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9. April 2021
By Sasja Schubert Iversen, Head of Design & Marketing

Upcycling, sustainability and design for disassembly in retail design

When designing new furniture and shop fittings our architects, industrial designers and engineers always focus equally on choosing suitable materials that meets both the customers expectations and what the concept calls for, but also with design parameters such as required 'lifespan', cost vs. durability and environmental impact and the possibility of disassembly and reuse in mind. Some store concepts should last for 4-5 years, others for 15 and we have an obligation to address this in our design work.

‘Designing for disassembly’ means that the various materials used in e.g. a piece of furniture relatively easy can be disassembled back into the individual materials without destroying the individual materials in the process (steel and wood for instance) and within this is an opportunity to either upcycle or recycle the material and use in a different way. The steel frame of a sales table can be repainted or get a new top plate – and a new 'life' or for a new use in a concept upgrade or maybe even for another customer.

These various opportunities of upcycling or recycling are always relevant to discuss and interesting to consider when giving shape to new pieces of furniture. The store designer/engineer should offer advice to and assist the store or brand owner in carrying out an analysis and evaluation of the potential in terms of these parameters and ask the questions:

  • What is the required lifespan of this store concept (and its furniture and fittings)?
  • Does the design match the intended use and requirements to durability and loads?
  • Does the concept materials match our (and our customers) expectations and intentions (and brand promise) when it comes to origin, responsible production and sustainability in general? Could alternative materials be considered (which still meets aesthetic and functional requirements)?
  • Can we imagine an upgrade or a different use of the furniture elements in a few years and does the design and use of materials (joints and assemblies) allow for this?
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Wikipedia defines 'Upcycling' as "the creative reuse and the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products perceived to be of greater quality, such as artistic value or environmental value".

Upycling concepts
Expedit has teamed up with sustainability partner Upcycling Forum. A collaboration with focus on sustainability, upcycling and B2B partnerships within the field. We are working on the first circular concept and one project is about transforming one customer’s waste packaging material into shop fitting materials, that we can use to design and manufacture… new shop fittings for the same customer. A perfect circular movement from a sustainable design perspective.

New creative use of scrap material from high volume production?
Both from a cost and environmental perspective it is important to design, optimize and plan a production to avoid as much leftover material as possible. However it is almost inevitable that some sort of scrap material comes from a high volume furniture production. At the moment we are looking into the potential reuse of this material – either in own or other designers or manufacturers (creative) concepts. With both a large steel and wood production there is definitely potential!

This text only covers some aspects of the challenges of working with sustainability in retail design. It is certainly a complex and multi-facetted discipline and many considerations should always be done, both by us and our customers. There is not one solution right for all concepts or design and each design process contain many different variables and choices. With different impact as a result – now and in the long run.

For more info contact Sasja Iversen +45 2777 5255.