Consumers increasingly see environmental sustainability as a key quality feature when choosing the products they buy. We spoke with companies that successfully implement sustainable product design.
Ecological responsibility and the careful use of raw materials have long since ceased to be empty buzzwords – consumers are paying more attention than ever to the fact that the products they buy also meet ecological quality criteria. What does this mean for product design? We spoke with the manufacturers of three products in which sustainable product design plays a central role:
Conserving plastic bottles and conserving resources: GROHE Blue Pure
Patrick Speck is Leader LIXIL Global Design at EMENA. The GROHE Blue Pure water system combines convenience and quality with sustainability by allowing consumers to get filtered tap water directly from their kitchen faucet.
ndion: What is so special about GROHE Blue Pure?
Patrick Speck: The integrated filter technology ensures that taste-impairing substances such as chlorine, biocides, pesticides, limescale or heavy metals are reliably removed. Thanks to the separate water supply, the filtered water is not mixed with the unfiltered water. This not only saves carrying boxes, but also helps to reduce the ecological footprint. We see that consumers are more aware than ever of the impact their actions have on the planet. They are looking for brands and products that enable them to live a better life. With GROHE Blue Pure, we enable people who already prefer still water to fundamentally change their behaviour, save plastic bottles and thus conserve valuable resources.
How do you implement this in your development process?
All brands in the LIXIL portfolio, including GROHE, strive for the same goal: to make better living a reality for everyone everywhere. Achieving this requires a deep understanding of consumers – how they live, what their needs and desires are, and what they expect from their living spaces. Every development process at LIXIL starts with precisely this user-centred thinking.
We are guided by global, overall societal development trends that have a major influence on how we want to design our living spaces. These macro trends include: Urbanisation, Health & Wellbeing and Sustainability.
When we talk about urbanisation, we see the densification in the cityscape, which requires a rethinking of the previously proven housing concepts. People want to enjoy the advantages of big cities without having to sacrifice comfort. With our water systems, which include GROHE Blue Pure, the issue of convenience plays a central role. After all, it is practical and much easier to tap your drinking water directly from the kitchen tap instead of driving to the supermarket and lugging boxes home.
What role does sustainability play for you in product development?
Conserving resources is becoming more important than ever. For this reason, we have launched four best-selling products that meet the Cradle to Cradle Certified® product standard. In contrast to the linear take-make-waste model, Cradle to Cradle stands for continuous material cycles: the product is manufactured in such a way that at the end of its life, the components can be used for new products. As the construction sector accounts for more than 50 per cent of global material consumption, moving away from the linear model towards circular value creation is essential to stop the exploitation of natural resources. To receive certification, a product is assessed on the following five categories: Material Health, Material Reuse, Renewable Energy and Carbon Management, Water Management and Social Fairness. Three faucets (GROHE BauEdge S-size, GROHE Eurosmart S-size, GROHE Eurosmart Kitchen) and the GROHE Tempesta 100 shower bar set now meet the strict criteria of the Cradle to Cradle Gold Certified® product standard – a great achievement in the commitment to design ever more sustainably.
Smarter showering: HANSAACTIVEJET Digital
Using the shower for one minute consumes more energy than lighting a household for an entire day. The smart hand shower HANSAACTIVEJET Digital makes personal water and energy consumption visible in real time. HANSA Product Manager Markus Käfer explains the system.
ndion: What can HANSAACTIVEJET Digital do that other hand showers cannot?
Truly unique is the real-time feedback of water and energy consumption while showering. In this way, the integrated technology can help users live more sustainably and reduce their personal carbon footprint.
Like a pedometer, the smart shower motivates users to set savings goals, to follow them in a playful way – and to observe their effects. In this way, up to 450 kWh per household can be saved annually.
What challenges did you have to overcome during the development?
We faced a number of challenges during development. For example, all the different technical elements such as sensor, turbine, display, wiring, etc. had to be accommodated in the space defined by the size of the hand shower. In addition, a main goal was to limit the additional weight of the electronic components compared to a standard hand shower. The external shape also had to remain compact so that anyone could still easily grip and control the hand shower.
Does HANSAACTIVEJET Digital meet your expectations?
The product launch is a real success story for HANSA. It generates a lot of interest, both for the brand and for the digital hand shower itself. Due to its outstanding design and function, we have received a lot of positive feedback from all over the world.
Welche Produkte dürfen wir als nächstes von Ihnen erwarten?
Based on HANSAACTIVEJET Digital, other product ideas are in development. At the moment we are considering the opportunity for a shower faucet, a shower panel and for washbasin faucets.
Was ist Ihr Antrieb bei der Produktentwicklung?
There are many sources of inspiration. First and foremost, I would like to mention our company’s mission: “The smartest water experiences for everyone”. On this basis, we are constantly rethinking how we can improve our products, how we can make the use of water smarter, more convenient and more sustainable.
A design for the most important people: nido
Detlef Mika is the owner of nido. His baby cradle is not only intended to protect young people safely as they start their long lives, but also to be durable itself. He explains the challenges he has overcome to achieve this.
ndion: What is special about nido?
Detlef Mika: nido takes care of the most important people in the world! The babies! nido makes it easy for parents to protect them and always have them around – especially in the first exciting time after birth. nido ensures that the babies are optimally protected. As the cradle becomes an integral part or even a highlight of the interior, they like having them around even more. This approach is what makes nido so special. And beyond that, the design that stands above time, the choice of sustainable materials, the innovative knitted fabric and the possibility of passing the cradle on to the next generation.
What challenges have you overcome in the development of nido?
A lot! It started with a lot of convincing the co-developers and suppliers as a newly founded company. We had to convey to them that this was a serious project and not a crazy idea.
The actual development was delayed because the individual components could only be partially developed in parallel. For the most part, one part builds on the other: the linkage on the base plate, only then could the knitted fabric be developed, etc., etc. If an intermediate step did not work with the same precision, the next one had to wait. In addition, the subsequent development corridors were shifted, because Corona, among others, meant that a supplier suddenly had to produce masks or could not produce them at all. If it worked for us, the supplier sometimes had a different priority (e.g. a development request from Vitra).
In addition, we have also pushed established suppliers to their limits with our (quality) requirements and innovations. So it was often an alternation between giant steps forward and then having to wait again for weeks. Of course, this was an exhausting process. Getting through these ups and downs only worked because the designers were incredibly committed far beyond the normal “being a designer”. For example, they conducted supplier meetings and motivated me again and again (and vice versa). Without Miriam Aust and Sebastian Amelung, nido would not have been possible.
You have overcome these obstacles and successfully brought nido to the world and the market. What are your plans for the future?
At the moment, our main focus is on marketing the cradle. This means making the same persuasive effort with the trade as we did with the development. It is also a new product segment for retailers with new target groups, because the cradle can be seen as a furnishing item. A kind of bridge between furnishings and “just” a baby cradle. Until today, there has only been one or the other. Here, too, Corona has made things difficult, because visits to the trade were partly impossible during the lockdown. In any case, we already have a few more ideas in mind. More furnishings, but also experiments with materials such as hemp. But at the moment, the focus is on international sales.
What is your inspiration?
When you see happy babies, you automatically smile and rejoice with the parents. So the “target group” is also the biggest inspiration. And everyone who is introduced to the cradle and the idea of the company also smiles. But it is also important to us to be able to be innovative and thus protect the babies – and at the same time to develop an aesthetic and sustainable product that can be used over a long period of time and passed on to the next generation. In other words, to transfer the somewhat “stuffy” bassinet, which is a symbol for the family, into a new era.
We would like to thank all our interviewees very much for the interviews!
The ICONIC AWARDS: Innovative Interior
The projects in this entry were honoured with the “Best of Best” award at the ICONIC AWARDS 2021: Innovative Interior. With a focus on resource-saving and sustainable product design, they are excellent examples of products that successfully embody the interior trend Ecology 2.0.
The ICONIC AWARDS: Innovative Interior annually honour outstanding design achievements of the interior design industry and its partners – and make them visible throughout the industry: an award not only underlines your position as a trendsetter. It also gives you the chance to show your products at one of the most important international furniture fairs. Find out more about the ICONIC AWARDS 2022: Innovative Interior here.
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