Design, Waste and the Circular Economy
As we become more conscious of the impact our collective actions have on the world’s finite resources, the architecture and design industry has both a great responsibility and the unique potential to aid in minimising environmental damage.
Across every field of production – from the chair you sit on, to the iPhone in your hand and the buildings that surround us, truly excellent design solutions must take into account an object’s entire lifespan. Green Star ratings measure the passive thermal strategies and site-sensitive qualities in the built environment, and industry accreditations exist for processes preventing the use of toxic chemicals, or excessive water.
Of course, this concept is so self-evident, that sustainability has almost become a dirty word in design circles. Those who thoughtlessly describe or post-rationalise their work to fit a greener narrative have cheapened the term considerably. But still, in a profession full of creative problem solvers and innovators, we find real roadblocks to truly sustainable practice.
It’s this practical problem, of how to creatively integrate a closed-loop system into our design and production process, that formed the topic of a fascinating conversation at DENFAIR earlier this year.
Tamsin O’Neill of Green Magazine led the discussion featuring Vanessa Katsanevakis of Sussex Taps, Adele Winteridge of Foolscap Studio, and Dean Baird and Karryn Dargie of IN-TERIA.
Catch highlights of their expert insights below, and watch the full conversation here.
TAMSIN O’NEILL – Editor, Green Magazine
“It’s been argued that a transition to a circular economy, with the increased recycling such as this transition would entail, could lead to greater employment in Australia. For example, in a submission to the Senate inquiry into the Waste & Recycling Industry, the Waste Management Association of Australia stated that for every 10,000 tonnes of waste recycled, 9.2 jobs are created. South Australian data has also revealed that some 25,000 jobs would be created over 5 years if waste was recycled and reused, rather than dumped or exported.”
VANESSA KATSANEVAKIS – DIrector, Sussex Taps
Firstly, we’re a local manufacturer of a product, all made 100% in Australia. I think very much the foundation of our business is so intertwined with who we are today, my father being a Dutchman from the Netherlands. We all know those northern Europeans, they’ve just got so many things right in terms of sustainability in terms of the way their purchase. I know from many trips back to family in Holland, the way they make their purchases, they’re so conscious about making a purchase for the long term, and they invest in that. Even things being newly introduced here, such as taking our carry bags to the supermarket, that’s been going on for decades in the Netherlands. So it’s very much a country that inspires us, and it’s something we look up to.
ADELE WINTERIDGE – Interior Architect and Director, Foolscap Studio
“Our approach – there’s kind of two ways to look at waste in our industry. A lot of the time, people talk about designing for longevity. So that idea of something being designed really well, and built with the right materials, and potentially sustainable materials that can last a long time and get passed down from generations, specifically furniture and objects. But I guess that is quite a hard thing in the built environment, in terms of churn of spaces. We work a lot in hospitality, but we also work in workplace. A lot of the time, we come across spaces that have been there for seven years, let’s say, and the client’s wanting to demolish the whole space and start again, because they want a new environment. So we come across that quite a lot, and that is a conundrum. What do you do about that?”
KARRYN DARGIE – Interior Designer and Director, IN-TERIA
“Our business is not set up for growth – we would prefer it to be sustainable. We don’t seek huge growth and huge profits, in fact we probably are anti-profit. We invest heavily in our people and we’re very lucky to have them. So we’ve got a slightly different economic model.”
“Really interesting – putting my other hat on. As an interior designer, on one of your projects, ask them to save all the packaging that comes from products being shipped into the project. And have a look at the end of the day. You’ll be very surprised at how much you collect.”
DEAN BAIRD – Architect and Director, IN-TERIA
“It’s something that we do inherently within the product that we create. We do think about this issue. But when we had to write down exactly how we deal with it, we had to go back and digest how we do what we do, and how that translates into a circular economy.
We live at the entry to the Derwent River, and we have a real affinity with Tasmania. We love the place, and we love being Tasmanian. We also love the places that Tasmania has. And I think in terms of our product, we have a deep respect for timber. We realise that sometimes timber in Tasmania sometimes is pulled out of beautiful wilderness areas, and we seek those areas to go and holiday in, as a family. And when you understand that the product you’re using comes out of places that are photographed and used all over the world to celebrate Tasmania, it means that you need to have respect for the product that you’re using.”
“Deliberately our products are always made for low-volume production. We’ve never thought of doing mass production, and to be honest, it’s something that doesn’t really interest either of us. We’ve really tried to keep the scale small, so it’s manageable, in terms of – people make it, so therefore, people can only make so many in a day. And we try to make so that it’s sustainable, so that the wood turners don’t die from overworking!”
Watch the full conversation, ‘Design, Waste and the Circular Economy’ here.