Factory as a Forest

Project Profiles

Factory as a Forest

Inspired by Interface’s pioneering CEO Ray Anderson, who asked whether his factories could ever perform like a forest, “Factory as a Forest” is an ambitious project aimed at redesigning a manufacturing facility to function similarly to the local forest ecosystem. Terrapin, together with Biomimicry 3.8, co-developed a rigorous framework with specific performance targets and strategies to work toward this challenging goal. The project is currently being piloted at Interface’s facilities in LaGrange and Atlanta, Georgia.

Central to the Factory as a Forest framework is a series of “ecological performance metrics” that quantify key ecosystem services, such as air pollutant removal and carbon sequestration. Each metric informs a corresponding performance target for facilities. Qualitative aims and guiding principles accompany the metrics, helping design and engineering teams select design interventions that will achieve the performance targets and fulfill the overall intent of the project.

During the initial phase, the biologists and ecologists from Biomimicry 3.8 heavily researched the local forest ecosystem to identify key ecological performance metrics and their values. Terrapin then converted these metrics into applicable performance targets and developed parallel, actionable building and site design strategies. The Factory as a Forest approach has several advantages over other sustainable design methodologies:

  • The facility must meet performance goals, not simply implement prescriptive measures.
  • The facility is locally-adapted to perform similar to the adjacent ecosystems and provide ecological benefits such as clean water and pollinator habitat.
  • The facility is resilient to climate change and environmental disturbances.
  • The facility creates a restorative working environment for employees.

The Factory as a Forest project represents a unique step forward in sustainable and resilient design. It celebrates the subjective characteristics of place and prompts owners, facility managers, and design teams to re-calibrate conventional practices to create regenerative designs that actively reverse climate change, revive local ecosystems, and support human health and wellbeing.

Terrapin continues to guide the strategy and implementation of the Factory as a Forest process
at several Interface facilities.

Client: Interface
Collaborators: Biomimicry 3.8
Location: LaGrange and Atlanta, Georgia USA
Facilities: manufacturing plant, workplace office
Services: built ecosystem reference standards, strategic planning
Status: Completed 2017

Catie is the Director of Projects at Terrapin and a leader in biophilic design movement. With a background in urban green infrastructure, Catie's interest lies in systems thinking to address human health and sustainability challenges at each scale of the built environment.