“Long-term, there is no alternative to sustainable building”

KALDEWEI, Ahlen, December 2020 – Kaldewei and InteriorPark. join forces to advocate sustainable products and sustainable building. The leading platform for sustainable interior architecture and circular design and the premium bathroom manufacturer share a common goal: to turn homes –including the bathroom – into places containing natural material wherever possible, rather than plastic. In this interview Tina Kammer, architect and co-founder of InteriorPark. answers questions about progress, challenges and visions in the area of sustainable building. 

Ms. Kammer, as an architect with InteriorPark., you have been advocating the use of sustainable, natural materials with high design quality for over 30 years. What is most important for you when choosing a partner and how do you decide whether to list a brand on your website?
When choosing our partners we look closely at various aspects such as where resources come from and how they are processed. We also ask: Are natural or recycled materials used? How circular are the products and is the loop really closed? Where and by whom are the products manufactured? How environmentally-friendly is production? Does the given company take other social aspects into consideration? Ultimately, a company has to have an authentic and transparent image. Marketing texts may be beautifully worded but quite often they say very little of consequence about sustainability. 

In your opinion why is it so important to use sustainable materials for new-builds or refurbishments?
The construction industry is responsible for the consumption of about one-third of natural resources worldwide. This means that there is enormous potential here. Ultimately, there is no long-term alternative to choosing sustainability because we can simply no longer afford to consume at our present levels. Selected sustainable materials enormously improve indoor air quality giving end consumers a very real benefit. In the area of property, this advantage also extends to businesses and employers because users feel better in healthy rooms. They are more focused, more creative and less often ill.  This has never been more important.


There is still far too much plastic in bathrooms as well. The focus here is often on packaging for shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste and the like. A problem that is given far less thought, however, is the bathroom solutions themselves. What materials harm the environment and which ones would you recommend with regard to sustainable and aesthetic bathroom design?

There’s no straightforward answer to that question. If, for example, a bathtub is made of one single type of plastic, it can be recycled, so the use of this material would make sense. Steel enamel is recyclable and is therefore a sustainable material. However, the recycling loop must be closed for this positive aspect to take effect. 
The packaging and ingredients of grooming products represent a major problem because not only is the packaging made of plastic , but the products themselves often contain microplastic which can now be found in the remotest corners of the Earth – even in the farthest depths of the ocean. With sustainable grooming products there is a trend towards solid soaps which can be sustainably packaged without water.

Acrylic bathroom solutions are only recyclable up to a point. That is why developers and project decision-makers are increasingly choosing steel enamel as an ultra recyclable material. In your view, what advantages are offered by showers, bathtubs and washbasins made from steel enamel? 
Bathroom solutions made of steel enamel are high quality, they are easy to clean and they have a long lifecycle. When their useful life comes to an end they can be melted down and used to produce a bathroom object of the same quality. What is important is to close the loop and to ensure that this sustainable aspect is also actually put into practice. That has to be logistically guaranteed and taken into account in the business model. Implementation represents a major challenge for many companies.

How willing is society – and the construction industry in particular – to make more use of sustainable solutions? Is there a trend?
Yes, there is. Definitely. But it’s a slow-moving one. Incentives to choose sustainable solutions, including those offered by the government, are not yet enticing enough. Developers must gain some advantage if they decide to make a bigger initial investment which will pay off in the medium-term during the property’s useful life.

How much awareness do you think there is among the public at large for sustainable bathroom solutions? Do you think that this subject has been explained enough?
It’s not easy for consumers to engage intensively with alternatives every time they buy something, so that they can make the right choice. All market players need to provide more information in this area. We and our partners help consumers to navigate the jungle of products on offer. Sustainable and aesthetic are two qualities that work very well together. 

In your opinion, what is it that scares consumers away from sustainable building? And what arguments in favour of sustainable alternatives should consumers bear in mind when making a decision?

Consumers are usually building for themselves and their own family. Government grants are available in some areas. Consumers will definitely feel the effect of sustainable building because the indoor air quality will be greatly improved. Everything around us gives off fumes. Our indoor air is filled with so many different emissions. The fewer and less toxic these emissions are, the better for our well-being and health.

Let’s look 20 years into the future: how do you imagine buildings and their fit-outs will be constructed and designed?
Good question! We imagine that buildings will be constructed in such a way that they can be broken down into their individual parts which can then be recycled. So a building would also be a kind of materials warehouse. The same goes for the fit-out. There is another aspect: we hope that in future we won’t have to buy lots of things but will be able to lease them instead. This means that they would be serviced and maintained by the manufacturer and when they break down or reach the end of their useful lives, the manufacturer will recycle them and replace them with new products.

 

Source: Franz Kaldewei GmbH & Co. KG. Copy requested.

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Tina Kammer is the managing director and co-founder of InteriorPark., the leading platform for sustainable interior architecture and circular design. InteriorPark. promotes sustainable developments and advocates a new way of thinking in architecture.

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Bathroom solutions made of steel enamel are high quality, easy to clean and have a long lifecycle. At the end of its useful life the material can be melted down and used to produce a bathroom object of the same quality.

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