The Challenges of the Water Hyacinth furniture
- Sheetal Chailertborisuth
- December 6, 2012
- environmental, FENN DESIGNERS, natural materials, Sheetal Chailertborisuth, Water Hyacinth Furniture
- 0 Comments
These days designers are more and more challenged to find environmentally friendly materials to use indoors and outdoors and water hyacinth furniture seem like the perfect fit.
Water Hyacinth weed is plentiful in the rivers of Bangkok and it now is a sustainable source of income for people who collect it and those who use use for many purposes. Introduced to Thailand, in the early 20th century, it has quickly invaded the local canals and wateways. It became a pest, a weed, a fast growing plant, that is suffocating life in the waters.
“ It is raw and can be used in its natural state and one of the few natural materials that quickly replenishes itself” according to a furniture manufacturer. Since it doesn’t need much proocessing, water hyacinth is considered a “green” alternative to other materials. The stems are picked from the water ways, and sun-dried. It is braided and woven and ends up as uphostery for the furniture. It is truly green and a sustainble way of creating a product.
This type of furniture is a wonderful option for designers, as the philosophy of designears today should be to reduce, recycle, and create a product. The water hyacinth plant fits right there into this bill. Products made truly turn out beautiful and elegant, befitting tropical climates, especially in the southeast Asia region.
A nuisance weed that ultimately becomes a beautiful piece of furniture. Is there a catch here?
The climate in South East Asia is atropical climate, where the
weather is humid, with plenty of rain and sun and a high atmopheric moisture level. Beautiful water hyacinth furniture, it is exposed to this type of weather including indood air conditionitioned spaces is struggling. Indoor with airconditioning on the weed dehydrates temporarily and once the airconditioning is switched off the weed “perspires”, like any other product. This over a short period of time, the furniture become mouldy. The spores in the furniture cannot be seen, but becomes a health problem, and can create repiratory and allergies for users of the product. Eventually it does let out an unappealing smell which is a sign of “rot”.
One may argue that during the process of the manufacturing of the furniture, a simple varnish is used to coat the sun-dried weed, but this varnish is definitely not a sealant. It creates a gloss and smoothens the weed. There is no chemically enhanced product used as yet to dispel the moisture on the furniture.
When designing a space, with an ambience of the tropics, the Water hyacinth furniture may look like the perfect choice but in reality, it has hidden problems. So buyers and designers alike may have to reconsider their options until a solution for this nearly perfect product is found.