I attended a lecture with Winy Maas in IAAC where he talked about The Green Dip project developed with the students of the Master in City & Technology. The idea was to quantify the consequences of completely covering our cities with plants, trees, green life, with metrics such as CO2 absorption, O2 emissions, temperature and noise reduction, and more.
After initial calculations they quickly realised that it wouldn’t be enough to have a significant impact and thought: “What if we covered the inside of buildings as well as the outside?”
IAAC’s students’ role in this project was to “create a Green Maker catalog, which lists out all of the floral species that can inhabit a particular biome, the manner of which it can grow in a city within that biome, and the impacts of covering a certain city with green.”
When seeing the furniture flashing before my eyes I thought… “why not actually make these furniture? It might be hard to cover the city with plants, but it wouldn’t be as hard to cover my flat in plants.”
The catalog the students developed includes maaany ideas, from chairs to tables, to stairs and balconies, and even pavements.
For this assignment I would make one furniture, but over time I could develop a range of them, such as tables, sofas, chairs, coffee tables, cupboards, TV stands and more.
Another idea was to integrate another project developed in IAAC called moss voltaic, plants that generate electricity. If integrated with this system it could power the electronics.
For my final project I decided to make an armchair, therefore all the questions below will be answered specifically for an armchair. If time allows I’d love to either make a coffee table or a desk. In most cases the answers are applicable for any furniture.
Depending on the furniture it will allow you to sit down, work, put your coffee mug on… 1000s of possibilities!
Side effects also include cleaner air, more life in the living room and increased mental health. Taking care of life is relaxing… when that life is a plant.
Not sure about this… it’d get annoying to get tickled all the time.
Nor this, the plants wouldn’t be able to grow if you sit on it all the time. The armrest is the only thing that’s not plants!
I haven’t seen many examples of this specific example, a potted armchair. There’s a few example of tables though.
Most example I’ve seen are coffee tables which have a glass sheet on top. It could be applied to a desk if you leave leg space.
This one is more adapted as a normal table or desk
Terreform makes furniture out of mycelium. I know a few people in IAAC doing this as well.
There are some projects that actually convert furniture into flower pots, but none keeping the function of the furniture.
I need to design some furniture, define the shape and functionality. I have some inspiration below.
In the case of an armchair it’ll include features to allow hooking cushions. A lot of the parametric furniture you see are raw, there isn't any padding. Surely it can’t be that comfortable to sit on and read a book or watch a film. I don’t want something that’s just pretty, and it needs to be used...
… and it will be, in the morning, so we can’t forget to take into account coffee cups needing a place.
I’ve seen around IAAC and other places people making furniture out of mushrooms. After a few days they dry up and make a solid structure. Maybe in this project the mushrooms could be used in areas where the sofa might need strengthening, or maybe it could be a structural and design part of its own.
I’d like to have grass on the armrests. I miss having grass between my toes, but I could settle with having it in between my fingers meanwhile.
As the furniture will be parametrically designed using these waffle patterns, it’ll allow for many dispositions of the plants. The downside of it is that it will be very curvy and you won’t be able to use the same pot for every possible location. I have different options for this.
It is easy to overwater plants, and they generally do not like sitting in water, as it may develop mold and kill the plant. It is usually preferable to have holes in the flower pot to allow for proper draining.
The water can gather in a water tank where you can easily take it out and use it to water the plants again if needed. I like the idea of emptying your cup of tea in the plant when you’re done with it.
You might wonder why it is necessary? It isn’t exactly. The plots could be 100% impermeable so water doesn’t leak through. It would be much easier as well.
That’ll be my fallback option if I don’t have time to implement the water collection.
A lot of projects automatically water plants for you, but I find that taking care of the plants is therapeutic. I like to check how they are doing, and water them if needed. Doing it automatically works when you want to do it on big scale, like indoor farms, but might be impersonal for at home.
A key feature to this is to integrate technology in it. Technology needs power (and power usually means cables, which is ugly).
I thought about integrating another project developed in IAAC called Moss Voltaics which harnesses energy from plants. The plant absorbs CO2 and creates loses electrons charged in negative energy. It becomes an anode which needs to get rid of its charge. We insert a cathode at the bottom of the pot to collect that charge.
The pots can be connected in serial or parallel to give more power or amperage. A small battery will be included to harness the energy non-stop and store it for later use.
Fallback option is that this battery can be charged with any normal charger and be inserted in the furniture after.
Now, to the actual electronics. We have to keep in mind that we are working with a system that is powered by plants, so we need to keep it low on energy consumption.
As I’m planning to make an armchair, the first thing I thought about having is a reading lamp. It doesn’t need to be super high-tech, only a few LEDs would do the trick. The body of the reading light could be a piece of one of the layers of the parametric design that folds up.
Again I’m not a massive fan of all these automations where the lights switch on when you get near it or things like this. What if I want to be in the dark? I guess just install a switch to turn it off.
It could be fun to use the actual plants as switches. Touch the cactus to switch the light on. Touch the Aloe Vera to turn the volume up.
In many cases when plants are involved people include sensors that detect the soil moisture, pH, and other things. In my case I think I will only use the soil moisture to give a reminder when the plants need watering. If I think of other ideas as I go along and it makes sense to add them, I will.
I want to keep the design minimalistic, I don’t want it to look like a super futuristic technologic armchair with different colored lights and cables everywhere. Therefore I want to keep the outputs and lights to a minimum. It also works with the low consumption theory I mentioned at the start of this chapter.
At the moment we only have the reading light as an output and maybe it should stay this way. It could flash when plants need watering. If we use RGB leds we could have blue light for watering, red light when the battery is low.
As the project could include different furniture, it could be interesting to make them all connected somehow. We need some useful function for this, for example the sofa could communicate with the TV stand to change the volume (not very useful).
For the furniture I thought of using cardboard, but I’m not sure combining cardboard with water and plants is a great idea if you want longevity. Instead I opted for the beloved plywood. The thickness is to be determined, but I’m guessing around 15mm.
I’d like to keep the flower pots made from natural material, as this project is made of wood and plants for far. Something like a hemp bag, or these coconuts bags you start to grow plants in. Only thing is, these would leak and would need the water collection system. I could make them out of clay, like in the moss voltaic article, but they aren’t that easy to make and they weigh a lot (I’m guessing this).
The reading lamp would only need a few LEDs (RGB?). (Is it possible to have some strong bioluminescence? I’d be surprised.)
The circuit will consist of a few resistors, capacitors, an ESP32, a copper board,
A battery for storing the energy.
The documentation of the voltaic greens include carbon fiber mesh as well as metal inox. It obviously need some electronic connections.
Just kidding, the plywood from around the corner in Barcelona, the plants as well, the electronics most probably from Diotronics or DigiKey, the waste from around the corner of my flat, in the bin in the kitchen.
Here is a rough bill of materials.
|Soil (50L)||Soil Shop||1||5€||5€|
|Copper board||Fab Lab||1|
Everything. There will be the parametric kit, the electronic board, the plant pots, the reading light, sensors for the plants health.
I’m not sure what this means. On what criteria? It’ll include everything you need.
I want it to be something people can make at home with simple tools (except the CNCing). The essential for this concept is to have plants live on furniture, the electronics side of it is only for fun.
I don't have any designs here yet as my sketches of parametric designs are really bad. I will upload some actual designs from a CAD software ASAP.