The design process
High-grade use. Reusability or remanufacturing. It all starts on the drawing board with a good design. We develop our furniture according to the latest insights in sustainability and the principles of the circular economy.
Gaining a foothold for the future
Gispen believes in the success of the circular economy. The transitional phase, however, has been obstructed by uncertainties and doubts regarding rules and regulations, both in- and outside of our industry. For this reason we have developed a new Design Framework together with TNO to provide a frame of reference for future (product) developments.
The professional’s thoughts
Gispen is in a transition. REUSE > LOSS PREVENTION > LESS WASTE PRODUCTION > Key words when we speak of a circular economy. I believe in these circular principles. I am convinced that well-designed pieces of furniture, both new and used, are the starting point for a sustainable interior. But also that optimum use is achieved by the right combination of extending product lifecycles and responsible use. I also believe that you need to take responsibility for the arrangements you make, and that you need the right incentive to close the loops. There is much to be gained!
A circular economic approach starts with closing cycles of use- and production while retaining maximum value. Materials are kept at their highest utility and there is no question of degeneration. Value retention is accomplished more efficiently by means of reusing (intermediate) products. In this context, retention stands for adapting a product’s original design and refurbishing it like new, a guarantee for a long lifecycle.
Where does one start?
Functionality is foremost. Each step that closes (one of the) the loops shall have added value. Key processes are product design, reverse logistics, remanufacturing and supply chain integration. Where does one start? What makes a product more ‘circular’ than any other product? That very question turned out to be fundamental to developing a tool for comparing products and supporting design choices: the Design Framework.
The Design Framework makes circular design and its resulting products measurable, which is achieved by assessing the underlying requirements and giving each product a number of points on a circular ladder. The higher the score, the longer the lifecycle. Long lifecycles are achieved by means of reuse, altering a product’s function during use, remanufacturing and finally, recycling. And doing so successfully by closely monitoring the processes that accompany these operations.
The Framework has been developed to provide a frame of reference for the design process and (product) developments for the future, but also for the comparison of products. The Design Framework makes the circular process accessible to both product designers and, for instance, the end user. We believe that every decision we make will eventually contribute to a circular economy. However, there are so many different ways of doing so, 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 so that we can keep moving forward.
This method makes circular design and its resulting products measurable, which is achieved by assessing the underlying requirements and giving each product a number of points on a circular ladder. The Framework covers a wide range of topics, an overview of which can be found below.
Using the Framework for circular products can benefit you in the following ways:
- Allows you to weigh the pros and cons of designs and products
- Gives a clearer understanding of the considerations, possibilities and the compositions of a product
- Clarifies the ambitions and goals
- Inspires to further develop products and processes
- Uses a process-based approach
- Easy to implement
How does this work in practice?
How does this work in practice? 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 these are added up you are left with a certain score. The score can differ between categories 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. 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.
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.
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.
STATEMENT: The modules can be taken apart to form separate, reusable components.
UNDERPINNING: By designing a product in such a way that every single component is reusable (components can be unbolted without causing damages 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.
MAINTENANCE AND UPGRADES
STATEMENT: Modules or components can be replaced or swapped on site within 10 minutes and without causing any damages (by one person).
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.
STATEMENT: The product is designed in such a way that it can be transported in flat-packs or stacked efficiently.
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.
STATEMENT: Material blends are avoided. Materials can always be separated.
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 theoretic ideas that we have come up with are not yet possible because the manufacturing process is a limiting factor.
RETURNS AND LOGISTICS
STATEMENT: Fitters separate the packing materials that cannot be reused from those that can and send them off for processing.
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.
STATEMENT: The product is manufactured in a CO2-neutral factory.
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.
Although the abovementioned statements and underpinnings 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!