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The Fair
September 20, 2023

When it launched in 2019, Material Bank revolutionized the way architecture and design professionals requested and received samples. Suddenly, rather than call each brand and wait a week for the envelope with the sample to arrive, Material Bank members could go to the platform’s site and choose among the dozens—and now thousands—of architectural, construction, and design materials on offer. Material Bank would gather the samples in one box, which would arrive to the member the next day. All for free.

The approached saved time. But it also had huge environmental benefits. Fewer packages meant less shipping waste; fewer shipments meant less carbon produced through transport.

Nearly five years later, Material Bank continues to innovate. The company’s new tools and features address all stages of the design process, introducing ways to create more responsibly and sustainably throughout. We spoke about the efforts with Elizabeth Margles, Material Bank’s Executive Vice President, Community and Marketing. Following are excerpts from our conversation.

A Material Bank box arrives with multiple samples.

How has Material Bank expanded upon its role as a specifying and sampling platform?

Material Bank now can be used from the start of a project to its finish—and from inspiration to finishes. We have more than 500 brands and thousands of SKUs on our platform. Designers can use our professional tools such as Desk and Boards to create interactive palettes and build multiple project files, all of which they can share with their clients, their team, and other professionals. We also connect designers to brands and brands to designers in ways that just don’t exist elsewhere, such as through our platform-based messaging service.

The Oasis x Material Bank lounge at ICFF 2023, which featured some of the materials and brands available on the Material Bank site.

Tracking carbon emissions and embedded carbon are increasingly important issues for A&D professionals. How is Material Bank addressing that need?

We have a proprietary Carbon Impact Program (CIP) that trains design and architectural firms to measure and track their carbon impact on projects. To date, we have over 150 firms registered.

The program has measurably changed the way the firms specify a project, the materials they select, and how they do business day-to-day. We often are very quick, in our industry, to tear down and redo. What we leave behind and what goes to waste has as much impact as any new material.

Tell me about the Inspiration feature that Material Bank is developing.

 [Inspiration] will be a design-specific search resource of unbelievable images, photographs, renderings, and artwork that cannot be found anywhere else on one site. It is an alternative to the homogenization and algorithmic-search platforms that keep feeding up the same images over and over. It will launch soon, so stay posted!

The Design Re-Evolution panel at The Oasis x Material Bank lounge at ICFF 2023.

Finally, have any of the platform’s tools been used in positive but unintended ways?

We know designers love to repurpose our shipping boxes and trays for client presentations, using them again and again. Design libraries also have been built using our boxes and trays rather than virgin materials.