Ecococon - Straw Panels

The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute has announced 10 finalists in their first annual Product Innovation Challenge. This debut competition, sponsored by the Schmidt Family Foundation and the Dutch Postcode Lottery, asked entrants to create a new building product that can be safely returned to nature or industry after its use (a defining concept of Cradle to Cradle certification).

This year’s partnership in the challenge was with Make It Right; founded by Brad Pitt in 2007, this organization builds homes, buildings, and communities for people in need. Since the products needed to be beneficial to the affordable housing market, Make It Right was a perfect partner for the competition’s debut.

The judges considered 144 entrants from 29 countries around the world (from the United States and China, to Sri Lanka and Lithuania) with an eye to finding manufacturers that design products that could also improve human and environmental health using the Cradle to Cradle certification principles.

“We are seeking the best performing materials with the highest durability, the most beautiful aesthetic, and the highest sustainability profile. On top of all that, it has to be affordable and scalable,” says Stacy Glass, executive in residence for the Built Environment Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

The diversity of entries was enormous. “We had everything from whole house designs and construction technologies to lighting fixtures and everything in between,” continues Glass. “We were specifically looking for materials, so those submissions included things like prefabricated panels, structural panels, masonry, siding, roofing, insulation, drywall, paint, flooring, and even decorative items.” In fact, the 10 finalists’ products nearly cover it all: biobricks, straw panels, insulation from sheep’s wool, plastic roofing, and more.

“These innovations embody shared values of practical sustainability and entrepreneurship,” says Bridgett Luther, president of the Institute. The three final winners will be announced November 15 at the Institute’s Innovation Celebration in New York City. The top three entries will share a cash prize of $250,000 with 1st place receiving $125,000, 2nd winning $75,000 and 3rd getting $50,000.

Click through the slideshow to see the competition finalists and check out for more information on each one.