Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2022

1 7 8 INTERV IEW Building more sustainable interiors The cruise ship industry has a perceptibly determined intent to progress towards more sustainable interiors in 2022. Jon Ingleton asks SMC Design’s Alan Stewart about some of the issues Sustainable interior design is a broad church and without any official definition it’s easy to stumble at the first hurdle. “It’s the hardest goal to set because if you think about a truly sustainable product, it would have to be made from a natural material,” says Alan Stewart, director of SMC Design. “Yet in a maritime environment there are fire load limits that restrict how much natural material we can use and where we can use it. Consequently, we have to set goals for the level of sustainability that we want to achieve and aim to beat that with every product that we specify.” Specifying sustainable products is a nuanced choice for loose items but it becomes much more complicated for fixed furnishings. “We must think more about how materials are joined together – for example, can we use screws rather than adhesives, or can we make products and whole interiors easier to repair, deconstruct, reuse and recycle?” asks Stewart. “What about a big stone bar top – how can we install to ensure that we could practically give it a second and third life, rather than sending it to a landfill site?” One significant challenge today is the shortage of sustainable materials. “We have a very limited range in our library, sustainable choices are so hard in some product categories and impossible in others,” says Stewart. Few designers focus on products and materials in the early stages of a design. “I usually sketch with pencil first and that pencil creation then finds its way into a CAD model,” says Stewart. “I will look at the aesthetics first and then start to apply the materials and build the colours until the whole interior takes on a shape and form.” It’s at this point that Stewart’s thoughts turn to sustainability, and like every designer, he must use every tool in his arsenal to achieve this goal. “Our parametric planning software helps us to be more sustainable in the design phase through minimising off-cut waste,” he says. There are compromises with every decision. Designers simply can’t specify a 100 per cent wool carpet because “it needs high nylon content to give it the durability performance that we have to achieve,” explains Stewart. “And if we limit ourselves to natural dyes, we have a very muted palette range to work with so the aesthetics of a sustainable interior would suffer.”