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Sustainable Furnishing Council Event

On Friday, April 1, 2022, Culp Inc. hosted the Sustainable Furnishings Council’s (SFC) 15th Anniversary industry-wide celebration in High Point, NC. This gathering occurs twice a year and attracts manufacturers, designers, and store owners. Led by Assistant Professor of the Practice of Industrial & Product Design Rico Ruffino, five NC State students, Izabella Jackson, Isaac Dailey, Erin Wolter, Allan Morales, and Emily Ramanata, created a concept chair using sustainable materials and cutting-edge manufacturing processes. Students from the Sustainable Materials and Technology (SMT) program had the opportunity to go to the celebration and showcase their own chair product.

The team worked diligently on the project through the spring semester. Professor Ruffino explained that the team made a “chair with renewable materials and a design intended for all the materials to separate and be reused, reordered, or recycled. The frame is made from sustainably sourced white oak from Wild Edge Woodcrafter. Surrounding the cushioning for the arms is a product containing rubberized coconut fiber from Enkev, and the seat and back cushions are made of a natural latex biodegradable, plant-based material from Talalay. Tencel material was used for cushion padding from Lenzing, glueless pocket springs were added for support from Texas Pocket Spring, and it is covered in CULP’s LiveSmart Evolve fabric.”

Below are photos of the design process in Hodges Lab at NC State.

Erin Wolter wood planing for the chair frame.

Students were directly involved in the building and problem-solving to make the project successful. By building the chair, one team member expressed that he felt it made everything about sustainability he learned in the classroom into a reality. Izzy Jackson, a 3rd-year student who attended the trip, said that “the biggest obstacle I faced during the design process was making sure we had sustainable solutions to all aspects of the design and aligning the back, the two arms, and the base of the chair in the end.”

Izabella Jackson inspecting seat and arm alignment.

The showcasing of the sustainable chair went very well, and the students were able to network with industry professionals, including Iv Culp, the president, and CEO at CULP. Professor Ruffino highlighted how fantastic it was for the students to be in such an engaging environment. He said, “It is one thing to hear the theory in the classroom, but it is a new perspective for the students to see the industry in action.”

Erin Wolter, another student who attended the SFC event, expressed that she enjoyed meeting and talking to different professionals about their specific fields within sustainable furnishing. When asked about her most significant takeaway from the experience, Erin emphasized that “it was so inspiring seeing how many people were making efforts to take sustainable measures into their fields.”

Down the road, Assistant Professor Ruffino would like to continue developing the chair to see where it can be improved. The design cycle is never-ending, and the team made their mark at the SFC event by showing how future designs can incorporate renewability. The event was a great success, and the students involved gained invaluable insight into the furniture industry and the future of sustainability. A photo of the final product from the event is shown below.

Assistant Professor Ruffino and Susan Inglis displaying the finished chair 
at the SFC 15th anniversary celebration.

Author: Allie Temple, PSE student