UPM ProFi Bench elements are made of recycled materials

10 September 2015
A bench element providing thousands of design possibilities

UPM’s new composite product can be used to build stylish benches. UPM ProFi Bench is made of recycled materials and provides excellent resistance to weather and wear.

The surface feels slightly rough and is covered with tiny white spots. The softly curved edges of each element make you want to stroke the surface. Most importantly, the material is comfortable to sit on.

A bench is such a simple piece of furniture that it is often taken for granted.

These benches have been installed in the market square of the City of Lahti in southern Finland, and they blend in perfectly with the busy environment. They are brand new, but look as if they could have been part of the landscape from the start.

What an ordinary visitor will not realise is that, despite their simplified appearance, the benches actually represent high tech: they are mainly made of recycled materials that have been given a new life through a multi-stage process. While enjoying their ice creams, visitors will be sitting on a composite material made of carefully selected plastics and a combination of wood and cellulose fibres.

The benches have a local origin, as the composite material used to manufacture the bench elements has been designed in the UPM Biocomposites unit located a couple of kilometres away.

No harmful chemicals

Product development engineer Ari Nurminen is one of the people behind the story of UPM ProFi Bench.

“When I had finished my part of the design process, I couldn’t think of anything I could have done better”, he says happily.

That is saying quite a lot when you are a former furniture designer with a long career and experience of a multitude of design projects, from ship interiors to exhibition booths, restaurants, hospital furniture, and store furniture and fittings. UPM ProFi Bench is the first product Nurminen has designed while working for UPM.

His work is a combination of science and art, and engineering and industrial design. The idea of a streamlined bench was not his alone, however, but a collaborative project by him and architect Marjut Kauppinen.

Kauppinen’s proposal for developing the market square of the City of Lahti came first in a design contest organised in 2013. Her proposal included unique benches that could not be bought at the local hardware store. As Marjut Kauppinen was familiar with the UPM Biocomposites unit and its composite material, she contacted the unit to ask if they were interested in collaborating with her. The project resulted in a major innovation: UPM ProFi Bench is an extremely versatile product that does not contain harmful chemicals or PVC. The special properties of the product provide designers and architects with possibilities that cannot be achieved with competing products.

Recycled paper fibre gives the material its spots

UPM ProFi Bench elements are lightweight and stylish composite elements that can be used to build straight or curved benches. The possibilities are almost infinite, as the angle at which the elements are placed in relation to each other can vary freely.
The elements are used to construct the seat of the bench that is then attached to the frame using metal inserts. Assembly has been made easy. The metal frames of the benches standing in the market square in Lahti were manufactured by a local metal business.

The benches are extremely resistant to wear and suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. The elements used to build the seat will not be affected by rain or sun and will maintain their original colour. UPM ProFi Bench elements are available in eight different colours, and maintaining them is easy: a light wash every now and then is all that is needed.

Ari Nurminen could imagine the bench elements being used in larger projects than the market square project in Lahti. Perhaps even entire cities could make use of the outdoor furniture solution.

“I believe that there’s an infinite market for these benches”, he says.

Designing the bench elements was an interesting and challenging task.

“I wanted to take into consideration the versatile uses of the material and try to see long into the future. I had to work on the design until the elements looked both interesting and appealing”.
Nurminen has done a good job. The small white spots covering the benches in the market square immediately pique my curiosity. What are they?

“Recycled paper fibre”, Nurminen reveals.

As a result of UPM’s recycling efforts, you will now be able to find the by-products of industrial processes, which would otherwise be disposed of in landfill or incineration, in good use under your bottom.

Helen Moster

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