Category Archives: Greenbuild

Talking “Negative to Positive” at Greenbuild 2016


Join us at Greenbuild in Los Angeles as we talk about our Negative to Positive journey and our new mission, Climate Take Back. 
October 5-7 | Booth 1443 | Los Angeles Convention Center

We’re proud to be a Gold Sponsor. If you aren’t attending the show, you can follow us virtually using #ClimateTakeBack

GreenbuildDon’t miss these Interface experts and friends during Greenbuild:

Wednesday, October 5
8:00 am – 10:00 am | A01 – Nature Inspired Material Innovation: Factory as Forest (Outdoor)
Erin Meezan, Chief Sustainability Officer, Interface Inc.
James Connelly, Director of Living Product Challenge at International Living Future           Institute
Nicole Miller, Managing Director at Biomimicry 3.8

11:00 am – 12:30 pm | Executive Luncheon
Interface’s president and chief operating officer Jay Gould will be the featured speaker at this invitation only event.

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm | B01 – Biophilic Design: Achieving Broad Adoption (Outdoor)
Bill Browning, Partner at Terrapin Bright Green
Amanda Sturgeon, CEO at International Living Future Institute
Vivian Loftness, University Professor & Paul Mellon Chair in Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University
Richard Piacentini, Executive Director at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Thursday, October 6
9am – 10am | D13 – The Shared City: The Sharing Economy in the Evolution of the City
Chris Garvin, Partner at Terrapin Bright Green
Paolo Parigi, Associate Director at Stamford University
Erin Barnes, CEO / Co-Founder at ioby

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm | EL52 – BASF Presents: Material Ingredients
Annie Bevan, VP, Certification Services at Green Circle Certified, LLC
David Green, Manager Applied Sustainability at BASF Corporation
Brent Trenga, Director of Education & Sustainability at Kingspan

3:30 pm – 5:30 pm | MT101 – Materials Think Tank at Greenbuild
Mikhail Davis, Director of Restorative Enterprise at Interface, Inc.
Scot Horst, Chief Product Officer at U.S. Green Building Council
Mahesh Ramanujam, Chief Operating Officer at U.S. Green Building Council
Douglas Brown, Sustainability at BASF
Elizabeth Cassin, Senior Associate & Associate Unit Manager at Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.

Friday, October 7
8:00 am – 9:00 am  | G12 – The Theory of Biophilia and the Practice of Biophilic Design
Stephen Kellert, Tweedy Ordway Professor Emeritus at Yale University, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
Elizabeth Calabrese, Principal Architect at Calabrese Architects, Inc.

11:00 am – 12:30 pm | Closing Plenary
Greenbuild’s closing plenary is always forward-thinking, asking “what’s next?” Our Erin Meezan will open the plenary followed by incoming USGBC CEO Mahesh Ramanujam and BIG founder Bjarke Ingels.

1:30 pm – 4:30 pm | Material Health Summit: Beyond the Tipping Point
958 S. Broadway Los Angeles, CA 90015
Lindsay James, Interface Vice President of Restorative Enterprise & Certified Biomimicry Professional
James Connelly, ILFI Living Product Challenge Director
Andrea Cooper, ILFI Declare Manager


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What Does ‘Beautiful Thinking’ Mean?

Jean Nayar

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder. But when we see beauty—whether in a glorious sunset, a majestic mountain, an inspired building, or a fellow human being—we know it. Visual beauty is tangible.

When it comes to thinking, though, how do we know when our ideas are beautiful? The people at Interface have been dwelling on this question a lot lately—particularly with respect to how it impacts a sense of well-being in sustainably designed spaces. They also recognize that visionaries both past and present—from the legendary architect, R. Buckminster Fuller, to the brilliant founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, to the CEO of the International Living Future Institute, Jason McLennan, one of the most influential individuals in the green building movement—have pondered this question, too, and have applied their theories to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems with transformational results.

beautiful thinking

What is “beautiful thinking?” The people at Interface have been dwelling on this question a lot lately—particularly with respect to how it impacts a sense of well-being in sustainably designed spaces.

To give shape to the idea of “Beautiful Thinking,” we asked some thought leaders “What does ‘Beautiful Thinking” mean to you?” Their responses yielded some interesting common threads. Read on for seven of the most compelling of them.

Nature and beauty are inseparable—and humans are part of it. “Research has shown that humans have an innate love of and need for nature,” says Jason McLennan, CEO of the International Living Future Institute and the founder and creator of the Living Building Challenge, the world’s most progressive and stringent green building program. “Our ‘biophilia,’ according to studies, is hard-wired,” he says. “We naturally seek out environments where nature is present and react negatively to environments that are sterile, cold, and without any connection to nature.”

Science and beauty are not mutually exclusive, but rather innately interconnected. “Buckminster Fuller would take on any challenge with a systemic approach to problem-solving,” says Elizabeth Thompson, executive director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute. “For him, there was no greater source of ‘Beautiful Thinking’ than in the patterns of nature, and in how efficient Nature is with her use of materials. He was sometimes referred to as a ‘radical utopian,’ who relied on fundamental truths of science and research to uncover truths about how the universe is structured to get to the root of things, and it’s been said that if you’re at the root you’re touching the spiritual,” she adds. “Fuller himself once said, ‘When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty, I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.’” In other words, beauty may not be the goal of “Beautiful Thinking,” but invariably it emerges as a result of it.


“When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty, I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” -Buckminster Fuller

Nature has much to teach us about creating great human habitat. “In the same way that nature creates conditions conducive to life,” says Lindsay James, a certified biomimicry professional and vice president of restorative enterprise at Interface, “businesses can think of ways to create conditions that are conducive to life, both for the larger ecological system and for the well-being of the people in the company. One step we can take is to create spaces for our people that promote health and wellness. One of the pitfalls we seem to be running into is to define health in buildings purely in terms of the absence of potentially hazardous chemicals. This has the potential to allow fear of chemicals to overshadow other ways that we can make buildings ‘life-friendly.’ The increasingly robust research on biophilic design shows us how better designed buildings produce some of the proven physiological and psychological benefits of spending time in nature. Our current value-engineering practices don’t take this kind of benefit into account,” she explains. “But when companies see health-care costs of employees declining in biophilically-designed spaces, then there’s an economic argument for good design.”

Variety is the spice of stimulating spaces. “We should strive to create places where we fit and where we belong; places with both prospect and refuge that appeal to us on a deep psychological level,” says McLennan. “There is additional emerging evidence indicating that we also crave beauty in the form of order, proportion, texture, color, and localized symmetry. I refer to this instinct as ‘’ The pleasure we experience when we witness symmetry in nature—as in sacred geometry or the elegant layout of the human face— demonstrates this powerful force.”

Holistic environments inspire creativity and innovation. Spaces derived from “Beautiful Thinking” can have a ripple effect on people and the broader systems they’re a part of. “Interface is a carpet tile company that mimics nature in its manufacturing process and continues to develop restorative circular economy strategies to drive all industries to a new level of success in business,” says George Bandy, Interface’s vice president of strategic accounts. “This model considers financial profitability on the same level as environmental and social success on the balance sheet. It also involves the type of mental engagement that delivers a comprehensive positive impact on ‘tomorrow’s child.’ A space that allows people to be connected to nature while providing them with the freedom to push their professional and productivity limits creates a contagious spirit of environmental, social and economic success.’”

morning room

Spaces that allow people to be connected to nature while providing them with the freedom to push their professional and productivity limits creates a contagious spirit of success.

What we do to the planet, we do to ourselves. “Biophilia implies humility on ourpart in and respect for the four billion years of life’s existence,” says Canadian environmental activist, Dr. David Suzuki. “We are a very clever animal but now our clever inventions are so powerful, that they can have immense consequences and we don’t know enough to anticipate them,” he adds. “When DDT was found to be insecticidal, we didn’t know about biomagnification until eagles began to disappear. When atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, we didn’t know about radioactive  When CFCs began to be used in spray cans, no one knew about their impact on ozone. Over and over, our clever inventions have unanticipated deleterious consequences. Biomimicry asks nature for solutions to problems and nature has had billions of years and a multitude of ways to resolve them. Chances are nature’s solutions will be far more benign than ours.”

We may not be able to improve on Nature’s beauty, but we can improve the quality of our lives by mimicking it. “When we think about biophilic design that’s evocative of the patterns, forms, and textures in nature, it isn’t limited to literally copying or using natural features in our spaces. We can strive to mimic the type of sensory stimulation our brains receive when we are in nature, including things as simple as flooring with variable hardness and texture, just as you would find underfoot in any forest,” James suggests. “Our brains have evolved over the past 200,000 years in natural settings, so if we want our spaces to bring out the best in people, Nature is where we should look for design inspiration.”

human nature

We must look to Nature for design inspiration.

Posted in Category Biophilia, Greenbuild, Sustainability | 1 Comment

Join Us at Greenbuild 2015


Join us at Greenbuild in Washington, D.C. as we explore the relationship between design and wellness
18-19 November | 10:00 am – 6:00 pm | Booth 2729 | Washington Convention Center


You can also follow us virtually using #BeautifulThinking

Don’t miss these Interface experts and friends during Greenbuild:

Thursday, November 19
8:00 am – 10:00 am | C13 – Sustainability Leadership: Transform your Organization | Room 145AB

Erin Meezan, Vice President of Sustainability, Interface Inc.
Elizabeth Heider, Chief Susstainability Officer, Skanaka USA
Leith Sharp, Director of Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership at Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard School of Public Health

1:30 pm- 2:30 pm | D05 – Biophilic Design in Context: Applications for Culture & Climate | Room 206

Bill Browning, Partner at Terrapin Bright Green
Elysa Hammond, Clif Bar & Company
Nicole Isle, Chief Sustainability Strategist at Glumac Engineering

Sponsored Track:
The Illuminate track at Greenbuild
Sponsored by Interface

The ILLUMINATE track at Greenbuild, curated with the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), was developed with the intention to reinvent the traditional breakout session and bring the outdoors in. With floor to ceiling windows providing natural daylighting and a green wall adding to the biophilia throughout the space, attendees will have the opportunity to engage mind and body and connect with nature during their education session.

Sessions in the ILLUMINATE Track:
Wednesday, November 18
1:30 – 2:30 pm | The Science of Circadian Lighting
3:00 – 5:00 pm | Green Buildings and Health: New Frontiers

Thursday, November 19
8:00 – 10:00 am | Making Healthy Property Investable: Opportunities & Barriers
1:30 – 2:30 pm | Biophilic Design in Context: Applications for Culture & Climate
3:00 – 4:00 pm | Get Active – Implementing Active Design in Our Neighborhoods
4:30 – 5:30 pm | Measuring circadian light in buildings: findings and actions

Friday, November 20
8:00 – 9:00 am | Google’s Global Approach to Sustainable Operations
9:30 – 10:30 am | Impact of Green Building on Cognitive Function and Health

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Moments and Memories from Greenbuild 2014

Mikhail Davis

Led by the indomitable George Bandy, Vice President at Interface, and Chairman of the USGBC Board of Directors, our team had a great week of learning, sharing and collaborating at Greenbuild in New Orleans.

Melissa Vernon, Director of Sustainable Strategy (Americas)
This year we saw much broader recognition that green building is about humans too. From the introduction of three social equity pilot credits in LEED, to the sold-out WELL Building Summit, and case studies of biophilic design research at Google offices globally on the health and wellbeing of building occupants, the community and supply chain had a growing presence at Greenbuild.

One of my favorite sessions was led by Deepak Chopra. He provided insights about mindfulness, and I found his talk ties to our exploration of biophilic design and the biochemical response in our bodies when exposed to nature. It was enlightening to hear more on the mind-body connection and our ability to impact our gene expression with our thoughts. He ended with a 12-minute guided meditation – what a reprieve from the craziness of Greenbuild and a nice way to recharge.

Jennifer Kreyssig, Account Executive (Toronto, Canada)
Lindsay James’s opening remarks at the Women in Green breakfast were a highlight. She said: “My father raised me to ‘think like a man, because it’s a man’s world,’ but I’m telling my daughters to think like Nature, because it’s her world.” This kind of shift is the only way to affect positive change.

Strangely, another highlight was spending two full days in our booth space, which was dynamic, thoughtful, beautiful and biophilic, a true respite from the inevitable boredom and physical fatigue that one associates with tradeshows.


A biophilically inspired booth, perfect for encouraging show attendees to #MakeBeautyHappen in their next projects.

Lauren White, Interactive Marketing Manager (Americas)
There was a young woman – Jennifer – who came to the booth immediately following the Women in Green breakfast. She was so inspired from hearing about Interface and the Net-Works program that she just had to meet us. It was exciting to see the enthusiasm of others generated by our initiatives.

Plus, as a relative newbie to Interface it was really cool to meet members of Interface’s Eco Dream Team during sessions in our booth – Paul Hawken, Bill Browning, Janine Benyus and John Picard. Bill reminded us, “If we’re creating spaces that are beautiful, then we’ll take care of them and love them.”

Interface_Dream Team-2

Interface’s Eco Dream Team members Bill Browning, Janine Benyus, Paul Hawken and John Picard reflected on 20 years of “beautiful thinking” during two Greenbuild sessions.

Nadine Gudz, Director of Sustainable Strategy (Canada and Latin America)
Two of my favorite moments include:
1) Paul Hawken’s keynote where he questioned whether climate change is happening ‘FOR’ us (not ‘TO’ us) sparked critical discussion among many Greenbuild delegates about strategies and opportunities to accelerate game changing innovation to manage carbon.

2) During the closing plenary, Roger Platt, President of USGBC, shared his highlights from Greenbuild and started with Lindsay James’s remarks and the Net-Works video at the Women’s Breakfast!

Erin Meezan, Global VP of Sustainability
One of the big themes I heard was about reframing. How do we reframe our current environmental challenges to have a more hopeful vision for our future? For example, around climate change, like Paul Hawken’s Project Drawdown. Or around the future of the built environment and design like Janine Benyus’s vision of cities and buildings that can functionally replicate the local ecosystem’s services. At Interface, we have experienced the power of an amazingly big vision, one that has stood the test of 20 years, and continues to inspire us and challenge us. Twenty years ago, we essentially reframed the vision of our company toward a much more hopeful and positive one that many of our employees instantly felt connected to. We think this is possible for the entire movement.

Lindsay James, VP of Restorative Enterprise (Americas)
I heard that Interface’s evening event with Paul Hawken and Janine Benyus was a highlight for many attendees. Some of my favorite thoughts from their inspirational discussion about the relationship between beauty and sustainability include:
• Beauty is enduring, but beauty is constantly evolving. Beauty exists in our perception, which is why information matters, because new information can shift how we perceive beauty. Are conflict diamonds beautiful?
• Beauty is a sacred pact between our senses and our ability to know what is healthy, developed over tens of thousands of years. In nature, beautiful flowers signal future availability of seeds and fruit, and sparkling water, which we find beautiful, signals cleaner water. In today’s world, we have broken this connection, and it is up to all of us, but especially designers, to re-couple the signal of beauty and healthy choices.


Janine Benyus and Paul Hawken engage with a large crowd during an after hours event on beauty and sustainability. Nadav Malin moderated.

Mikhail Davis, Director of Restorative Enterprise (Americas)
One of the most inspiring things about Greenbuild is being part of a community of champions. In our daily lives, we may be a voice in the wilderness, trying to bring sustainability into our work, whether in design, construction, manufacturing, journalism, public policy, or technology, but at Greenbuild, we are reunited with our community. I was struck by this when presenting on Net-Works for the Sustainability and Design Leaders gathering at the offices of Eskew+Dumez+Ripple Architects. Typically when I present to architecture firms, there are a few green design champions in a larger audience, but this was an entire audience of these champions, a diaspora from dozens of firms, large and small, jam-packed into one small conference room to celebrate and share our common mission.


Audience of Sustainability and Design Leaders

Posted in Category Biophilic Design, Greenbuild, Greenbuild 2014, Sustainability | Leave a comment

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.

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.

Posted in Category Biophilia, Biophilic Design, Greenbuild, Greenbuild 2014, Sustainability | Leave a comment