Trend report 2017: Environmentally conscious hotel design

As a part three of our Trend Report 2017 series, Hilda Impey, associate design director, FF&E at Wilson Associates, writes about designing smart against pollution and shares her list of inspiring products.

Technology’s transformative effects are accelerating at such a rapid rate and it is part of a designer’s job to make sense to all these changes and to react in parallel with them. It is an opportunity for designers to reflect upon and be active influencers in the kind of future we want and the kind of values we wish to bring to the process of building it.

As we the designers of the interiors industry for hospitality analyse the emerging trends of 2017, it is relevant to observe the major world challenges, the emerging lifestyles associated with socio demographical changes, the social implications of the current economical and political climate as well as the worldwide impact of these events on society.

Mindful of these events, future trends have become more complex to predict. However it is clear that our world, and therefore future generations, need our urgent action.

Practical approaches should accommodate and reflect societies and consumers distinct expectations of what is to come. Awareness of such expectations when designing a space will encourage designers and manufacturers to co-innovate, communicate and stay ahead of the challenges through their connection with consumers in the following years.

Pollution in its various forms is caused by rapid industrialisation and capitalism, which is overpowering nature’s own ability to regenerate itself. Pollution, in all its various manifestations; air, water, contaminated soil, toxic fabric dyes, toxic manufacturing materials; glue and hazardous additives and parabens in cosmetics are some of the aspects that are becoming a major concern for governments, brands and consumers in 2017.

How will this affect the hospitality interior industry?

A major strategy in hotel branding, product and material choices will be to focus on offering services that consumers will believe are “pollution-toxic free”.

Such a successful branding transformation will be followed by hotels who “care” and who respond to and who take decisive action in respect of this major problem, offering in this way an opportunity to impact communities in a positive and non-divisive way.

And since “20% of UK consumers think that big national brands or chains should play a bigger role in local communities”, this strategy will allow transnational hotel chains to transcend national boundaries by supporting worldwide causes across different markets and will show them getting involved in a tangible way.

What is the role of designers in this challenge?

The trend towards consumer involvement in the re-evaluation of global pollution and global warming is a reality check and valuable wake-up call for designers and decision makers. We are seeing consumers investing in ethical and suitable solutions and products, as well as supporting brands that are innovating to change things for the better.

Designers’ decisions on materials and furniture are crucial for the success and well-being of hotel operators, the end-consumer and for the global environment. It is our responsibility to guide and promote better and more sustainable design that will impact positively on both our health and the environment.

It is essential that all decision makers from various backgrounds communicate and become involved in decisions that relate to the development of their projects and encourage research into new developments and technologies as well as new ways to create less waste. Designers that work together with manufacturers during the development process will succeed in developing creative and sustainable products that impact less upon the environment.

The new workspace and power of purpose

Wilson Associates is currently working on a refurbishment project. We had noted that the refurbishments in the region have been conceived with the idea of “modernising” the spaces; however it was also noted that they have a lifespan average of three years. We believe this came about mainly through the strategies and priorities during the concept stage and the design process. Refurbishment exercises are often conceived to address immediate concerns but not necessarily to look for and address long-lasting solutions.

The impact of these refurbishment exercises is, from a sustainable point of view massively impactful on the environment, and will also affect the revenue of the hoteliers during this process. Processed materials such as chairs, fabric, and rugs, are thrown away, which has a direct environmental impact, and which also opens other questions about industrial wastage.

We believe that this type of project process is an invitation for designers to guide clients and operators towards an evaluation of longer-lasting approaches.

Our recommendations

Investigate the origin and story of the place; stick to the locality and enhance it instead of removing it. Find the geniu loci of the place.

Focus on the quality and lifespan of the materials and furniture.

Cultivate an informed background understanding of safe manufacturing cycles and processes.

Address the expectations of the emerging nomad’s lifestyle and their current need for high-speed internet access. Thinking of short-term business travelers, one could, for example

– Rethink hotel room layouts so that they function on several levels, blending residential and flexible work spaces.

– Provide seamless integrated technology.

– Create flexible and more dynamic furniture for today’s digital nomads who leverage technology to work remotely and often look for hospitality that fulfills and enables the duality between work and leisure.

Our decisions have a communal and environmental impact and in these critical times this is an opportunity for designers to challenge their comfort-zones and to use, merge, mix and collaborate with other professionals and industries to promote informed thoughts behind every decision and by so doing to turn a potential problem into a btter world. Aesthetics are subjective but facts are not.

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