The relevance of design and sustainability is undisputed. But how can they be combined? What examples of successful transformation are there? Where do new fields open up? The German Sustainability Award Design, first held in 2020, honours products and ideas. It is intended to serve as an incentive for designers and manufacturers, and as a recommendation for sustainable consumption for consumers. The award ceremony for the "German Sustainability Award Design" took place at the beginning of December.
The new design prize is based on the goals of the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development formulated by the UN. In a multi-stage process, an assessment team first evaluated the sustainability of the entries. A 43-strong jury of design and sustainability experts then selected the 104 finalists and 37 prize winners.
The awards ceremony took place in hybrid format: Selected jury members honoured icons, current pioneers and visions of the future on stage in Düsseldorf. All finalists were briefly introduced via video, winners had their say live in a video chat - all this was transmitted via live stream.
The winners include start-ups as well as internationally active corporations. They come from very different industries, from furniture, vehicles and clothing to packaging and recycling systems. Designer Dieter Rams received an honorary prize for his life's work.
We show you five winners from the furnishing industry with their sustainable ideas.
Ayno luminaire by Midgard (design: Stefan Diez)
The innovative Ayno luminaire was one of the highlights at the imm cologne 2020 and was awarded as a pioneer. Its central element is a flexible fibreglass rod stretched through the power cable, which makes it possible to adjust the light without joints. The luminaire with a lightweight, adjustable LED head is supplied in parts in a space-saving cardboard box and is installed without tools.
The use of semi-finished products avoids transport routes - the Hamburg-based manufacturer Midgard orders the individual components worldwide on local markets instead of sending complete luminaires around the globe - a novelty on the international luminaire market.
Ayno is made from only three primary materials. These can be largely recycled or have already been recycled: steel, fibreglass and ABS/PC. In addition, Ayno is one of the first LED luminaires that the user can repair himself without tools and thus extend its service life. The luminaire family consists of a table luminaire and two standard luminaires. With Ayno, designer Stefan Diez "has succeeded in creating a contemporary product family that combines form, function and sustainability at a high design level", the jury judged and awarded it as a pioneer.
Furniture Footprint by Zeitraum
The label Zeitraum produces furniture from solid wood. To make their degree of sustainability comprehensible, the company has developed the "Furniture Footprint", an interactive evaluation system. Life cycle assessments of production and transport, longevity, the proportion of recycled material, recycling potential and social compatibility are included in the evaluation, as is whether a material can be recycled in its natural form. The basis is an extensive material library, which can be used to analyse every piece of furniture produced by Zeitraum on the website.
The Furniture Footprint can be found at the end of a product page. According to the evaluation criteria mentioned above, Zeitraum's "1.3 Chair" in European oak is 100% sustainable, whereas the same model in American walnut is only 83% sustainable. The difference is made by long transport routes for the materials and other working conditions.
"An interesting tool that helps customers to make their purchasing decisions more consciously with regard to environmental friendliness," the jury's reasoning states. As a result, "furniture will in future be designed and produced in a more sustainable way right from the start. For the Furniture Footprint, Zeitraum received the German Sustainability Award for Design in the category Pioneer.
Bentwood chair 214 by Thonet (Design: Michael Thonet)
The famous Viennese coffee house chair by Thonet was awarded as an icon. Realised by Michael Thonet in 1859, model no. 14 (today 214) was the first chair that could be produced industrially. Revolutionary was the new technology of bending solid beech wood and the complete dismantling into individual parts. Thus the bentwood chair could be imported all over the world in a space-saving and easily packed way. 36 dismountable chairs fitted into a box of one cubic metre.
All this helped the modern coffee house chair to spread internationally. By 1930 alone, the classic had sold over 50 million units. The bentwood chair 214 is still produced by Thonet in Frankenberg today. The wood comes from sustainable forestry. "Thanks to its high quality and timeless aesthetics, it is very durable," said the jury. "It is a real success model that has survived all fashions and trends for more than 150 years".
Stool 60 by Artek (Design: Alvar Aalto)
As early as 1933, the Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto designed the stackable, three-legged "Stool 60". The fact that the stool is still selling successfully today is mainly due to its simple design, which makes it flexible and can be used as an indestructible seat or side table. Due to its clear design language, Stool 60 fits in with many furnishing styles.
The stool, which has been awarded an icon, is sustainable, not only because of its longevity. It is made in Finland from regional wood. The manufacturer also offers it on its second-hand platform "Artek 2nd Cycle" and encourages conscious consumption with the claim "Buy now keep forever". "A fantastic design classic that is available in a wide range of colours and finishes and still gives great pleasure today," was the jury's verdict.
Grohe Blue water system from Grohe
The faucet with "Grohe Blue" water filter was also awarded an icon. The water system was launched on the market in 2009 as Blue Pure and was supplemented with additional features due to great demand. In addition to the usual function of a tap water faucet, its filtered and cooled water can be drawn - still, medium or sparkling, depending on the choice.
This saves large amounts of energy and water needed for the production, cleaning and distribution of water bottles. In contrast, "this solution saves resources and contributes to the reduction of plastic waste and CO2 emissions", the jury argued. The fitting with its "timelessly elegant minimalist design" is also aesthetically convincing and has the potential "to promote a rethink in society and thus a paradigm shift".
The range of sustainable products is confusing. Not all are well designed. Attractively designed things are not always sustainable. The new sustainability prize Design makes it easier for consumers to find their way around.
Author: Heike Edelmann