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If 2020 was the year that changed everything, fresh horizons, newfound flexibility and shifts in our value systems are all shaping a very different world of tomorrow. The most forward thinking design will respond to – and even anticipate – these shifts to pioneer the most commercially and culturally relevant spaces across the world.

Piñatex® is an innovative natural textile made from waste pineapple leaf fibre.

Conscious Design

Conscious Design is now a significant factor within MAWD’s Experience-Centric Design process as we look to define new spaces tailored to how we will live, work, move and play.

What is Conscious Design?

All of us are adopting a new level of consciousness around the sustainability of the world around us. According to IBM Research, six in 10 consumers are willing to shop differently in order to reduce their environmental impact – and for those who say it is very / extremely important, more than 70% would be willing to pay a premium for brands that do so.

As designers, this means we’re becoming more conscious about the materials and processes involved in creating the next generation of spaces. Not only do we think this can open up a world of new possibilities and solutions for our clients, but we want to create a better product that will appeal to the audience by including sustainable materials and processes, drawing on examples we’ve found elsewhere.

Six in 10 consumers are willing to shop differently in order to reduce their environmental impact.”
Altrock's contemporary terrazzo surfaces, which are handmade in London, are "durable, unique, and made from 87% reclaimed and recycled materials."

Why now?

Beyond LEED® standards, the property and design sectors are well behind other industries in responding to environmental and consumer demand. By factoring this into our Experience-Centric Design process, we’re creating forward thinking spaces that take sustainability from an after-thought to an integral piece of the design jigsaw puzzle and ultimately, anticipate the needs of the future client and end-user.

These growing needs are reflected in the rise of the “circular economy”, which offers alternative ways to attain products like renting them and buying pre-owned goods, which the IBM study found nearly 8 out of 10 Gen Z and Millennials have bought.

We also know that global consumer brands who ignore sustainability as an issue can compromise their reputation and even increase their business risk. A Deutsche Bank report revealed that companies that received positive press regarding climate change saw share price outperformance of 26 percent per year over the MSCI World index. The reverse was true for those companies who got bad press regarding their approach to sustainability.

Allbirds footwear is "made from nature, for nature," using materials like merino wool.

Key drivers

Like other sectors such as the fashion, beauty, motor and food industries before it, the design/property sector will approach a tipping point in terms of environmental awareness. We already know that since 2014, global sustainable and environmentally responsible investment is up 68 percent and now tops USD 30 trillion.

In light of this, MAWD has looked at examples beyond the property sector to seek more sustainable materials.

Think about Allbirds, which makes shoes from planet-friendly materials like merino wool and eucalyptus. We also discovered Piñatex, a pioneering leather substitute made from pineapple leaf fiber. The Piñatex parent company, Ananas Anam, provides a more humane and sustainable leather alternative while proving pineapple farmers in the Philippines with an additional source of income. It’s now being used in clothing, car upholstery and footwear, with customers that include Hugo Boss, H&M and Skoda.

Then there’s also Altrock’s beautiful terrazzo surfaces, made from reclaimed byproducts from natural stone. We started thinking about new ways of filling chairs, creating kitchen tops or bathroom spaces from repurposed, recycled and more sustainable materials.

Many of these materials are still under the radar. By incorporating them into our design process, we can create new storytelling moments that tap into global issues that are already gaining traction in terms of public awareness.

We all know that people are questioning the wider impact of the food they eat, the clothes they buy, the cars they drive and the products they apply. In the real estate sector, the importance of sustainability is underscored by the fact that real estate is the world’s most important and largest asset class with a global value of more than $200 trillion. At the same time, real estate consumes 40% of the world’s energy and we spend 90% of our time indoors. This means that almost all aspects of life and business are affected by what happens within real estate.

We like to think that as designers, we can play a part in enacting change, by matching the business case with spaces that still need to be cool, beautiful and aesthetically relevant to create a unique and desirable experience.

Global sustainable and environmentally responsible investment is up 68 percent and now tops USD 30 trillion.”

The Number 1 Takeaway

A new mindfulness has entered the hospitality, residential and mixed-use design world. Clients, developers and designers alike will increasingly respond to broader social and environmental concerns, to shape beautiful – yet more conscious – spaces, or risk being left behind.

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