nature-friendly sustainable design
Environmentally conscious and sustainable design demands integrative thinking. The NIVOO desk I designed for Guut expresses the spirit of sustainable design: The table grows with its user; it is easy to expand and adapt to varying needs. Production is local, transport distances are short, the raw materials are selected under strict ecological requirements. The sizing of the tabletop is impacted not only by economic reasons but just as much by ecological considerations. The packaging is as resource conscious as possible; the table is very lightweight and can be packaged small if the table is to be shipped. Sustainability in use and production! At the same time, I attempt to bring this philosophy closer to the endusers, by working at the intersection of beauty and sustainable design. The products should be of lasting quality, and easy to repair. Furniture is different from smartphones and computers, where the expected useful product life is only a couple of years. The product must also be easy to use. Complex products will break down easily or need many “unnecessary” additional parts. The product needs to express in its design how it functions. It’s not just about product design and fabrication process, it’s about user behaviour and our relationship with nature in the future.
challenging side of sustainable design
If I were a pure product designer, I would certainly say that the biggest challenge is cost reduction. These kinds of products are simply still expensive, compared to the products of average design and quality. In my opinion, the biggest challenge is definitely to convince people that these are not empty promises, but the right solutions. The consumer is exhausted and dulled by permanent advertising and he is rightly becoming more and more suspicious under the assault of advertising. You have to be credible and design honest products, and then it can be reflected in the price. If, as a designer, I put enough thought into the design, suggest natural materials and they are processed in an environmentally friendly way, the fabricator and I will have created something of value and a corresponding cost might be acceptable to the end-user. I manage this process very successfully together with several fabricators, and customers are willing to pay for the added value of quality, sustainability, and design.
From an architectural point of view, the whole thing is of course always dependent
on local conditions, and an environment as healthy as possible should also be created – spaces in the interior and the exterior in which people enjoy spending their time. Product design is less location-based and therefore freer.
Whether in product design or architecture, the same strategy should be applied: as much technology as necessary, and as little as possible. The design should be as simple as possible. And of course, the whole thing has to work and must be affordable!
main advances & future developments in sustainable design
In the design process, we will work more and more with 3D computer design that allows material quantity computation and cost estimation right from the first design idea. Virtual reality will allow the exploring of variations and options, as well as the testing of products, all without the need for building physical prototypes.
On the fabrication end, we will continue to see waste reduction by working with CNC cutting and supply chain optimization. 3D printing will become a standard, not only for spare parts. The field of biomimetics will bring us many more surprises, complex folding shapes, like origami, will minimize cuts and connections, supported by new materials. Weight and form plays an important role, not only in resource reduction but also in shipping, handling, and use. Composite materials will become more dominant in the furniture industry, just as biodegradable plastics and extremely durable finishes.
the future of nature-friendly design
I am cautiously optimistic and believe there is no way around nature-friendly design. Mankind is surprisingly flexible and – so far – has always found a way to come around and improve his ways. Sustainability will one day be standard.