‘Designers can no longer do without sustainability’
“It is my firm belief that people who are get positive stimulation from their environment are happier. The visual stimulus of a beautiful landscape or a breathtaking sunset sparks a feeling of happiness. The smell of fresh air and the tactile features of a material - people also have to be able to feel a material - have the same effect. Nice acoustics, ample daylight and the right ergonomics at your workplace all contribute to a pleasing interior, a good living and working climate, a feeling of happiness and the health benefits that come with this.
All of this is also what sustainability means: caring for the health of the people who live on this planet. Many of these stimuli tend to be underestimated and are barely taken into account in the design of buildings and interiors. The choice of materials you use plays such an important role in this.
Together with about 40 colleagues in the south of the Netherlands and Belgium, we are united under the name VIA Interieur, the association of designers and interior architects. We all differ in terms of our style, but we do agree on one thing: the focus on sustainability is essential, particularly when it comes to materials or new products. We believe it is important for you to find the right products to use in your design or concept. There is a lot of development and innovation currently taking place, and more sustainable products are being developed on a larger scale and produced in a less environmentally harmful fashion. As designers, we see it as our task to put pressure on producers who are not yet working sustainably to start doing so.
On a personal note, I was recently asked to handle the interior design for a large office building in Heerlen. With a job like this, you start looking for ways to translate the client's wishes into practical elements. I ended up going with Niaga for the floor; this flooring is made entirely of recycled materials and is 100% reusable. These properties are also reflected in the name: the word ‘Niaga’ backwards is ‘again’.
We are going to start keeping track of how environmentally damaging a product is. All of the products will then come with a label containing information on how harmful they are to the environment. This will increasingly become an argument for choosing the product that has the least environmental impact, particularly for companies saying they want to do business in a socially responsible way. And like the flooring in Heerlen that can be reused, the same applies to parts of buildings, such as steel structures or parts of concrete floors that may be reused. This in turn means less demand for the production of new products, and thus less environmental impact. Much in the same way a land registry office registers buildings, the materials and products of our built environment will soon be inventoried to ensure maximum recycling capabilities in an existing building. This will help make even clearer how sustainable, circular and healthy a building or interior is.
During our VIA meetings and excursions, the name Brightlands has been mentioned more often recently in relation to sustainability. It’s no coincidence after all that a company like Re-Use is housed at the Brightlands campus in Heerlen. When I heard that Niaga is based at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen, I got in touch to see whether I and others from VIA could visit them at the campus to take a look around. This will be happening in the foreseeable future. I’m really curious about what all these companies and start-ups at Brightlands are doing. As interior architects and designers, we can hardly wait for sustainable materials and other products that we can actually use. Better today than tomorrow.”