See Black, Think Green

Challenging trade show waste at IDS Vancouver.

It’s not unusual for the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan to have an intense impact on visitors, but not everyone leaves the city with the same impressions. For IDS Vancouver director, Jody Phillips, who attended this year’s show, it was the issue of waste, specifically what happens to all those stalls and installations at the end of each fair. The assumption: most of the building materials and flooring get thrown into landfill. She felt like a trade show such as IDS Vancouver was in a position to not only start a conversation about this issue but also begin changing the model of how booths are handled.

So Phillips decided to encourage exhibitors to come up with new sustainable and zero waste ways to present their products, as well as donate all of their booth’s materials to Habitat for Humanity after the fair (an option integrated into exhibitor packs). Vancouver-based furniture designer and manufacturer Lock & Mortice stepped up to the challenge. Their stall, called Portal, was designed to be “a window exposing an alternative world of potential and inspiration in how we think about sustainability,” says the company, which creates solid wood pieces for residential and commercial spaces. The dominant use of black represented what they feel is “the dark underside of the design industry” — that everything “new” replaces the “old” and the old becomes nothing more that waste — which they believe “makes it difficult to have an honest conversation about sustainability and design.”

To address this issue, Lock & Mortice reconfigured parts from their modular steel shelving system to create a display system that holds a 98 per cent recycled, FSC-certified honeycomb paperboard which served as the exterior, interior, and projection surfaces. The use of non-traditional display materials gives a more organic and tactile experience while maintaining all of the low-impact benefits of lightweight commercial display systems. The black marble base of the centrepiece table was sourced from a local Vancouver Island quarry and the wood frame of the structure was built out of beams designed specifically to be cycled back into furniture production as table legs and other components, meaning IDS Vancouver can have a life after the hall doors closed.

With the help of a new IDS Green Statement, her aim is to develop this sustainable mandate further in the years to come with the help of all partners and exhibitors. “There’s an exciting opportunity for design to contribute to solving some of the world’s biggest challenges,” says Phillips. “Requiring a paradigm shift in our behavior, with a goal to exceed the needs of the design community without further breaching environmental boundaries, IDS is proactive on the issue of sustainable exhibit construction and installation re-use. Rather we have made it a mandate to investigate and encourage new material options and creative solutions at the fair in addition to being the place for dialogue that can amass collective will. Supporting partners and exhibitors to conceive of non-permanent installs with indivisible components of a larger, constantly regenerating and self-sustaining system, IDS Vancouver is committing to strengthening our working practices and will support architecture and design that has a more positive impact regionally and internationally.

Below are a few suggestions IDS Vancouver has assembled for stall designers and exhibitors, along with some initiatives and highlights:

IDS Vancouver…
• Promotes plywood or wood framing as a better suited, impermanent wall option with a longer life span, rather than drywall for installation buildouts;
• Advises to design with standard sizes and quantities and with reuse in mind post fair;
• Promotes and helps to connect providers of local materials (manufactured and/or raw materials) with exhibitors and their partners;
• Uses recycled materials or choose materials that can be recycled post event and advises their exhibitors to do the same;
• Promotes the use rapidly renewable and sustainably sourced materials such as bamboo, plant fibres and sustainably certified materials;
• Chooses construction methods that allow components to be taken apart and reused or donated (i.e no adhesive) and encourages exhibitors to do the same.