Episode 51 – Partitions: Designing for health and safety

Jessica McNaughton: Hi this is Build Green Live Green. I am Jessica McNaughton with CaraGreen promotor of healthy building materials and today we are here again for a second time with Maddie Rohrbacher. Hi Maddie. 

Maddie Rohrbacher: Hello. Hello Hello

Jessica McNaughton: So Maddie is part of our sales enablement and marketing team. and we found this role to be increasingly important as everyone has gone remote and many people still work from home. And we are having to create that connection in between sales and marketing, so Maddie has been an essential part of the business…right now and always. 

Maddie: Thank you for that.

Jessica: But what we wanted to talk about today is you know Maddie and I have stayed in touch on trends and some things we are seeing and return to work,  the space that we are going back into. And one of the things that we are seeing a lot of is the  redesign of the office space –  a lot of partition wall. And I wanted to talk about those partition walls: what they are going to look like. And my initial fear was that there was this plexiglass beehive that we were gonna go back into –  which is just sort of ugly and frightening and negates all this design progress that we have made. But I wanted to talk to you today about what are some products that CaraGreen carries that you think would be usable for these partition walls and dividers that that incorporate some of what you spoke about on a previous podcast Fitwel certification – that bringing that kind of health and nature into that space. How can people design partition and spaces that evoke kind of good feelings and don’t make you feel like a fish in a bowl?

Maddie: Yeah so first I have to agree that we are walking into spaces that. as things get back to normal places that we pre- COVID, went to frequently, like grocery stores office spaces. And it’s almost not comforting walking into these places anymore because it's so divided by these ugly partitions and plexiglass to the point you almost don’t want to leave your house and go into these places. You want to have that comfort and that ability to go into those spaces so continue to be beautiful which is where we really come into play and have always stood at the forefront of beautiful and healthy materials, and looking at what's available out there product-wise right now to help solve those issues of health and well being – these things are not very attractive. But our products have always been innovative and can be used in more ways than one. And you know something that I automatically think about is our different solid surface collections and our Paperstone with the phenolic resin and Organoid – those are the top materials that I think of, like, ah-ha we can use these to solve this issue of not having beautiful partitions essentially.

Jessica: I see also that some of the surfaces like Kirei EchoPanel, where they are starting to have rolling systems and stuff so there is the acoustic property but you get these beautiful colors and patterns and designs – kind of you know accomplishes both things you get that configuration that separation but the acoustic capability as well. 

Maddie: Right. And all these products to ya know aren’t just temporary solutions they’re materials that can be used for you know the lifetime of the building or the user and the spaces aren’t just this temporary fix essentially it is adding this necessary product but in an innovative and beautiful way. I would love to see Organoid used as that acoustic element that ya know adds that beautiful scent to whatever spaces it's applied to.

Jessica: And what about Koskisen? I also think of Koskisen, as you know, it's finished on both sides kind of like PaperStone CoverPly as well. 

Maddie: Yeah it is easily machinable you know you can use it in the standard panel size or you can cut it into really interesting shapes. The one image that comes to my mind when I was looking through partitions on Pinterest was the one image that I showed to you of plywood cut into an animal shape which was added to this education facility. So Koskisen is just super easy to work with and also that colorful plywood which is unique to the plywoods that are available out there.

Jessica: Yeah so I think that the nice thing about Koskisen as well is that you know it has color but it has a natural wood grain and it’s not like a fake wood grain so you got the actual wood grain of the plywood and the durability of the topcoat. So I can really see that being a solution for these as we go into this kind of more divided space. And then what about flexibility? I wonder about that to and I have seen different configurations of partition walls whether it is just what is in front of you at a desk or kind of this rolling wall thing. I think there are going to be a lot of different configurations that are going to be needed.

Maddie: Yeah I think that’s why these products at the same time have to be movable and modular and prefabricated essentially to be able to take them down put them where you need them. They stay with you but say for example one thing I love about the Kirei partitions is that you can you know create a new space essentially within the space itself. So for like an education facility if you needed a reading corner or something for your students or even the same goes for an office. If your neighbor next to you is a little too loud and taking to many calls that day you know that partition would be helpful to bring in and help you continue to work at the pace that you need to.

Jessica: Yeah I recently had someone inquire about actually creating like a cylindrical pod out of the Kirei EchoPanel to create this carved out acoustical space. And I think that’s what you are going to start to see, is that a lot of these coworking spaces and these wide open ceilings and everything that we really gravitated to design-wise are going to start to create these little pod areas where people can be safe and segregated -but it doesn’t have to be ugly! It doesn’t have to be plexiglass and I think that’s kind of the point kind of what we are talking about here: that there are beautiful materials out there that can be used. And we’ve worked really hard on the CaraGreen products to make sure that we have cleanability guidelines for all the products because that is the question at the forefront of people's minds: How do I clean this? Is it easily cleaned? I think being proactive and answering those questions ahead of time and not sacrificing kind of beauty and color and nature and biophilic design just for plexiglass cause that is the easiest solution out given time. I think the design is really going to have to migrate to kind of accommodate both things, which is health and wellbeing. But also like emotional and mental health and wellbeing. 

Maddie: Right. That is something that I  as I was becoming a Fitwel Ambassador. With trends that are happening post-COVID a big focus on design is ensuring that feeling of safety and comfort and utilizing materials that you don’t have to think twice about is going to spread infectious disease, do I have to worry about myself around this material or you know the space itself? And I can attest to our materials that their cleaning ability and their use in different applications where these manufactures have already considered health as a priority the easily cleanable products as well.

Jessica: Yeah so I think that it’s there is a lot of opportunistic  information out there right now: “Buy my product it does, this buy my product it does that.” And I think it’s comforting to know that our messaging about health and environmental health is shaking hands right now. It has been something we embrace the last few years and it’s becoming even more and more relevant. I’m excited to see where what products come out of this. I think that there could be some more innovation and some really clever products that come out of this challenge because designers want to design. They’re not going to design if you take away their tool kit, so it’s it's going to be a really interesting time ahead we are going to have to get really creative. I’m proud to be a company that works for the people that are at the forefront of that kind of design. 

Maddie: Right. I’m excited to see what our techs and designers are going to do with our products, to see the capabilities and the color options and the designs that you can do with our materials currently and what they are going to come up with. Because we can offer this material but they’re the most creative minds out there. They can see something we have never seen before with our own material. 

Jessica: Yes and you mentioned color – I think that’s an important thing to wrap this up on, because with colorful products like Durat and Koskisen and Echopanel and elemental, what I’m starting to see, which is interesting, is an interest in those products related to signage. Signage is going to be so important as we all kind of migrate into the world: “Which way do I go, what does this mean, which floor am I in, which class am I in, which group am I part of?” So incorporating something like Durat into such a school is such a no brainer where the purple group knows they go this way and the green group knows to go over here the same way they have been doing in hospitals for a long time. But directionality, signage, where to be, how to space all of that stuff is going to require the incorporation of something to tell people and color is one of the easiest ways to do that. I think it will be really interesting to see how people will use things like Koskisen plywood, EchoPanel acoustic treatments, and Durat Solid Surface. I think those are going to be really interesting incorporations into the education, hospitality, and medical environment as we all go back to work. 

Maddie: Yeah just to kind of poke fun I think it would be really nice to have different color signage and wayfinding because you couldn’t tell,  or if you have been out there you know grocery store people don’t understand the direction of an arrow. 

Jessica: Yes, there are a lot of people that don’t understand the direction of words.  Color won't solve every problem there are things that we are not going to fix with CaraGreen products.

Maddie: Hopefully it helps encourage those behaviors.

Jessica: Yes we do the best that we can. Anyway, I’m excited to see how creative people get and I’m glad that we can help be part of this “back to work safely” movement and I appreciate everything you are doing becoming a Fitwel ambassador that’s been very helpful to CaraGreen. And I appreciate taking your time to join the podcast today. 

Maddie: Thanks for having me.

Jessica: This is Build Green Live Green. This is Jessica and Maddie with CaraGreen. Have a good day.