The European Commission’s EU Science Hub states that 80 per cent of the ecological impact a product creates can be locked up right at the design phase. This highlights the responsibility of a product designer to lower the environmental impact of consumer goods- from the carbon components it manifests to its life cycle and daily efficiency while maintaining appropriate design standards. Fortunately, the industry has observed a shift towards more mindful designing to meet these challenges over the past decade. Below, we have shortlisted some of the most forward-thinking product designs focused on sustainable design and energy saving.

1. HYBRIT – Fossil Free Steel

In today’s growing urban environment, steel is a commodity that underpins the foundation of society, used to build anything that needs to withstand forces over a long period of time. The steel industry is also one of the highest CO2 emitting industries, accounting for 7% of CO2 emissions globally. Taking note of that, SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall joined forces to create HYBRIT, a joint venture project that aspires to revolutionise steel-making. HYBRIT aims to replace coking coal, traditionally required for ore-based steel making, with hydrogen. This led to the creation of the world’s first fossil-free steel-making technology, with virtually no carbon footprint. In July 2021, SSAB Oxelösund rolled the first steel produced using HYBRIT technology and used 100% fossil-free hydrogen instead of coal and coke, producing good results. The steel is currently being manufactured and will be delivered to their first customer, the Volvo Group.

 

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SSAB Oxelösund rolled the first steel produced using HYBRIT technology in July 2021_©SSAB
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The first object created from a piece of the world’s first fossil-free steel_©SSAB
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HYBRIT aims to replace coking coal, traditionally required for ore-based steel making, with hydrogen_©Magnus hasselgren

2. Carbon Tile: Polluted Air turned into Climate-Friendly Tiles

Mumbai based start-up Carbon Craft Design launched with the goal of making construction more sustainable and tackling India’s major air pollution problem. They do so by extracting black carbon from polluted air and refurbishing it into strong and stylish flooring tiles. Black carbon is a substance in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) of air pollution that absorbs one million times more energy from the sun than carbon dioxide, making it one of the mighty contributors to the climate crisis. The CCD states that their tile contains at least 70 per cent waste material and is equal to cleaning 30,000 litres of air. Moreover, the tiles are comparatively stronger than conventional cement tiles due to the higher carbon content. The CCD Team and their clients hope that recapturing pollutants like black carbon will slow the climate crisis and improve air quality.

 

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Carbon Craft Design upcycles black carbon pollutants into stylish tiles_©Carbon Craft Design
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traditional cement tile techniques Craftsmen used to handcraft the tiles_©Carbon Craft Design
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Currently CCD tiles come in six monochromatic shades and has 15 design modules_©Carbon Craft Design

3. Solar Glass: A Glass that can capture and store Energy

Researchers from the University of Michigan developed a highly transparent solar glass that can be used to capture and store solar energy and change the way we create homes and commercial buildings. Made from organic molecules, plastic-like glass tiles absorb infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths of light and convert them into electricity. As per their research, approximately 50 to 70 billion square feet of glass facades occupy just the United States. Thus, using the application of transparent solar technologies has the potential of supplying approximately 40 percent of energy demand in the U.S.

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The plastic like glass tiles absorb infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths of light and convert them into electricity_©Michigan State University
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Richard Lunt, a member of College of Engineering at Michigan State University who worked on the development of the solar glass_©Michigan State University
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The atrium inside MSU’s Biomedical and Physical Sciences building, powered by energy from solar glass _©Margaret Cahill

4. SolarLux SDL Avalis : Aesthetically pleasing Insulated Roofs

SolarLux SDL Avalis received the iF Design Award for designing a thermally insulated roof that is both easy to install and easy on the eyes. The roof meets the latest architectural trends in roof design while including maximum levels of thermal insulation, as well as reliable ventilation. This aluminium cladding system can be customized as per the design requirements in a range of muted tones and maintain the structure’s minimal look by concealing the drainage mechanism. The design also incorporates a cut-out skylight to let in natural light for an immersive indoor/outdoor experience. The standard design features in the system design include short installation times, maximum thermal insulation, reliable ventilation and appropriate shading.

 

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Extra-large cero sliding windows giving a modern and sophisticated look_©ifdesign.com/en/winner-ranking/project/solarlux-sdl-avalis/317269
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Cut-out skylight to let in natural light for an immersive indoor/outdoor experience_© ifdesign.com/en/winner-ranking/project/solarlux-sdl-avalis/317269
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Its coordinated system components and a high degree of pre-fabrication make for short installation times_© ifdesign.com/en/winner-ranking/project/solarlux-sdl-avalis/317269

5. The Throne: A Portable Toilet out of 3D Printed Plastic Waste

The Spanish Studio Nagami, which specialise in making 3D-printed furniture, built The Throne for a charitable foundation called To.org. The Throne is a portable toilet made out of discarded plastic medical equipment from hospitals across Europe, which was melted into a filament and 3D-printed to create the mobile toilet cubicle.

The toilet comprises three parts- a teardrop-shaped body, a dramatic, double-curved sliding door and a collection bucket for solid waste. These parts are combined with a separable toilet seat, toilet seat, which diverts the urine while the solids are composted and used as a fertilizer at local farms. As 91 per cent of the world’s plastic waste produced to date is still waiting to be recycled, the organisation wishes this abundant material could help to create easy to access and affordable sanitation where they are needed most.

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The Throne, a  portable toilet that was 3D printed by Nagami in Spain_©nagamidesign
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An oculus lets in natural light from the top of the cubicle_©nagamidesign
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The cubicle has a unique ribbed finish created through the 3D-printing_©nagamidesign

6. Pavilion S: A Fully Reusable and De-Constructible Showroom

Although temporary showrooms are a necessary feature of the design world, their environmental impact doesn’t have to be. Considering this, China’s Rooi Design and Research created a fully reusable and de-constructible showroom which was showcased at the Shanghai International Furniture Fair. Pavillion S is composed of modular plywood stacks with punctures for allowing visitors to view the items from multiple angles. After the job was done, the temporary installation was transformed into 410 sets of tables and chairs and donated the resulting furniture collection to a rural community in Fuqing, China, with the aim of proving how trade shows can be made more eco-friendly by incorporating a circular economy.

 

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The pavilion designed to be easily dismantled and recycled _©Feng Shao
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The converted tables and chairs later given to a rural community in Fuqing_©Feng Shao
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Aim of proving how trade shows can be made more eco-friendly by incorporating a circular economy_©Feng Shao

7. Eco Pod: Eco-conscious Modular Living Space

Pod Space Ltd. Designed the Eco Pod to enhance its natural surroundings instead of distracting users away from them. The pod is a combination of natural materials with bold, contrasting composites to meld with its chosen scenery.

Together they provide longevity and durability with an eco-emphasis. Built out of sustainably sourced Siberian larch, the modular building is pre-fabricated off site for minimal ecological disturbance. The standard design features in the system design provide the advantages of speed of construction and minimal site disruption coupled with eco-conscious and architecturally aware design. The Eco Pod has the advantage of providing all the qualities of the most functional modular building along with previously unavailable style and quality.

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Eco Pod to enhance its natural surroundings, instead of distracting users away from them_© ifdesign.com/en/winner-ranking/project/pod-space-ltd/310409
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The pod is a combination of natural materials with bold, contrasting composites to meld with its chosen scenery_© ifdesign.com/en/winner-ranking/project/pod-space-ltd/310409
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Design provides the advantages of speed of construction with eco-conscious and architecturally aware design_© ifdesign.com/en/winner-ranking/project/pod-space-ltd/310409

8. Quest: A versatile Fabric made of Recycled Plastic

British textile brand Camira launched Quest, a versatile fabric that is made out of recycled plastic waste taken from the oceans. Quest is the second textile that Camira created collaborating with Seaqual Initiative, a community-orientated ocean clean-up organisation. The material is 100 percent post-consumer recycled polyester, and they use it to make a lightly textured fabric with a subtle two-tone hopsack weave. With its casually elegant aesthetic and evocative colour palette, Quest comes in 27 colour options that can be used for lounge, task seating and panels.

 

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The Quest textile was made together with the Seaqual Initiative and contains recycled ocean plastic_©Camira
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Quest is the second textile that Camira created collaborating with Seaqual Initiative, a community-orientated ocean clean-up organisation_©Camira
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Quest comes in 27 colour options that can be used for lounge, task seating and panels _©Camira

9. Guardian Bird1st Etch Glass: The Guardian for Birds

A research done by Guardian Glass estimated that up to a billion birds die each year alone in the US due to glass and building collisions. Regardless of the travel pattern, glass is often an invisible obstruction and threat for the birds and becomes even more hazardous as per the location, lighting and landscaping of a place. Birds are important contributors to a healthy and well-functioning mother nature on which we live and rely upon. As the demand for glass grows in our cityscapes, Guardian bird-friendly glass brings forth a range of options for safe, high-performing glass – satisfying the human need and avoiding bird collision. The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has also given its confirmation for the product’s acceptable Avoidance Index score being enough to signal an impending barrier to birds, helping decrease collisions. The glass also offers strong energy performance by pairing it with low-E coating and helps architects and designers meet their sustainability standards without any compromises.

 

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A Bird1st Etch Glass sample_©2021 Guardian Glass, LLC
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The glass comes in a range of aesthetic choices while mitigating bird collisions_©2021 Guardian Glass, LLC

10. Zephyr Solar: An autonomous Solar Balloon bringing Electricity to Disaster Zones

Zephyr, a photovoltaic balloon, is an eco-friendly power generator invented by a France-based start-up, Eonef. Operating individually or in a network, these balloons can fly for 30 days at a time and withstand winds of up to 70 kph even at great altitudes. The Eonef balloons can be used for a wide range of sustainability initiatives such as observing wildlife, measuring air quality, and, most importantly for coordinating during disasters.

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Observing wildlife, measuring air quality, and can be used to promote coordination during a disaster_©Julie Dautel
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Zephyr solar helps disaster victims _©Julie Dautel
The Zephyr has an electrolyser on board that uses nine liters of water to produce hydrogen to inflate Victims_©Zephyr

References:

  1. 3D Printing Media Network – The Pulse of the AM Industry. (2021). Meet The Throne, an elegant portable 3D printed toilet. [online] Available at: https://www.3dprintingmedia.network/meet-the-throne-an-elegant-portable-3d-printed-toilet/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2022].
  2. Angarika Gogoi (2020). Mumbai Startup Creates Carbon Tiles Out of Polluted Air. Brilliant! [online] The Better India. Available at: https://www.thebetterindia.com/225013/mumbai-startup-air-pollution-tiles-carbon-craft-design-sustainable-innovation-india-ang136/.
  3. Architectmagazine.com. (2022). [online] Available at: https://www.architectmagazine.com/technology/can-transparent-solar-cells-reduce-our-reliance-on-fossil-fuels_o [Accessed 4 Mar. 2022].
  4. Dezeen. (2021). Quest recycled fabric by Camira. [online] Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2021/11/04/quest-recycled-fabric-camira-dezeen-showroom/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2022].
  5. EcoWatch. (2021). This Indian Startup Turns Polluted Air Into Climate-Friendly Tiles. [online] Available at: https://www.ecowatch.com/carbon-tiles-upcycle-india-2649787500.html [Accessed 4 Mar. 2022].
  6. EONEF. (n.d.). EONEF. [online] Available at: http://eonef.com/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2022].
  7. Floornature.com. (n.d.). Rooi Design and Research Pavilion S and the circular economy | Livegreenblog. [online] Available at: https://www.floornature.com/blog/rooi-design-and-research-pavilion-s-and-circular-economy-15715/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2022].
  8. Guardian Glass. (n.d.). Guardian Bird1st Etch. [online] Available at: https://www.guardianglass.com/us/en/our-glass/glass-for-bird-friendly-design/guardian-bird1st-etch [Accessed 6 Mar. 2022].
  9. Ifdesign.com. (2022a). [online] Available at: https://ifdesign.com/en/winner-ranking/project/solarlux-sdl-avalis/317269 [Accessed 4 Mar. 2022].
  10. Ifdesign.com. (2022b). [online] Available at: https://ifdesign.com/en/winner-ranking/project/pod-space-ltd/310409 [Accessed 4 Mar. 2022].
  11. One Earth. (n.d.). Making good stuff from bad air: an Indian team makes the world’s first tiles from air pollution particles. [online] Available at: https://www.oneearth.org/making-good-stuff-from-bad-air-an-indian-team-makes-the-worlds-first-tiles-from-air-pollution-particles/#:~:text=Innovation%20firm%20Carbon%20Craft%20Design [Accessed 4 Mar. 2022].
  12. pv magazine International. (n.d.). New transparent solar glass developed by scientists at Michigan State University. [online] Available at: https://www.pv-magazine.com/2017/10/26/new-transparent-solar-glass-developed-by-scientists-at-michigan-state-university/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2022].
  13. SSAB. (n.d.). The world’s first fossil-free steel ready for delivery. [online] Available at: https://www.ssab.com/news/2021/08/the-worlds-first-fossilfree-steel-ready-for-delivery.
  14. WSYM. (2021). MSU installs transparent solar panels as windows in its Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building. [online] Available at: https://www.fox47news.com/neighborhoods/msu-campus/msu-installs-transparent-solar-panels-as-windows-in-its-biomedical-and-physical-sciences-building [Accessed 4 Mar. 2022].
  15. www.camirafabrics.com. (n.d.). Camira | Fabric Suppliers of Contract & Transport Upholstery. [online] Available at: https://www.camirafabrics.com/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2022].
Author

An aspiring architect who is passionate about designing spaces that creates a healthy and sustainable environment. She is a firm believer of simple, logical and research based design which makes the built environment highly adaptive, functional and user friendly. With the quest for knowledge, zeal to learn and passion to create, she has keen interest to perform and grow along the learning curve while contributing her best for the upliftment of the society.

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