Smart design for the future

Exploring suitable solutions and products, as well as the brands that are innovating to change things for the better.


Technology’s transformative effects have accelerated at a rapid rate around the globe. Designers must now make sense of these changes and react in parallel with them. This is an opportunity for professionals in our industry to become active influencers in the kind of future we want―and the kind of values we wish to bring to the process when building it.

As hospitality designers, we analyze the latest emerging trends and lifestyles associated with socio-demographic changes. Mindful of these events, future trends have become more complex to predict. However, it is clear that our world—and, therefore, future generations— requires us to take urgent action.

Practical approaches should accommodate and reflect society’s and consumers’ distinct expectations of what is to come. Awareness of such expectations when designing a space will encourage designers and manufacturers to co-innovate, communicate, and stay ahead of the challenges.

Pollution in its various forms is caused by rapid industrialization and capitalism, which is overpowering nature’s own ability to regenerate itself. Pollution in all its various manifestations—air, water, contaminated soil, toxic fabric dyes, toxic manufacturing materials, glue, hazardous additives, and parabens in cosmetics—has become a top concern for governments, brands, and consumers in 2018. It is our responsibility to practice sustainable design for the preservation of our planet.

Trending in sustainable design

I’ve noticed more and more that alternative and niche hotels are delivering new and engaging experiences, which incorporate sustainable design.

The larger hotel chains may be restricted when it comes to accommodating brand standards, but in this current fast-tracked world, time and rapid responses are crucial for innovation. For example, Light Human Hotel provides a great and inspiring concept made up of environmentally friendly hotels, in which the focus is on the people, including both the guests and the staff—and even pets! They promote efficient operations in which technology plays a key role by helping to free up staff to better attend to customers and their needs.

We are starting to realize that robots may replace humans sooner rather than later, but these initiatives and concepts demonstrate that there are people who value human interaction, making the overall hotel experience more special and authentic.

Kvadrat launched an upcycled fabric made from recycled plastic bottles, designed by British textile designer Georgina Wright. Revive 1 and Revive 2 are the company’s first fabrics to be made from 100% post-consumer recycled polyester PET.

upcycled fabric

Bio based Xorel by Carnegie is highperformance bio based interior textile derived from sugar cane plant. The derivation of these polyethylene yarns from plant-based sources as opposed to fossil fuels ensures that the product has a significantly reduced carbon footprint.

Bio based Xorel

Ayush Kasliwal for Mater Design took inspiration from local traditional furniture fabrication in India from sustainably harvested natural mango wood.

furniture fabrication

AutoCamp is a design-forward, luxury hotel-camping experience for people who love the outdoors. It is based in San Francisco, California, and furnished by San Francisco-based design studio Geremia.


Diana Simpson Hernandez is behind the idea of the first Waste lab initiative—The Glass Lab. Waste Labs is a waste processing project that promotes local collection, processing and transformation of waste. Collected glass bottles are crushed on-site and combined with a vegetable bioresin binder to produce strong and weatherproof products, such as bollards, street furniture, tiles, and lights.

Diana Simpson

Piñatex by Ananas Anam designed by Carmen Hijosa is a natural and animal-friendly PVC alternative made from waste plant pineapple leaves. The material uses cellulose fibers extracted from pineapple leaves, which are considered an agricultural by-product that is often burned or left to rot. An estimated 40,000 tonnes of this pineapple waste is generated globally each year. No extra land, water, fertilizers, or pesticides are required to produce them.


Each year an estimated one trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. We seem to have an overabundance of plastic, so figuring out a way to do something with it is not only practical, it’s almost a necessity. Industrial designer Carter Zufelt developed a process that turns old plastic bags into useful objects. Müll: objects are made from recycled plastic trash. MP Series designed by Carter Zufelt.

plastic bags

Sustainable design for hotels

Hoteliers are willing to take sustainable design into consideration for all projects, which makes the environmentally responsible product more meaningful in today’s society. From a commercial aspect, this needs to be balanced with affordability. The key is to implement costeffective, sustainable solutions, which will benefit all.

For the first time, architects, hoteliers, interior designers, and consultants have aligned their thoughts with all aspects of project conceptualization by embracing innovative ideas with global responsibility towards climate change and environmentally friendly solutions. From a technological perspective, the seamless usage of mobile functionalities and apps such as mobile bookings, easy check-ins, and room accessibility has led to less paper consumption.

From The Glass Wall by Diana Simpson Hernandez

From The Glass Wall by Diana Simpson Hernandez.

MP Series designed by Carter Zufelt.

MP Series designed by Carter Zufelt.

From The Glass Wall by Diana Simpson Hernandez.

From The Glass Wall by Diana Simpson Hernandez.

The role of designers

The trend towards consumer involvement in the reevaluation of global pollution and global warming is a reality and a valuable wake-up call for designers. We are seeing consumers investing in ethical and suitable solutions and products, as well as support brands that are innovating to change things for the better.

Designers’ decisions on materials and furniture are crucial for the success and well-being of hotel operators, the end-consumer, and for the global environment. It is our responsibility to guide and promote better and more sustainable design that will positively impact our health and the environment.

It is essential that all decisionmakers communicate and become involved in project development choices that create less waste. Designers that work together with manufacturers during the development process will succeed in making creative and sustainable products that have low to no impact on the environment.

Smart design for the future image 1


Hoteliers are incorporating sustainable practices and products into interiors at the outset—or is it onset?—of the design process. Here are a few responsible design tips for smart, sustainable design:

  • When space planning, efficiently maximize the use of space by keeping the size of a building to a minimum—therefore, controlling the use of construction materials and other resources.
  • Make sure materials are produced in a socially responsible manner and from sources that promote safe manufacturing processes, engage in ethical business practices, and use local companies.
  • Use non-toxic and non-polluting products. An increasing variety of safe and che micalfree products are available from organic, hypoallergenic paint to fibers and woods that haven’t been treated with pesticides.
  • Reduce waste by using reclaimed or recycled materials. In general, materials and furniture can be repurposed, refinished, or otherwise refurbished. A great variety of environmentally conscious materials are starting to become more available: tiles, carpets, fabrics, furniture, and even sinks and counters made from recycled materials.
  • Use energy-saving construction and design materials with special attention to energy “linkage.” It’s also important to have good quality windows and doors to maximize energy efficiency due to insulating or heat-reflective properties. And hardwood flooring from rapidly renewable sources like bamboo is highly recommended.
  • Plan for energy-efficient lighting, in conjunction with lighting consultants, by incorporating windows and skylights to maximize daylight and minimize artificial light. When artificial lighting is needed, LEDs, halogens, and compact fluorescent light bulbs save energy and last longer.

Our decisions have a communal and environmental impact. In these critical times, this is an opportunity as designers to challenge our comfort zones and to use, merge, mix, and collaborate with other professionals and industries to promote informed thoughts behind every decision we make. By doing so, we’re turning a potential problem into a better world. Aesthetics are subjective, but facts are not.


Hilda Impey is the associate design director, FF&E for Wilson Associates, Dubai Studio. A highly experienced designer, Hilda specializes in FF&E. She earned her master’s degree in textile futures at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art & Design in London, United Kingdom, where in 2002 she obtained a distinction for her dissertation. Hilda has fostered a network of high profile clients including hotel operators, property developers, and high net-worth individuals.

Hilda Impey

Images provided by Wilson Associates.