Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Herman Miller Creates Fabric Made From Corn

Kira is a durable, high-performance fabric that is made entirely from corn, a 100 percent renewable source. Kira can be composted, and it contains no petroleum products. A proprietary Herman Miller fabric, Kira is available in six colors and can be used on systems panels and Ethospace tiles, as well as flipper doors, tackboards, and screens.

Made from corn, Kira fabric, winner of a NeoCon Gold Award, is 100 percent compostable.

Because it can be turned into compost that can help grow crops, Kira fabric has a "closed loop" life cycle, as depicted in this graphic.

Herman Miller's new Kira textile line not only provides superior performance, it also represents another milestone on Herman Miller's journey to sustainability.

"Kira has a great environmental story to tell," says Barb Tasker, senior product manager, CMF. "The short version is that Kira is made entirely from corn, and it's 100% compostable. It's attention-getting, especially for customers who are committed to environmental responsibility."

The story certainly got the attention of the judges at NeoCon 2004, who gave it a Gold Award in the Textiles: Panel category.

Kira, in Price Category 3, can be used on Herman Miller systems panels and Ethospace® tiles, as well as flipper doors, tackboards, and screens.

It will be available for order entry starting October 4.

Back to the earth

The Kira story begins in the corn field. For years, sugar from crops like corn has been converted into plastic for wide-ranging applications, from healthcare to gardening. Kira is one of the first bio-based fabrics for systems furniture, and Herman Miller is the only manufacturer to offer the fabric as a proprietary line.

Bio-based products are composed of a 100% annually renewable source. With Kira, the renewable source is corn, because corn is abundant and can be renewed every year.

To make Kira, Herman Miller works in conjunction with Interface Fabrics Group, a division of Interface, Inc., and Cargill Dow.

First, Cargill Dow converts corn sugar into a high-performance polymer called polylactide (PLA). Cargill Dow spins the PLA into Ingeo® Fiber.

Interface weaves the Ingeo fiber into the yarn it uses to manufacture Kira. Unlike polyester, Kira has no petroleum content, which is significant as oil prices keep rising. Also, there is no petroleum to extract before composting or recycling.

Interface has thoroughly analyzed every dye and chemical in Kira. It uses sustainable manufacturing process driven primarily by hydroelectric power, so the production of Kira results in significantly less greenhouse gases.

Like all Herman Miller fabrics, Kira can be used on Herman Miller GREENGUARD-certified products, ensuring it's safe to use indoors. Kira can also help in achieving LEED CI and ISO 14001 certification.

"And here's the most intriguing part of the story," says Tasker. "Kira's life cycle is a neatly closed loop, because the fabric can be turned into compost that goes back to the earth to help grow crops."

To make compost, Kira is mixed with sawdust and organic material and then heated to 140 degrees. The process takes just three days.

Performance attributes

Along with its environmental benefits, Kira functions exactly like traditional petroleum-based polyester fabric. In its appearance, feel, and durability, there's no sacrifice in quality. Plus, it's naturally stain resistant. And Kira carries Herman Miller's 12-year warranty.

"We're excited about Kira," says Tasker. "It demonstrates how Herman Miller's CMF program continues to bring innovative products to market. It also demonstrates Herman Miller's commitment to the environment. That's critical, because more and more customers say 'green' issues are major factors when they make their buying decisions."