Cooling consumes up a lot of electricity and generates high CO2 emissions. Young designers have tackled the question of how energy consumption in design can be reduced right from the production stage. The result are innovative low-tech designs.

By hicklvesting.

In the last decades, people relied on energy-intensive cooling technologies that fuelled the global temperature rise with high CO2 emissions. In the meantime, a rethink is beginning, especially among the younger generation. Several female designers who participated in the international Design Newcomer Award ein&zwanzig of the German Design Council have faced the current challenges of the climate crisis with innovative product developments: How can design look without high technical expenditure, electricity consumption and with as little “grey energy” as possible, i.e. the energy generated during production? For their designs, the young designers rediscover natural processes and materials and find convincing alternatives for air conditioners and household appliances.

Using natural principles of action for intelligent solutions, while being as independent as possible from costly technologies – this low-tech approach has been attracting increasing interest in architecture for some years now. Product design is also beginning to move away from technology-centred design approaches: The use of natural materials with special properties as well as physical processes such as thermal and evaporative cooling aim to achieve sustainability and energy efficiency without having to sacrifice comfort. After all, the indoor climate is an important feel-good factor, it decisively determines comfort and productivity.

“Corteza” (cooler) – Alba Diaz Strum, Spain/France

“Corteza” is a thermal cooler, shopping and picnic basket in one. Made in a process inspired by rotational moulding, the amazing thermal properties of cork come into their own: the basket – hollow on the inside and at a perfectly balanced depth for the cooling effect – reduces heat transfer completely without electricity or cooling packs and is particularly suitable for storing and transporting fresh food with its insulating properties. The basket’s handles and carrying straps are borrowed from the aesthetics of leather bags, so that Corteza has little in common with a bulky cool box, but looks like a minimalist trend bag.

The Spanish designer Alba Diaz Strum (ENSCI – Les Ateliers, Paris/France) succeeds in creating an innovative design that gives the durable material cork a contemporary relevance in the context of thermally effective products.

“Draft” (air conditioning) – Sofie Aschan, Sweden

Designer Sofie Aschan (Lund University, Sweden) also revives a traditional cooling method for her alternative, electricity-independent Draft air conditioner. The curved clay vessel is a sculptural eye-catcher. Positioned in front of an open window and filled with water via the two openings, it cools the warm outside air as it flows in, thus lowering the overall temperature in the room. “Draft” is an analogue tool for coping with increasing heat waves in Europe, based on the physical principle of evaporation. Unlike commercial air conditioners, it neither produces noise nor wastes energy resources. This design aims to break the vicious circle of global warming and increasing CO2 emissions through additional electric cooling devices with a natural active principle.

In contrast to high-tech air-conditioning units, Draft is a visually appealing design object with an almost filigree appearance that takes a stand against the rapidly increasing energy consumption of air-conditioning systems: low-tech for more sustainable room cooling.

“Relics” (refrigerated container) – Georgia von le Fort, Germany

“Relics” is a series of storage utensils made of recycled porcelain that extend the shelf life of stored fruit and vegetables. Designer Georgia von le Fort (University of the Arts, Berlin) addresses the problem of food waste, as countless tonnes of fruit and vegetables are thrown away every year due to incorrect storage. As an alternative to the conventional fruit bowl or refrigerator, the principle of Relics is based on a natural cooling effect: a bowl inside each container reduces the temperature through evaporative cooling and protects against dehydration through high humidity. In combination with the special shape of the containers, this creates optimal conditions for storing almost all types of fruit and vegetables.

The approach of this design is holistically sustainable: the containers consist of 100% porcelain fragments that are first ground and then sintered. With Relics, Georgia von le Fort has created a sensitive product solution that uses waste as a raw material and reduces new organic waste – a resource-saving alternative that holds its own against high-tech products with tried-and-tested technology.


Newcomer-Award ein&zwanzig 2022

The 21 winners of the international ein&zwanzig competition for young designers have been chosen. With curiosity, a spirit of research and a profound understanding of intelligent problem solving, the young talents combine aesthetics and utility in an impressive way.

The 21 winners will be presented from 6 to 12 June 2022 at the 60th edition of the Salone del Mobile at Officina 3, Via Tortona 31 in Milan. The coveted “Best of Best” award will be presented on 6 June 2022. The winners of last year’s competition for young designers will also be present.


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