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The Design Framework in practice

Let’s get down to business. The Design Framework, which we developed together with TNO, allows us to design products according to circular principles. In this process, each product is assessed and given a circular score. This makes the circularity of products measurable. How circular is this chair? And what do we actually gain by implementing this more sustainable solution? These questions help us to keep improving our products, because the more sustainable the better! But how does the Design Framework actually work in practice? How do we apply it? Read on to find the answer.

We believe that every decision we make will eventually contribute to a circular economy. However, there are so many methods you can adopt, that it can be most difficult to recognise a good decision when you see one. The Design Framework makes it easier for us to make decisions and to stay focused, allowing us to keep moving forward.

But what does this actually mean? The Design Framework consists of 47 statements, divided into 7 themes. The themes are reuse, (re)assembly, maintenance and upgrades, logistics, materials, returns and logistics, production. The 47 statements are strictly yes/no questions and when you add them up you are left with a certain score. The score can differ from category to category because each product has different characteristics. The results are shown in a single overview in which a product can score low on ‘materials’, but high on ‘(re)assembly’, for example. This emphasizes the fact that a circular design is neither black nor white. There is no right answer here, only many things to assess.

Design Framework | Gispen

How does this actually work?

The Gispen Triennial chair collection is used in the examples below where one question is highlighted per theme, including an underpinning that explains the circular principles.

Het Design Framework over hergebruik | Gispen

REUSE

STATEMENT: Each module is manufactured from 75% factory-standard components that are not derived from the same product family. By product family we mean product groups such as chairs, bar stools, tables etc.

ANSWER: Yes

UNDERPINNING: Triennial is designed in such a way that the backrest (= module) of the chair can also become the backrest of a bar stool. This increases the usability of each module in their future lifecycles. The lifespan of the product is thereby extended.

Het Design Framework over (de)assemblage | Gispen

(RE)ASSEMBLY

STATEMENT: The modules can be taken apart to form separate, reusable components.
ANSWER: Yes
UNDERPINNING: By designing a product in such a way that every single component is reusable (components can be unbolted without causing damage to them), we extend the lifespan of the product. For example: A client has wire-frame conference chairs but, after 5 years, he would rather have chairs with a star-base hub for flexible working. We simply swap the frames on site and use the wire frames in another project. This is how components are kept in the loop instead of becoming waste.

Het Design Framework over onderhoud en upgrade | Gispen

MAINTENANCE AND UPGRADES

STATEMENT: Modules or components can be replaced or swapped on site within 10 minutes and without causing any damage (by one person).

ANSWER: Yes

UNDERPINNING: By designing a removable cover for Triennial that does not require any glue, we can replace them on site. The basic screw connection (disassembled by undoing only 1 screw!) allows you to easily remove the backrest. The cover is only held on by a zipper. This extends the lifespan of the product without it having to be returned to the factory.

Het Design Framework over logistiek | Gispen

LOGISTICS

STATEMENT: The product is designed in such a way that it can be transported in flat-packs or stacked efficiently.

ANSWER: Yes

UNDERPINNING: The seats, backrests and frames of the Triennial chairs are designed so that they are stackable and easy to take apart. The products can be transported in separate modules, which can be stacked in such a way that there is hardly any air left between them. This makes the transport more efficient. Fewer truckloads are needed to transport the same number of chairs.

Het Design Framework over materiaal | Gispen

MATERIALS

STATEMENT: Material blends are avoided. Materials can always be separated.

ANTWOORD: No

UNDERPINNING: The steel (frame) and the fabric (cover) is separable from the seat (wood and foam). However, the foam on the backrest and seat is not (yet) separable from the wooden shell because of the glue. As of yet, we have not found an alternative that can deliver a result of the same quality. Without applying glue, the foam will shift and will make the chairs unusable over time. Some theoretical ideas that we have come up with are not yet possible because the manufacturing process is a limiting factor.

Het Design Framework over retour en logistiek | Gispen

RETURNS AND LOGISTICS

STATEMENT: Fitters separate the packing materials that cannot be reused from those that can and send them off for processing.

ANSWER: Yes

UNDERPINNING: Whenever we deliver furniture, our fitters separate all packing materials on site and bring them back to the factory. Some of these materials are reused at the factory. All other materials are sent off in separate containers for paper, plastic and others. The plastic packing materials are even reused in the manufacturing of new products. As a raw material for the 3D-printed construction of our Sett sofa, for example, which is made out of 95% recycled plastic.

Het Design Framework over productie | Gispen

PRODUCTION

STATEMENT: The product is manufactured in a CO2-neutral factory.

ANSWER: No

UNDERPINNING: The Triennial chair collection is manufactured on a production site in Belgium. This factory sets high standards when it comes to sustainability and the environment, but is not (yet) CO2-neutral. We keep challenging ourselves and our suppliers to adopt as many sustainable methods as possible at production sites.

Conclusion

Although the statements and underpinnings above are only a few of many examples, they do give a fairly accurate description of our circular ambitions. We use these questions for every product we develop. They have formed our leading circular principles from which we operate and we challenge ourselves to answer as many questions with a ‘yes’ as possible. This requires some serious creativity and nerve to do things differently. But that’s what we do best!

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