5 Emerging Materials: New Options for Apartment Developers

Don't produce cookie-cutter apartment properties. Let Material ConneXion be your secret sauce for Salmon Leather and more.

New YorkCookie-cutter apartment communities are out, but some multifamily developers do a better job than others at bringing fresh, new product to the market.

Anuja Bagul, a materials scientist and designer at Material ConneXion presented innovative materials to the New York Metro Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers during the 2015 Design Summit in New York.

Anuja Bagul, a materials scientist and designer at Material ConneXion presented innovative materials to the New York Metro Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers during the 2015 Design Summit in New York. Photo by Diana Mosher

How do they do it? It takes collaboration with the right design team for sure. But you don’t have to outsource all the creativity to them.

If you really want to know what’s new and what’s next in the materials that can bring a fresh new approach to your apartment assets, you’re ready to explore Material ConneXion.

Material ConneXion is the world’s largest subscription-based materials library with seven full-service locations worldwide and over 7,500 innovative, sustainable and unique materials. What’s really interesting about Material ConneXion is that it encourages creativity and cross-pollination by keeping subscribers in the know about exciting materials from other industries.

Anuja Bagul, a materials scientist and designer at Material ConneXion in New York, recently presented “Every Idea has a Material Solution: Innovative Materials for the Interior Design Industry,” a continuing education session produced by the New York Metro Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers at its 2015 Design Summit in New York’s A&D Building.

Here are 5 edgy materials to keep an eye on now:

  • Salmon leather is made from fish waste. It’s not a new material, but it’s rapidly gaining in popularity as the price of leather has gone up due to scarcity resulting from a rise in vegetarianism. While organic in nature, it can be colorized.
  • Wood-Skin flexible wood panel material is comprised of routed plywood laminated to a nylon textile core. Its faceted surface allows it to easily wrap around curves for exterior skin applications or a range of interior solutions.
  • ReWall Naked board is a landfill-diverting eco-panel made in the U.S. of 100 percent recycled content from milk and food cartons that are shredded and compressed into 4 ft. by 8 ft. panels. Because it is as beautiful as it is functional, it can be used as an interior decorative wallboard or ceiling panel or concealed as a wall tile backer, curvature wall or replacement for fiberglass reinforced panels.
  • CoeLux lighting system is a new artificial lighting solution that really does simulate the effect of natural light/sunshine through a skylight. The applications will be wide-ranging from residential to healthcare to prisons. In multifamily properties, it can transform underperforming basement square footage into highly profitable amenity spaces.
  • BlingCrete light-reflecting concrete embeds tiny glass beads to reflect light on highways so that visual information is visible to drivers at night. This technology has also been used on uniforms for firemen and it has excellent applications for multifamily pathways, wall tiles and branding.

Also keep an eye on the development of super slick surfaces (aka protective technology) inspired by nature’s lotus effect (repels water) and shark skin (repels germs). We’ll see a surge in self-cleaning clothes and outdoor fabrics coated with Titanium Dioxide (the paste found in sunscreen) and building materials that deter graffiti. And expect to see interesting new applications using interactive materials that change color when they’re touched.

According to Bagul, 40 new materials are added by Material ConneXion to its library every month. New entries are selected through a jury process and they must meet at least one of these four criteria for inclusion in the library:

  1. The material is 100 percent innovative
  2. It represents a drastic improvement to an existing material
  3. It has an application in a new industry
  4. It’s sustainable

When looking for inspiration and exploring new materials, suggested Bagul, never be afraid to look outside your own industry. “Use cross pollination. Borrow an expert. Talk to a manufacturer,” she added. Keep in mind the sensory experience that a material will provide [during an apartment walk-through]. For example, a tabletop that feels cool to the touch or textured.

How are you using new materials (or tried-and-true products) to attract new residents?