Episode 49 – An Interview with Ken Trinder, founder of EOS Surfaces

 

Jessica McNaughton: Discover how you can green your life by building a knowledge base of current sustainable and eco-savvy trends. This series will delve into hot topics, current standards and practices, ways to design better spaces and specify materials to benefit not only us as consumers, but the world as a whole. Members of CaraGreen, a sustainable materials distributor, and other industry leaders. Whey in throughout the series, this is Build Green Live Green.

 

Jessica McNaughton: Hi, this is Build Green Live Green. I'm Jessica McNaughton with CaraGreen. And today we have Ken Trinder with us. Ken is with EOS surfaces, known for brands,
GEOS, and EOScu as well as legacy brand EOS. Is that correct Ken?

 

Ken: Correct.

 

Jessica McNaughton: Alright. So CaraGreen and GEOS has recently started working together. And kind of your flagship product that we are carrying is the GEOS product line, which is recycled glass and resin. You founded this product line. Can you kind of talk about that timeline and, you know, kind of what prompted you to bring GEOS to the market here in the US?

 

Ken: Sure. Well, first of all, thanks for having me today. I am excited to be on the podcast and talk with everybody. GEOS actually was a result of the great recession. You know in 2008, 2009, when things got really bad out there in the building environment plummeted our core business that we had founded the company on obviously went down cause we were directly tied to
construction and remodeling, and that just really, really tanked. So, we took that opportunity to think, you know, all right, we've got some time here. What do we want to develop next? And we knew we wanted something green. We were looking for a product or to develop a product. I should say that it was environmentally friendly, but not repetitive of what was out there. So, we
didn't want to mimic anything, but we did want to take into consideration what we thought were the future aesthetic trends people were trying to achieve.

 

Ken: Granted at that time was extremely popular and quartz was popular and on its way to the stratosphere. So, we settled on glass, but then it was okay, well glass, how do you want to do
glass? And my background is in polymer. So, I immediately gravitated towards trying to do it with recycled glass, with a polymer binder, because I also was approaching it from the angle of
long-term durability and no need for sealing the product. I thought those were critical. And unfortunately, sometimes, and I don't think this is the case now, but back in those days, when you looked at environmental building products, there was a genuine concern about their longevity, because you know, people will consider them based on organic materials, which is kind of silly
because, you know, residents and organic material they all come out of the earth one way or the other, but the point was to make something that people could really have faith in that would
perform like what they were expecting. It was already in the market in terms of other surfaces. So it took a couple of years to develop it because we had to invent some processes and
eventually, we're successful and settled on a pallet that we thought was unique to us and went into the marketplace and the rest was sort of history. And so now we are, you know, deployed all over the country and some other countries as well. And it has been a good run, it's been fun.

 

Jessica McNaughton: So, one of the things that is really kind of unique and so compelling about the GEOS story is the naming convention that's been chosen for the different colorways and kind of how you came up with those colorways. Can you talk a little bit about kind of your personal background and experience and how it contributed to the naming convention for the GEOS colors?

 

Ken: Sure. A lot of them are personal in terms of experiences, I've had a lot of them that are coastal, because I live, you know, on the water, by the water and has been, you know, in the ocean my whole life. So, I would say that I lean towards that nautical theme in a lot of the name descriptions, but not all of them. They want to buy their favorite colors which is white Birch and
that's more representative of the time that I've spent my summers with my family in Vermont. Because we had developed that white, I was at the time just, you know, looking at, I was in
Vermont as I was looking at it and kind of looking at, we had a whole bunch of Birch trees and then our place up there. And I was like, that has that grayish-white tone of Birch.

 

Ken: And so that is how that one happened. And then if you take one, like Rincon, that is the point break in California that I've enjoyed surfing several times. And it reminded me of the beach
there and sort of the geography and the makeup of the land where that point break is. So that is where they're derived from. I guess that is the benefit of being the creators that you get to inflict your artistic vision on the names, whether they're good or bad. But so far everyone seems to think they're okay. It makes sense.

 

Jessica McNaughton: Yeah. I think watching the industry kind of gravitate towards these themes of nature and place and experiences, you know, a lot of architects and designers are
looking for that story, but they're also looking to connect the products that they choose to nature. And I think when you choose, you know, something like Marina or, you know, something like white Birch, as you know, you and I have discussed, I also grew up in Vermont. So, I know exactly what you're talking about. And you know, just being able to, you know, make an actual, like textual connection through the names to those things, and they, the products also emulate that. So you're getting that kind of watery look or as you said, like the white Birch your bringing
nature into a space with your countertops, which is something really desirable that we see with our architect and designer base.

 

Ken: Well, yeah. I mean, I appreciate that feedback because it makes me feel you know, somewhat validated in the approach that we took back then. So, we were trying to make a kind of psychological connection between place and product. And so, it's great when I hear the people that are experts like you are confirming that that's a winning approach. So, I appreciate that.

 

Jessica McNaughton: Yeah. It's been a really interesting thing for us to observe as CaraGreen, you know, though, you know, we have courses that we teach on biophilic design and biomimicry, which are all about how nature is coming into building products but, you know, the attention being paid to environmental health was really kind of coming to a groundswell and then all of a sudden personal health also became part of how we were designing. We were designing for productivity, we were designing for efficiency, alertness, all these different ways that designers were trying to keep people, you know, mentally healthy, physically healthy, and also contribute to environmental health. And then, you know, we've had this COVID pandemic
that's happened. And talking about kind of your foresight in choosing this naming convention, you also had foresight when it came to human health and surfaces. So can you talk a little bit about your latest project and how that came to be and why the timing right now is so important?

Ken: So EOScu, which is our medical line of surface products was founded on the idea of creating a type of surface that could clean it itself. And that sounds, I know, kind of futuristic, but it was based on the use of copper, which has been around for millennia, and, you know, we've understood the biocidal properties of copper for a long, long time. The issue was how do you take its intrinsic qualities and put it into a format or physical property that can function aesthetically and practically in an environment around people? And using it as a metal is great for roofs and in some places, mechanical items, such as doorknobs and things like that, but it just wasn't I guess not wasn't, but there wasn't anything that had taken that bio Seidel nature of the product and figured out how to get into a deployable function.

 

Ken: And so that was what our goal was. We, you know, having the resin background and understanding what copper could do, we set out to attack a specific problem. So it wasn't just built or developed around this would be a neat trick. It was completely targeted at hospital-acquired infections because most things around patients in our hospital are plastic. So the thought process was okay, if we can develop a plastic that cleans itself you know, then we could essentially protect people from pathogens that are making them sick. That's not a hospital because people that are in that type of setting are already severely immunocompromised and hospital-acquired infections, just so everyone understands are infections you get as the definition states in the hospital. So they're called secondary infections and they're not paid for by insurance. So the hospital has to pay those expenses.

 

If you get sick in their hospital from another infection, that's an infection that they are going to have to cover. It's not reimbursable through Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance. So it's a big, big financial issue. And it's a big humanitarian issue. We lose about an airline's worth of people every day, falling out of the sky to hospital-acquired infections. So now that was really the rationale behind starting EOScu was can we get copper in a certain format called copper-oxide, which is a derivative of copper, it's a powder into plastics. And there were a lot of challenges there because generally, those two products aren't a good fit for each other relative to the chemistry of each one of them, so it took a couple of years to get to a point where we could get the plastic to accept high levels of Copper Oxide and function mechanically so that you could have a product that was going to be stable, but then also, you know, keep it on a loading level that but it was highly efficacious against bacteria.

 

And that whole process from beginning to end from thought and development to come out with the initial product for testing in the lab was three years. And, you know, so that was really the Genesis of it and since that time, the big events would end the development of that product have been that the federal government has approved it for a very specific public health claim, which is only approved one other thing for, but we're allowed to say with our product, that it is a self sanitized product, it does kill all bacteria on it and under two hours. So it's self  cleaning and it has gone through sets of clinical trials over the last five years, both with the federal government and the veterans' administration and private, acute care settings to understand exactly how much it can reduce infections in the hospital setting, but, you know, so it started as let's make, for example, for lack of a better term countertops for nurses stations, because that's where everybody's gathering to morphing into over bed tables for the patient to bend the rails for the patient to push plates, to all kinds of things.

 

Now that we're beginning to develop some for healthcare and then obviously with what's happening with COVID more related to environments where people gather and quantities such as mass transit, cruise ships. So obviously I never wanted a pandemic to occur, but over the last seven to eight years, if you were looking at the science, there was a certain resigning yourself to the fact that this was coming, just not knowing in what format it was going to hit us, whether it was going to be something akin to, you know, servers, or SARS or MERS which kind of COVID is like those. Fortunately,you can put up in how any sort of silver lining on this.

 

Jessica McNaughton: Copper lining.

 

Ken: Yeah, yeah. Copper lining. Exactly. COVID is highly contagious, but its mortality is extremely low relative to you know, MERS, which has Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome or SARS which is its equivalent, but the Asian derivative of that, and those have high mortality rates, especially MERS. So we haven't seen COVID more into any of those it's stayed, you know, in a low mortality. Just a super high contagion factor called the are not values is hot for COVID. We were spared the high mortality rate, but we have to be vigilant because we don't know what it could morph into. And that could be the next thing that comes. So at least the world is paying attention now at a level it wasn't before and understanding that these are real and they're not just Hollywood movies.

 

Jessica McNaughton: And so your intention with EOScu is to kind of Initially launch into those approved environments with, you know, those kind of high touch surfaces you described, some of which, you know, are pieces that you cast, I'm assuming, and is there a thought about, you know, commercialization of this you know, down the road or licensing of it, I'm sure there's a lot of different directions. It could go, sorry, a lot of different directions that can go.

 

Ken: There, are thoughts on, and there's a plan if you want, you know, if you want to call it that relative to the eventual rollout of the product across different channels and different environments, what we're focusing on right now, because we're not Facebook or Google, so our resources are not unlimited. We have to go where we think the pain points are and where we can do the most good. And so that started as we just discussed with a hospital-acquired infection, and now has gone into dealing with COVID and those areas where cleaning just doesn't really do anything. And if you think about it, if you take a, let's take, for example a train car and say you have the public on that train car all day long, and you are going to put it through a deep, clean at 12 o'clock midnight disinfect, the whole thing, you know, head to toe with bleach and bring it out to the public brand new.

 

And the next morning, as soon as that first person walks onto that train, you're just reintroduced and you know, everyone else that walks on there after that person does the same thing. So you're kind of a right back to where you are right before you cleaned it. So it's not that you don't have to clean, but people are starting to realize that human processes are not capable of bridging this gap. We have that we're seeing really clearly right now because of what's going on in terms of keeping the environment safe for people at a time of a pandemic or in a hospital just every day. So yeah, that's, we will look at expanding over the next few years, but we're going to stay focused on what we see as the two major issues right now, which still are hospital-acquired infections and COVID.

 

Jessica McNaughton: Well, that's great. Yeah. I mean, I have had family members who have experienced those hospital-acquired infections at like, you know, whether it's Staph or MERSA you can kind of only assume that there will be more. And certainly I know there are more. Well, we're really excited to work with EOS on the GEOS lin e, get that launched you know, in our portfolio, and you know, we've obviously seen some early interest you know, it's you know, the colorways are really unique and I love that they're connected to these places that you've been. So we'll continue to tell that story and you know, we'll keep an eye on you and EOScu as that develops as well. So thanks for joining us.

 

Ken: Thank you, Jessica. And we're excited to be with CaraGreen, looking towards the future.