Sustainable retail design in five basic principles


We see a big movement in retail towards sustainability. But the challenges to be sustainable in a market that is driven by low margins, high volume and operational excellence are quite big. And complexity seems to be the enemy of efficiency. But the future is green. Sustainability is no longer a choice but a must. Retail and brands are experimenting with sustainability on different levels: local assortment, reducing waste and energy neutral stores. But what about the retail design? The interior of the store, that area seems still hard to grasp. We are working on guidelines for sustainable retail design. Today we share our starting points in five questions to ask when designing the interior of a store.


1.Planning: Where do I start?

We often hear that “80% of the ecological impacts of a product are locked in the design phase”. This means that also with designing the store we need to be aware of our role. Partly in selecting the right materials, partly in designing in a sustainable way meaning that the product is durable and recycled or degraded after use. When defining the starting point the thinking process starts: what can I still use and upgrade and what is no longer useable and should be renewed? Making a plan that includes an inventory of existing, a library of materials, a plan for the lifecycle and disassemble afterwards.

2. Selecting: What do I need in a material?

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a material. Of course, the technical characteristics have to fit your use. Does it need to be hard, soft, durable, transparent? But also do you need to use of new material (virgin material), or can you use a material that is recycled and re-use it? What is the budget that you have per square meters? More often than you think there is a recycled or biodegradable alternative.


3. Responsibility: Where does the material come from?

The material can be sustainable in itself, but only available on the other end of the world. Transport will increase the footprint of your material and is important to consider. Maybe there is a local alternative? The sustainability is always connected to the energy used to produce and transport it. And last but not least, what are the working conditions in the production of the material?

4. Durability: What is the life cycle of the design?

Sustainable design is design that is for the long term, design that is durable. Think about ways to design in a way that it is adaptive to change. Why replace complete furniture when with a new cladding or upgrade is adaptive to change. Also remember, it is much more sustainable to repair than to replace.

5. Circularity: What happens with the design after using it?

Sustainable design is or recyclable or biodegradable. To make sure that the materials can return in the loop of resources the design need to be completely dissembled into pure materials. This has an influence and the design and assembling. The use of glues, for example, complicate future disassembling.