Building sustainability in sourcing and manufacture across the international textile industry

March 26th, 2021

Transformative textiles

Published in: ASBCI Yearbook 2021

David Reay from the Northern Clothing & Textile Network reports on a research project to develop a new generation of living textiles for the built environment.

“2020 has been a tough year for everyone, particularly our members in the North East.
Against this backdrop, I wanted to highlight an interesting and positive development
at two of our universities in the region. Led by knit specialist Dr Jane Scott,
textile design and manufacture looks set to play a key role in the creation of a new
generation of living buildings at the Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment
(HBBE), a new initiative between Newcastle University and Northumbria
University funded by Research England. Jane joined Newcastle University as a
NUAcT (Newcastle University Academic Track) Research Fellow in 2020 to lead the
design and development of living textiles for HBBE. The research will develop a
new generation of living textiles for the built environment that are responsive
to environmental stimuli and act as a programmable interface to sustain a
healthy environment in buildings. A significant investment in knitting
technology, including a Shima Seiki design system and 3D knitting machine, forms
part of the research facilities in the Macro Bio-Design lab. Living textile prototypes
and new responsive fabric systems will be tested and showcased in the unique,
experimental ‘living house’, The Ome. ‘It is a very exciting time for textile
designers and researchers in the North East,’ says Jane Scott. ‘Our understanding
of materials and industrial processes is extremely relevant to new biodesign and
biotech industries, and we have a huge opportunity in Newcastle, thanks to the
considerable investment in technology, to support this emerging field.’
Jane’s research focuses on designing with biology using textile fabrication
processes. As a knit specialist, her research challenges the established understanding
of smart materials for architecture, applying principles derived from plant biology
to the development of environmentally responsive textile systems composed of
natural and sustainable materials. In 2019 she collaborated with MuDD Architects to
design and fabricate the Bioknit Pavilion, a knitted pavilion inspired by plant growth
systems. The pavilion was exhibited at the London Design Festival as a public
intervention for Design Junction before travelling to exhibitions in Barcelona and
Eindhoven. And how does this relate to the Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment?
Well, the vision for HBBE is to develop biotechnologies to create a new generation
of living buildings. Living buildings are responsible and responsive to their natural
environment; grown using living engineered materials to reduce inefficient industrial
construction processes; metabolise their own waste to reduce pollution; generate
energy and high-value products; and modulate their microbiome to benefit
human and ecological health and wellbeing. Textiles offer both a hi-tech and a lo-tech
approach, integrating with fields such as synthetic biology while rediscovering
the relevance of traditional and past construction and making processes.
This involves a considerable investment of time and money and although not directly
connected to clothing at this time, the potential forward impact on textiles is clear to see, both regionally and across the sector.
I look forward to seeing the progress.”


Top: Bioknit pavilion designed by Jane
Scott and MuDD Architects.

Above: Programmable knitting.