Perth, 26th May 2010
Sustainability is the catch word in any project nowadays, isn’t it? But what really is sustainable design, or more precisely sustainable lighting design in our case? Sometimes I have the idea that people use the term to be seen as being “in the game” while in reality they don’t have a clue what sustainable design actually means. I for one, am still trying to get my head around it.
The general consensus (from some research on the internet) is that sustainable design is meant to create products (in the largest sense of the word) that are made only of (or with) renewable resources. These in turn are the type of resources that can be regenerated at a rate that is at least equal to the speed with which we consume that resource. One of the other big things with sustainable design is that the products made this way should have no or minimal impact on the environment either when being created or when being used. The design is also made to allow people to feel more “connected” to nature or natural environments.
So how does that translate into lighting design? Relating sustainable design to energy (which we need to power our lights) means the application of renewable energy resources such as solar, wind or water energy. This has become an integrated part of our design process nowadays, though cost in many cases makes it prohibitive. Relating sustainable design to actual light fittings is more difficult. First there are the materials used. Only living materials like wood, leather or plant life are renewable, but most of the materials used in lighting manufacturing are metals and plastics, basically non renewable resources. So that leaves us to the use of recycled materials. At least we re-use waste materials to create something new. I am not aware of light fittings mass produced of recycled materials but it may well be something of the future.
So it seems that in lighting (besides using renewable energy) our main contribution in the sustainable thinking process is more the limitation of wastage and optimisation of usage and by so doing, reducing the carbon footprint for lighting, then anything else…