Workplace Interiors

What Is The True Environmental Impact of Design?

December 30, 2016

Considering the true environmental impact of design, Seed to Seat is a new initiative by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC). While many well-intentioned designers claim sustainability in their approach to their work, there is often little solid evidence to support them in making those claims. Sydney Workplace Interiors Sector Leader, Todd Hammond, was one of six prominent designers across Australia and New Zealand to have collaborated with AHEC to demonstrate that sustainability can have substance. His design, along with designs by Adam Goodrum, Greg Natale, Anne-Claire Petre, Ben Percy and David Trubridge were unveiled at DENFAIR in Melbourne back in June 2016. For more information on DENFAIR, click here

"A powerful initiative, Seed to Seat reinforces the environmental advantages of working with timber," said Todd. "AHEC’s research and use of the data to explain the environmental life cycle of timber was informative and astounding." 

In response to an open brief for ‘something to sit on’ made from American hardwood lumber, each designer created a piece made from American cherry, tulipwood or red oak. 

For each design, the AHEC has calculated how many seconds it would take for the wood used to make the piece to grow naturally in the US hardwood forest. Hardwood trees are selectively harvested and replaced with new growth through natural regeneration. Regeneration outstrips harvest and this vast resource increases by 130 million cubic metres every year. AHEC has calculated that it would take a mere 2.2 seconds for all the wood used in the 6 Seed to Seat designs to grow in the US hardwood forest.

For more on Seed to Seat, click here.

Q&A with Todd Hammond, Workplace Interiors Sector Leader - Sydney 

1. What materials do you use most in your work and why? 

Many of my projects feature timber in one way or another, with the addition of other materials like metals, natural stone and glass. Timber balances and softens a space to create a diversity and warmth that is hard to match by other materials

The characteristics of timber cannot be reproduced and that’s what makes it one of the most unique materials that a designer can use. Timber is also one of the most sustainable materials but unfortunately this trait is commonly overlooked. The seed to seat program drills down into the data of how much timber is used, including waste.

2. What do you like about working with wood? 

I am drawn to the fact that timber species perform and present differently for different functions. Some species characteristics change and evolve throughout its tenure. Cherrywood is a perfect example. It starts life as a pale coloured timber but as it ages it starts to take on a deep honey tone as its personality matures.

3. What was the idea / inspiration behind your design for Seed to Seat? What was you approach to the brief? 

Designing joinery as furniture is part of what we all do but to develop a stand-alone armchair is a rare opportunity, so I was eager to be involved. This project with AHEC is an exciting opportunity to work with skilled furniture creators, industry colleagues and acclaimed furniture designers. My "own" design brief was to develop an un upholstered armchair with a simple aesthetic that exposes its structure, showcases the timber species and celebrates craftsmanship. It also had to be comfortable, be used for domestic settings and also as a short-term collaborative settings in a workplace . The J.A.C Armchair is part of a broader family that was developed for this project and it would be nice to see the entire family realized one day. 

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