Eco-conscious designers, aware of their blue recycle bin overflowing with plastic containers, may wonder about the potential for this urban waste. Montreal-based furniture designer Patrick Messier has gone beyond wondering and developed designs for park benches and site furnishings using recycled plastics.
The Kinsey series of benches, designed by Messier for Cascades Re-Plast, Kingsey Falls, Quebec, won the Gold Award in the Sustainable Design category at the 2004 IIDEX/NeoCon 2004 tradeshow in Toronto (the Think Chair by Steelcase also won in this category).
The seating planks for the Kingsey series and the Cascades series, also designed by Messier, are composed of 100 percent recycled plastic formed into synthetic lumber/planks. The primary (80 percent) plastic/polymer content is high density polyethylene (HDPE) with smaller quantities of other polymers. This durable, tough material is resistant to water, salt, oil, chemicals, insects and rot; requires no toxic preservatives, painting or staining; and is easy to maintain. Its density compares to that of a very dense hardwood such as hickory - 897 kg/cu m (56 lbs/cu ft).
Obviously, the IIDEX/NeoCon judges were impressed by the innovative Kingsey bench, as explained by Messier to furniturelink: "We have aluminum extrusions under the bench that support the plastic planks. These are very important parts because the plastic is elastic . . . very tough but flexible. So you have to support it all the way with a special dovetail extrusion (patent applied for) we have developed [for this series]. The planks are not screwed to the extrusion, so they can expand and contract with the weather, which is a very important."
The cross-section of each plank comprises a concave upper surface and a convex lower. The shaped upper surface increases comfort, strength and improves water run-off.
The end castings and support extrusions are made from 20 percent recycled aluminum alloys with a UV resistant polyester powder coating. Some may criticize the specification of such a low level of recycled metal, which was required to produce defect-free extrusions or the choice of aluminum over steel with its more eco-friendly raw material production costs. In its defense, aluminum is easy to recycle (at reduced energy costs) and guarantees a long service life (20+ years) before repacement is required - still one of the most important factors when assessing the life-cycle of any product.
Since its founding in 2002 to offer industrial and graphic design consulting services, Messier Designers Inc. has gained an international reputation. Some of the world’s leading design and architecture publications, including Architectural Record, Axis, Blueprint, Canadian Interiors, Azure, Frame, MD Moebel Interior Design, etc., have featured work by this Montreal-based company.
© Furniture Link 2004 (images © Patrick Messier)