Climate-Smart Furniture: The Story Behind a 100% Sustainable Lounge Chair
Since the early 2000s, it has been widely reported that the construction industry accounts for nearly 40% of the planet’s CO2 emissions. The role of interiors in that percentage has been historically underestimated, with common statistics suggesting that a project’s furniture, fixtures and equipment are only responsible for about 7 to 10% of its overall carbon footprint. However, new research notably indicates the contrary: in a building’s average life span, the carbon footprint of its interiors will equal – if not exceed – that of the structure and envelope. Interior design, to the surprise of many, has actually been doing great harm.
Tackling the climate crisis has thus become a transcendental issue not only in large-scale, traditional construction, but also in the design of decorative elements and furnishings. As a result, hand in hand with comfort, aesthetics and functionality, furniture designers and manufacturers have placed sustainability as a top priority – whether it be through a climate-smart fabrication, the use of recycled materials or high-quality products with a durable lifespan. This has been in an effort to generate a positive environmental impact and, at the same time, respond to an increasingly conscious audience that seeks to consume responsibly.
With this in mind, furniture company Andreu World developed the first 100% sustainable lounge chair made of a new bioplastic. Part of the Nuez collection and designed by Spanish architect Patricia Urquiola, the Nuez Lounge BIO® stands out because of its innovative use of materials and technologies, aiming to contribute to more eco-friendly interiors but without sacrificing beauty and user well-being. Below, we explore the story behind its sustainable design.
A design that combines warmth and character
Similar to folded paper, the Nuez Lounge BIO® is shaped like a three-dimensional enveloping shell, supported by a central base with a return system. With a high, elegant backrest, the sculptural design sought to demonstrate the technological complexity of the shell, with the unique texture that distinguishes it. Achieving warmth and comfort, however, was also a top priority. Thanks to its geometry, integrated swingarm system and intricately-designed upholstered seat cushion, the lounge chair is ideal for calming environments, such as waiting areas, lobbies, collaborative areas or public and private relaxation spaces. The design can also adapt to various styles, offering a range of four colors and swivel bases in ash wood or polished aluminum (white or black).
Taking one step further in sustainability
However, Urquiola’s aspirations behind the chair’s design went beyond aesthetics, looking to create a completely sustainable product in all aspects.
When we were looking on the design of a new armchair, it was Patricia who at one point urged us not to settle for developing just another seat for the catalog, but to aspire to take a big step further towards sustainable innovation…she asked us to be much more ambitious and creative, to aim higher through an authentic approach of true respect for the environment, both in the selection of materials and in the production processes. – Jesús Llinares, CEO Andreu World
When it came to selecting materials, it was all about innovation. First of all, the shell is made from a thermo-polymer of natural, non-fossil origin that is generated by living microorganisms. Offering a sustainability profile similar to that of wood, the material is recyclable, biodegradable and compostable. Of course, pioneering and experimenting with thermo-polymer presented many challenges and technological complexities. For example, it was necessary to modify the molds with new injection systems to guarantee fluidity, adjust the settings of the machines that inject it and use hardware solutions to improve temperature and humidity control.
A new recyclable fabric collection, known as Circular ONE® fabric, was developed especially for the chair’s upholstery. Adopting a textile production process, the fabrics were made from textile waste and PET plastics recovered from bottles, offering quality and durability while ensuring a minimal environmental impact. In addition, the Nuez Lounge BIO® swivel bases only utilize FSC® 100% wood, in other words, sustainable wood from reforested forests.
The armchair was designed with the principles of circularity in mind, regarding both the design and production systems. This meant that every single component – the shell, foam, fabric and base – had to be easily disassembled for reuse and recycling at the end of their useful life. Therefore, everything is joined without glues and adhesives to facilitate the separation process.
I worked intensely with Andreu World to apply a circular approach to Nuez, focusing not only on the materials, but also on simplified disassemble possibilities that prolong the product’s life cycle. – Patricia Urquiola
Minimal carbon footprint
Altogether, these measures were taken in an effort to minimize the product’s carbon footprint. In fact, to truly grasp their environmental impact, the chair’s carbon emissions were quantified. While the average for the manufacture of any chair currently on the market lies between 30-60 kg CO2e, the Nuez Lounge BIO® reaches a total of only 1,94 Kg CO2e, considering both energy and transport emissions.
Towards a healthier interior design industry
It is clear that sustainability is no longer a problem exclusive to large scale construction. It must be addressed in everything we design, no matter the scale. Therefore, with a climate emergency that only aggravates, all manufacturers have the obligation to take accountability for what they do and how they do it. At the end of the day, even though production processes could be more costly and complex, innovating and adopting climate-smart designs will ultimately enable us to pave the way towards a cleaner, greener future.
To learn more about the Nuez Lounge BIO®, visit Andreu World’s website.