enterprise?

A WHAT? Yes, it bears some explanation.

When Interface founder Ray Anderson made his first sustainability speech to our company in 1994, he referenced a comment made by a man who had worked on the NASA’s moon landing. The problem with the moon mission, the man told him, was that it was too small. When the mission was accomplished in under 10 years, NASA was rudderless and lacked the same focus. Ray didn’t want that to happen to us, so rather than set us on a course to become the world’s first sustainable company, what he actually said was:

“I want to know what we’ll need to do to… make Interface a restorative enterprise. To put back more than we take from the earth and to do good for the earth, not just no harm. How do we leave the world better with every square yard of carpet we make and sell?”

2014 marks 20 years since Ray’s epiphany and it has stimulated a great deal of thinking about our mission. Corporate sustainability reporting, such a radical notion in 1994, is now almost a requirement for larger companies, yet no company, including Interface, can claim to have achieved sustainability. Many would say that sustainability is no longer an inspiring vision. But what about that lesser known part of Ray’s challenge, the one beyond the “moon shot” of sustainability?

Mission Zero® commits Interface to eliminating our negative impact on the environment, but what about our positive impacts? Could we knit together fractured communities, economies and ecosystems as we do businesses? There are no metrics for restorative enterprise; it is uncharted territory in the same way “sustainable business” was in 1994. So we started by asking questions.

We asked people through our Greenbuild booth and through social media to tell us what “restorative” meant to them. We shared the story of Net-Works as a provocation. If we can begin sourcing nylon for carpet yarn in a way that helps the economy, community, and ecology of remote fishing villages, what else might business help to restore?

Here’s a sampling of what we heard from thought leaders and Twitterati alike when we asked them to complete the phrase “Restorative is…”:

“Taking inspiration from the past to envision a positive future.” (John Peterson, Public Architecture)

“Planting the seeds for renewal.”— Joel Makower, GreenBiz Group

“Humans learning to fit in and flourish on this planet, as all species must, by creating conditions conducive to life.”—Janine Benyus, Biomimicry3.8

“Creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society.”—Connie Hensler, Interface, Inc.

“Looking at the larger impact of every decision and giving back more than we receive.”—Elif Tinney, BNIM Architects

Certainly, we do not understand the full implications of “restorative enterprise” yet, but a few things are becoming clear.

With the word “sustainability” now commonplace, “restorative” has more power to inspire and get people dreaming of a better world.  And with how interconnected the world has become, maybe putting our focus on increasing our positive, restorative impacts will take us further than merely eliminating our negative ones.

In hopes that attendees would take this inquiry home with them, we also gave away a bookmark at Greenbuild that asked 5 more questions. Here they are. Let us know what answers you come up with.

Five Questions to Begin Exploring the Idea of Restorative Enterprise

  1. Is it possible for commerce to leave the world a better place?
  2. What does it mean for a business to be restorative?
  3. How would you know if a business was having a restorative effect?
  4. What are examples of businesses that are making a profit while addressing social and environmental problems?
  5. How would you change your business model or products to create social and ecological value?
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A Look Back at Greenbuild 2013

Interface’s sustainability journey began in 1994 only one year after the founding of the US Green Building Council (USGBC), and Ray Anderson recognized early on that our fates were intertwined. In fact Ray told his story at the very first public gathering of the USGBC in Big Sky, Montana in 1995. Interface sales reps from our early sustainability years recall that Ray would always ask about two things when he visited their territories:  how are your sales and what are you doing to build the local USGBC chapter?

IMG_0430_webToday, the dozens of Interface associates who participate in Greenbuild each year must uphold the leadership legacy of Ray Anderson and Jim Hartzfeld, the first USGBC Chairman to come from Interface. We take our responsibility to lead the way to what’s next in the green building movement very seriously. While many building product manufacturers approach Greenbuild as an opportunity to sell products, we see Greenbuild as a critically important venue to sell the ideas we consider to be most important to the future of sustainability in our industry and the green building world.  Every year, we use Greenbuild as our platform to launch new and provocative ideas in sustainability. Whether asking how to end our dependence on oil – “Off Oil” in 2009, championing Biophilic Design in 2012 or exploring frontiers beyond sustainability “Restorative Enterprise” in 2013, we continually expand the conversation beyond current mainstream thinking. And we use a variety of interactive and informative events and materials to get the conversation started.

This year more than 40 associates worked to make Greenbuild a success; including:

  • Melissa Vernon, Interface’s Green Apple champion and Director of Sustainable Strategy, started Interface’s Greenbuild 2013 off with a bang by biking 250 miles from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia with the Center for Green Schools, USGBC Students and Emerging Professionals.
  • Nadine Gudz, Interface Canada Director of Sustainable Strategy, carried her responsibilities for the USGBC Educational Programming Committee into the conference by coordinating and facilitating four special-set educational sessions.
  • Mikhail Davis, Director of Restorative Enterprise, was Interface’s voice on the hot topic of transparency and healthy materials, speaking on two panels, facilitating another, and participating in the launch of the Health Product Declaration (HPD) Manufacturer Advisory Panel.
  • Erin Meezan, Interface Inc. VP of Sustainability, brought partnerships with the Zoological Society of London, Aquafil, the Buckminster Fuller Institute, and Carbon Canopy into the spotlight through key panel discussions.

IMG_0432_webInterface’s creative and marketing teams designed an ocean-themed booth showcasing Net-Works™ and Restorative Enterprise while managing no less than six separate in-booth and off-site events with an array of NGO and corporate partners.

And George Bandy, VP of Sustainability for Global Accounts, was all over Greenbuild, his time very much in demand as the incoming Chairman of the USGBC Board of Directors.

All this activity makes the show a huge production with hours and hours of planning, but it’s a great opportunity to give nearly 30,000 participants a taste of the work we do every day to show the world a better way to do business and to shift our industry toward sustainability. As the USGBC has fundamentally transformed the way we design, construct, operate and maintain our buildings, we are changing the way carpet manufacturers approach everything from creating products to supporting the communities in which they operate and service.

Thank you everyone who visited us at Greenbuild. We look forward to hearing what you thought and what you think is next in green building and manufacturing.

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Melissa Vernon

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

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Live from Greenbuild: The #RestorativeIs Panel Discussion

Net-Works™: How a Global Collaboration became a Model for Restorative Business


Join us for an educational and inspirational discussion that will focus on the importance of partnerships to the Restorative Enterprise model, and what it truly means to be a regenerative business in the industrialized world.

Date: Wednesday, November 20th
Time: 6:45pm ET/3:45pm PT

Erin Meezan, Vice President, Sustainability, Interface, Atlanta
Fabrizio Calenti, General Manager and Director, Aquafil, Arco, Italy
Dr. Nick Hill, Project Manager for Net-Works, Zoological Society of London, London(representing the perspective of ZSL and Project Seahorse)

Mikhail Davis, Interface Sustainability Council, Interface

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