Trend: Natural Luxury

Smart materials for "green" furniture

Sustainability is not only a continuing trend in the furniture industry, but also an increasing lifestyle issue. Especially in the urban middle class, there is a growing demand for high-quality furniture that is produced as environmentally friendly as possible.

Feb 16 2021

Aspects such as resource conservation or climate neutrality are increasingly becoming part of the purchasing criteria for furnishings. Classic "green" furniture materials such as wood are increasingly being supplemented with innovative eco-materials. Their development is due, among other things, to the use of digital design and manufacturing processes. 

Digitalisation and sustainability 

Digital systems are changing furniture making. On the other hand, the desire for a functioning circular economy is growing. In order to reduce resource consumption and CO2 emissions, more and more designers and furniture manufacturers are looking at sustainable product concepts. The use of digital technologies plays a decisive role in this.

"Innovations in the field of materials and their processing are currently taking place in the area of tension between digitalisation and sustainability", says Dr. Sascha Peters. For the international supplier fair interzum, the renowned expert is working on materials that are obtained from natural components in a combination of classic and new digital processes.  

Elegant alternative: vegan leather 

The spectrum of innovative materials for furniture production is becoming ever wider. Mycelium material obtained from fungi, for example, has strong sound-absorbing properties and is 100 percent biodegradable. With its suede-like structure, it is suitable for acoustic panels in offices or for lampshades, among other things.

While such applications are still in development, other material innovations can already be found in current furniture collections. One of the most recent examples is leather made from apple pomace or other organic residues, which is used as an upholstery material for armchairs and sofas - among others in a new sofa programme by star designer Philippe Starck for the Italian manufacturer Cassina.

Whether for reasons of resource conservation or a vegan lifestyle, the demand for such alternatives to animal products is growing rapidly. A market report by the Infinium research network from 2020 estimates that the market for vegan leather could reach an annual growth rate of 49.9 percent by 2025.

Collection „Croque La Pomme“ by Philippe Starck for Cassina © Cassina/Xavier Muyard

Expanded possibilities for classic materials 

The natural material wood has been experiencing a renaissance in furniture design for several years now. New technologies are also expanding the possibilities of this classic material. Today, solid wood can be shaped three-dimensionally and compacted without chemical additives. In the spirit of a sustainable circular economy, furniture suppliers like Pfleiderer are also developing innovative composite panels.

These consist largely of wood fibres, a waste product of industry. They can be dyed, pressed or sprayed into various shapes and are 100 percent recyclable. Thanks to a new type of construction, the lisocore® wood-based panel from lightweight solutions can also be produced with about 50 percent less material input compared to classic panels.  

Design from the ocean 

Recycling has long played an important role in sustainable production. However, newer products are far removed from the original eco-optics of recycled waste materials. Reprocessed plastic from the oceans or from PET bottles can now be found in cushion fillings and upholstery fabrics.

The upholstered furniture specialist K+W, for example, supports its environmentally friendly production with covers made from recycled materials. The seat and backrest of designer chairs such as the R.U.M. Chair by the Danish company Wehlers are made of 100 per cent ocean plastic.

The Norwegian company Vestre, which claims to sell the first bench made entirely of plastic flotsam from the sea, is going one step further. Using new digital manufacturing techniques, the company plans to open the world's most environmentally friendly furniture factory in 2021. 

Sustainable product strategies 

As furniture is increasingly evaluated in terms of carbon neutrality, the origin and history of a piece of furniture is coming into focus. This makes a sustainable and comprehensible product strategy all the more important. At the last imm cologne, for example, the company vetsak presented the first modular "sofa-in-a-box" in Europe that is made exclusively from vegan and wood-free materials.

According to the company itself, the cradle-to-cradle cycle for the furniture of the start-up WYE is also unique in the furniture industry. After their useful life, they can be returned in order to fully recycle the material in new collections. Thus, the new "eco-elegance" in the furniture industry stands equally for sustainable efficiency and high-quality design.

Author: Broekman+Partner

On the topic -> Vegan furniture (imm cologne-magazine)

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