In its capacity as the leading network for materials’ specialists, Materia continuously identifies and signals trends and news in the field of materialisation in architecture and other design professions. Besides the daily role as observers and presenters, the website is the main source of information from which statistics are generated. We now have 100,000 members (the vast majority is international) subscribed to www.materialdistrict.com. Here, everyone can search the materials’ database to search for innovative materials, as well as specific properties and producers. This allows Materia to understand the search behaviour of the target group and conclusions can be drawn from the data that result from it. An enormous amount of anonymous information about how our members use the site is available in this way. For instance, it shows which material is the most searched for, as well as the popularity of certain keywords and themes.
Materia is the international network of tens of thousands of architects and material developers, built around an independent collection of materials. This network focuses on meeting, inspiring and co-creating. Through exhibitions, fairs, congresses, the Materia Inspiration Centre in Amsterdam and online media, Materia brings architecture professionals together. That allows our network to encourage innovation towards better, more sustainable and higher quality built and furnished surroundings.
The editors of Materia are architects, designers and materials specialists. Their core function is to manage and expand the network of producers, architects & designers, knowledge & educational institutions and umbrella organisations. In short, they share and increase knowledge and inspiration to promote a better, sustainable, exciting, healthy and pleasant built environment. This is done by selecting new, innovative materials and manufacturers for the independent collection, as well as writing articles for the website and publishing books, compiling event programs, hosting stakeholders at the Materia Inspiration Centre and linking all relevant parties together.
Results and statistics are generated from the materialdistrict.com site. The materials database is used daily by thousands of visitors. Searching is possible by:
• Material group;
• Sensory attribute;
• Technical characteristics;
• Chosen keyword.
The search activity is turned into raw data, which Materia uses to inform partners and predict materials trends.
Within the nine existing material groups (wood, stone, glass, metal, plastic, coatings, ceramics, concrete and other naturals) the most popular is plastic, at 26%. Given the current demand for sustainable materials this is striking. The trend can be explained by the fact that innovative and other special materials are made from versatile plastics and composites.
This material group is the most broadly represented of all materials, accounting for 34% of database use. There is a huge range of different plastics and a multitude of forms. As visitors don’t know in advance how many materials of each group are present, this does not affect the fact that this is the most searched group.
Of sensory properties, translucency is the most searched for aesthetic feature, at around 23% of sensory searches. This is very characteristic to the current time. There is a growing need for openness, playing with effects of (day)light and a demand for light-transmitting and energy-saving materials. Combined with the realisation that light is great for people’s health, this explains the significant trend.
Weather resistance is the most popular of the technical characteristics, followed by lightweight and scratch resistance. Chemical resistance is the least searched for. This demonstrates that outdoor applications are frequently sought-after materials. Lightweight materials are popular with professionals from the car, boat and aircraft industries, and are becoming more and more important in construction, partly to reduce transport costs.
The most common self-chosen keywords are textile and fabric. We see this question in daily practice. Textiles are, of course, not only interior or upholstery fabrics but multifunctional, structural membranes. Textile can be used to form complete constructions, and be used as walls or ceilings and as shading. Technical textiles such as nonwovens, filters, spiral-bound metal meshes and 3D woven packages particularly appeal to users’ imagination.
What is the most wanted?
Data based on searches in 2012
– Group Material: Plastic
– Sensory properties: Translucency
– Technical features: Weatherproof
– Self-selected keywords: Textile and Fabric
Collection of the 12 most used search terms 2012: Floor, textile, fabric, wall, light, foam, rubber flooring, paper, aluminium, steel, leather.
Feedback from the network
Looking back from 2009 to 2012: Techno-transfer
Since the advent of the internet both the knowledge about and need for new materials have grown. Knowledge and products are easily available to anyone searching for it, across any number of industries, materials and techniques. So there is a strong, growing creative appetite for new materials. Previously, the construction industry operated almost exclusively with concrete, brick and stone. Nowadays, the number of new materials has increased enormously, both in demand and in supply. The materialisation brief (technical, aesthetic, practical and conceptual) for designers has become a logical extension of the creative process. In recent years this translated into an enthusiastic exchange of materials from various sectors and industries: so-called techno-transfer materials. Examples are industrial brushes used as wallpaper; conveyor belt mesh for awnings and boat composites for façades.
Sustainability: today’s trend
Techno-transfer is a continuing trend. Not only for materials, but also in the field of technique and inspiration. Major challenges lie in the realm of reducing CO2 and toxic emissions, and the use of inexhaustible materials or energy sources. So how do we avoid the plastic soup, the hole in the ozone layer, allergies and illnesses by toxic emissions? Nowadays, nature serves as our inspiration. After all, it provides countless examples of animals and plants that know how to deal with issues such as energy generation, waste management, housing and protection from both heat and cold. The polar bear teaches us how to optimally insulate, clever spiders in the desert showing how to capture a single drop of dew, and plants use bacteria to stay clean. Nature’s examples lead to exciting developments in the fields of inexhaustible energy and material sources: algae façades that supply fuel, building panels made from plant waste, plastic from chewed gum even furniture made from peanut shells. The urgency of the sustainability message has been understood loud and clear.
Smart environments: outlook for 2013 + 2014
Besides sustainability, there will be in a lot of attention given to multifunctional materials in the near future. Such materials can combine task such as insulation, light transmittance, constructive properties – or all three. We are heading towards multitasking materials!
In addition, the smart materials are very important in our built environment. Smart materials have long been used in medical, food and engineering industries. In response to changing environmental conditions, such as temperature, pressure or magnetic field, they react, by changing colour, shape, size, stiffness, transparency or viscosity. So windows can become sun blinds by responding to UV radiation; highways can generate electricity using piezoelectric cells and foundations can be made of earthquake-resistant material which gets harder of softer under the influence of pressure change. This not only means more features and intelligent applications but also material savings, as conventional blinds or installations are no longer required. No wonder more and more professionals are researching the potential of smart materials. This is very promising for the future!
The statistics shown above are part of the comprehensive data set generated from the material.nl website. It can be specified to country, profession and materials. The data is especially important to the editorial team, which selects the newest materials, and are particularly alert to specific needs. There will be special attention given to textiles, light weight materials and materials for outdoor use. Sustainability, in the form of bio-based and recycled materials, as well as smart materials will be of prime importance.
Since the properties of materials are such core values, Materia is developing special programs showing how these materials and increase or widen their function in application. For instance, the healthcare sector requires specific materials, as healing environments need healing materials such as anti-bacterial, particulate absorption, improving daylight and acoustics. The office industry has its own requirements, and the same goes for the retail, education, and leisure industries. Through our network, we hope to share more inspiration and knowledge with you, with the ultimate aim of a sustainable, pleasant and beautiful built environment.