2022 Role Model Competition Marries Innovative Material Design with Practical Application


Grand Prize Winner Felix Sager Featured Cob Cake Filter, a chalk-based regeneration system. Using the former Shoreham Cement Works building in Sussex, England as a model, Sager proposes using materials diverted from the local waste stream to rehabilitate dilapidated buildings. This particular solution uses “spent chalk filter cake” mixed with straw to create new walls for the abandoned space.

The filling strategy requires precise sequencing of subtraction and addition, a tailor-made adaptation to what still exists. In this case, the asbestos is removed, the foundation fortified with limestone, and the walls carefully pieced together with a concoction of chalk daub applied to the cotton-wrapped beams. Additionally, Sagar proposes to transform the renovated space into a chalk cob construction technical school to educate future artisans while stimulating local industry and disrupting waste streams. Although the solution presented here is site-specific, the regeneration process promises broader applications to post-industrial communities.

The perspective of regenerative materials is also present in the Cocoa, by Diana Marcela Romero Millan. Plant matter and its namesake are derived from the pith of the Colombian Arboloco plant – a spongy white tissue lining the bark of plants like citrus fruits. It is an unexplored Andean resource whose manufacturing processes and practical application have not been documented until now. The project proves that this underutilized bio-based material is a viable replacement for plastic.

The vegetation is characterized by rapid growth, short collection cycles and rapid turnover, which has the potential to increase grower profit margins. Cocua can be made into a simple blockboard material or formed into more complex chipboard mixtures without requiring toxic binders commonly used in manufacturing for practical applications while demonstrating sound insulation and heat resistance properties.

These innovations have the potential to satisfy a desperate need for healthy materials, or even manufacture them profitably, in a results-driven industry. Ruth concludes: “Students are no longer content to create something new in their kitchen sink. They show projects that not only experiment with a material, but also offer provocative applications using it.


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