Design Trends: the sustainable living

LivingScapes - Salone del Mobile.Milano Trend Lab 

The preference for sustainable and eco-friendly products begins to be showed significantly even within the domestic walls, both in the choice of furniture and materials that have a positive impact on the environment and the more efficient and no-waste management of energy resources.

This is a behaviour that is part of the broader trends towards the reduction of the negative impacts on the ecosystem and which are going to be applied to all design fields, thus generating eco-friendly alternatives for every kind of product. To this end, companies and designers are incorporating sustainability demands into production processes by embracing the principles of circular economy and experimenting with the use of raw materials derived from recycled waste.

Design is going to cover the entire life cycle of the objects, paving the way for innovative practices in this sector, such as the creative recycling and the use of biodegradable materials.

The respect for this material is also visible in the craftsmanship, which takes back the old manual techniques as well as the resulting aesthetic. Their pieces are in fact characterized by simple and contemporary shapes, with the use of soft shades, retro details and references to a modernist and geometric taste that enhance the personality of wood beyond the object itself, thus creating a pleasant and balanced synthesis of elements.

In this context, creative solutions arise from the innovatively reuse of raw materials, giving them a second life and the possibility to perform new functions. We have already understand how the recovery of disused containers become an opportunity for town planners and retailers to temporarily and cheaply redevelop entire parts of the city, now the Canadian company  Modpools is experimenting this application with garden and exterior design to install quickly and easily a pool with Spa functions.

This macro-trend is divided into three micro-trends that expose different applications and issues: Zero Waste DesignUpcycled Materials and Low Impact Living.

Zero Waste Design

Applied to design, this approach means starting to reason in a circular way, minimizing production waste and designing not only objects durability but also their disassembling and recycling or disposal features. Moreover, Zero Waste means experimenting with the use of innovative materials and implementing the research around biomaterials, which will reduce the environmental impact of furniture and furnishings, making them biodegradable just as the organic waste. For this purpose, the process of ideation and creativity becomes strategic and based on design thinking and extended to the entire production chain. The lamp R16, designed by the Waarmakers studio, is an example of Zero Waste Design: a packaging become lighting.

Upcycled Materials

The combination of recycling and design is the result of an increasing awareness of how materials and objects – which would be otherwise rubbish - can be recovered to create something completely new. Considering waste resource is at the base of any creative recycling process. Production or consumption waste, poor and recovery materials can represent a new frontier for design and designers.

Lucirmás is a Barcelona studio founded by the Italian designer Lucia Bruni. She went on with the upcycling practice: by using traditional handmade techniques, glass bottles turns into durable and functional home objects. In this way, glass bottles that would normally end up in the dumpster become a precious resource for producing lamps and original table accessoriesLaFlor Lamp, for example, is a hanging lamp that combines a bottle with a custom-made copper lampshade; Dama Lamp is a table light point created by reusing a common 5-litre carafe, resting on a base made of wood from sustainable forests, handcrafted by local artisans too.

Low Impact Living

The adoption of sustainable lifestyles can be observed also at home: firstly, with a greater attention in reducing energy consumption. This theme is becoming more and more crucial in all stages of design, from building to interior ones. For this reason, the latest generation smart technologies help to keep track of the environments’ energy efficiency and are becoming an integral part of the home landscape.

Just like in the field of food, design is also experimenting with the use of “unconventional” natural raw materials, basing on the concept of foraging, that is the supply of what land or sea produce spontaneously.

Netatmo, a French company specialized in home-based smart systems, in collaboration with Philippe Starck, has developed some intelligent valves for radiators that allow reducing domestic heating’s energy consumption of up to 37%. The valves, in fact, regulate temperature, switch off and ignition of the heaters depending on uses and families, even remotely. It is possible to set the heating of the rooms only when they are really used. Equipped with sensors, the valves are also able to precisely analyse in real time every external element - weather, house isolation, number of people in the room, appliances in use - and thus adjust their operation.