Shikkui Plaster

While researching my topic on the health impact of materials I started looking at manufacturing techniques and how they impact or health. While looking at a variety of bricks, carpets and plastic composites I came across a material designed by the Cradle-to-Cradle duo William McDonough and Michael Braungart. This material a traditional Japanese plaster call Shikkui is manly composed of limestone. It can be applied to walls and ceilings in a variety of ways creating either a smooth modern effect, or a rough rustic affect that mimics Venetian stucco. The truly remarkable thing about this product is its commitment to sustainability that McDonough and Braungart are famous for and its health benefits.


Shikkui plaster emits no VOCs during it life span. In fact this porous material absorbs VOCs and helps improve the interior air quality of a building. The high-grade calcium carbonate also naturally acts as an antiseptic preventing bacterial, viral, and fungal growth. As a product designed within the Cradle-to-Cradle model it utilizes the up cycling principle through its use of eggshells.  Eggshells are a rapidly renewable resource that composes half of the calcium carbonate needed to create Shikkui plaster. The materials that we chose to surround ourselves with need more attention that what they project on their aesthetic. Materials that contain low or no VOCs should be the minimum. Materials should engage and improve the environments that they are applied. As designers we are ethically responsible for what we put forth in the world. This includes the invisible effects that our buildings have over the people who chose to inhabit them.


One comment

  1. This is an absolutely fascinating material to learn about. Finding this serendipitous partnerships between a waste product and a new, unrelated design gives me hope for future closed-loop material systems. A similar waste product to new product material cycle comes in the form of “Back to Roots”, a company started by UC Berkeley graduates Nikhil Arora and Alex Velez. The pair was able to successfully grow mushrooms off of spent coffee grounds acquired from local coffee shops. As the success of their product grew, they acquired more and more coffee grounds which, even after having mushrooms grown in them, still had not entirely broken down. Eventually they learned that they could make a soil amendment out of their own waste product, which is now sold in conjunction with their mushroom kits.

    Another closed-loop system comes in the form of the “From Cardboard to Caviar” project, also known now as “The ABLE Project”. According to Michael Pawlyn’s book “Biomimicry in Architecture”, the project was conceived by Graham Wiles of the Green Business Network and started with a desire to get people with disabilities involved with recycling initiatives. Waste cardboard from restaurants goes to equestrian centers as horse bedding. The soiled bedding is then sold to worm farms, whose final product are shipped to aquaponic farms that grow fish. These fish are shipped to restaurants as entrees. The waste cardboard from the restaurants is then put back in this same system. The ABLE project has now grown to include a multitude of other factors including mushroom farming, vegetable gardens, orchards, and others.

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