From field to finishes – agricultural waste transformed!

In a world of dwindling resources, shrinking forests and threatened ecological habitats, it is more important than ever to embrace sustainable, environmentally sound alternatives, and find ways to reduce waste. In my quest to become a full-fledged locavore, and make my consumption patterns support my local economy in as large part as possible, I was exhilarated to find a great-looking, locally made product called Torzo Surfaces. Owned by Specialty Polymers, a family owned business based in Woodburn, Oregon, it uses its waterbased acrylic polymers to infuse recycled FSC and SFI-certified wood fibers, and agricultural by-products like hemp, sorghum, and wheat husks. The result is an enticing series of six visually intriguing, decorative and very durable interior surface panels that can be used for anything from flooring and cabinetry to countertops and furniture.

This is made from sorghum stalks. What a great texture!

This is made from sorghum stalks. What a great texture!

Aside from the acrylic polymer matrix (which in itself always fills me with suspicion as to its green-ness, water based or not), the six panels contain between 50% – 75% post-consumer fibers which makes them a valuable product whether you are going for LEED certification, or just trying to make conscientious environmental choices. Although the panels are water resistant, as they are somewhat porous, they are not completely water- or stain-proof, so are not to be used in exterior applications. As part of proper finishing, TorZo requires “…. that a hard sealer and top coat, such as a catalyzed lacquer, varnish or polyurethane, etc, are applied”. It should be sprayed on to achieve the cleanest possible look. A “full finish” will fill, and thus eliminate, all pits in the surface – a step which is crucial for horizontal applications.

Here, the Indure line which is made with waste from the lumber industry is used in a bathroom countertop. It makes a beautiful alternative to its quartz cousins.

Here, the Indure line, made with waste from the lumber industry, is used in a bathroom countertop. It makes a beautiful alternative to its quartz cousins. While combining with an undecounter sink is usually not recommended using the agricultural fiber products (due to their larger pores), the Indura line made from very fine wood particles is fine for such exposures if properly sealed. Photo from TorZo.

The composite panels stand up very well to the Janka hardness test, which is a test that measures the force required to embed a slightly larger than centimeter-sized steel ball halfway into the surface. In other words, it measures the resistance of the surface to denting and wear. TorZo surfaces range between 1,800 lbs and 5,000 lbs. Compare that to the typical hardwoods of maple and oak, which measure in at about 1,200 lbs. Despite the exceptional Janka ranking of the TorZo surfaces – if you take a sharp object to it hard and long enough, it will scratch. In that regard, it will not hold up quite as well as granite or quartz, but it will take considerable effort to damage it. The panels can be curved, used as floors, walls ceilings, cabinetry, furniture….your imagination is your limitation. Did I mention it looks cool? Per their website, 95% of their output is currently used in commercial projects. I think this needs to change! We residential designers and remodelers need to wake up to the visual depth and beauty of this material, as well as the near endless possibilities of this domestically made treasure! I can’t help but wonder if the same technology couldn’t be applied to other abundant plant fibers here in Oregon – like that of our favorite invasive species – ivy, Pampas grass and butterfly bush, for example. Other states might be able to make use of their rampantly growing Japanese honeysuckle, etc…? Okay, I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but one can always dream, right?

Built in tongue and groove, it easily snaps in place as flooring.

Built in tongue and groove, it easily snaps in place as flooring. Photo from TorZo.

Here the vertical texture of the Tiikeri sorghum panels used as equally vertical focal points.

Here the vertical texture of the Tiikeri sorghum panels used as equally vertical focal points. Photo from TorZo.

Aside from its base range of natural colors, most also come in a fun selection of bright hues. Creative types can have a lot of fun with these! :)

Aside from its base range of natural colors, most also come in a fun selection of bright hues. Creative types can have a lot of fun with these! 🙂

To see better photos of more applications – click here!

 

 

 

 

 

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About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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7 Responses to From field to finishes – agricultural waste transformed!

  1. Ricki Grady says:

    Aha! I’ve long been dreaming of a practical use for English Ivy. I love where you’re taking this in your imagination. The extant product is pretty cool too.

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks! Yeah, wouldn’t that be great? For a while there, I was thinking purple loosestrife might be a good candidate too, but I wonder if it’s fibrous enough. Probably not… Anyway, the scattered quality of invasives might make the logistics of harvesting them too complicated, even though it sometimes appears that they take over entire fields. Oh well, it was a thought!

  2. jenmuddybootdreams says:

    Those are beautiful creations made from recycled materials….I would love to see some of those show up in mainstream areas…who knows, it might catch on.

    Jen

  3. Glad to learn about this earth friendly material.

  4. Pingback: Fragrant Questions | The Fragrant Man

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