Prof. Dr. Peters, at the last ORGATEC you presented innovative materials for sustainable working environments in the special Materials4Future area. Do you see a growing need here?
It's quite clear: The transformation to a circular economy is the major challenge of the next decade and will influence all our corporate activities. This is as much about the emission-reduced production of materials as it is about exploiting the possibilities for storing CO2 by implementing the wood hybrid construction method in office buildings. The resulting interaction with the materials used in the interior is highly exciting.
What did you observe at ORGATEC with regard to sustainable material developments?
Material and furniture manufacturers are currently exploring the possibilities for establishing new circular business models. Reuse, remanufacturing and recycle concepts are currently being tapped by a large number of companies, and end-of-life is being considered in interior design as well as the possibility of separating and recycling resources.
So how are the material manufacturers you featured responding to new demands such as the increased need for healthy work environments?
Using natural material resources to design healthy work environments is high on the agenda. Whether it's leather substitutes made from 100 percent natural resources or foams for upholstered furniture and acoustic elements that decompose at the end of the product's life: It is in the biological cycle at the interface between biology and technology that the most far-reaching material innovations can be found right now.
The price increases and supply chain problems of the last two years, combined with consumers' heightened sense of sustainability, have led to greater regionalization of production. Increasingly, the European market is seen as a stability factor that provides certainty in the procurement of resources and also facilitates the enforcement of closed loops. In addition, material developments are increasingly relying on recyclates or resources from other industries and the agricultural sector that were previously not the focus of manufacturers. For example, more and more manufacturers are offering take-back systems to better control material cycles.
Against the backdrop of extreme weather phenomena and increased energy prices, discussions about climate change have taken on a new dynamic. Do you also observe this dynamic in material innovations?
What can I say - we all know what challenges we are facing. The young generation of designers in particular is pushing for a new class of materiality that is not only recyclable, but can be produced with zero emissions if possible. On the one hand, this relates to the energy issue, and on the other, there is a particular focus on material innovations that can circulate completely in the biological cycle.
Can you give examples of this?
In recent years, some outstanding developments have been presented here - whether building panels made from fish scales, naturally decomposing wood-fiber panels whose binding is based on enzymes, or leather substitutes made from hemp residues. A whole generation of young start-ups sees the solution to the problems in the complete use of natural resources for materials that can remain in the biological cycle!