Sustainable Design is a Shared Responsibility
The secret to creating public space products with long lifespans is making them part of a regular maintenance routine. Outdoor products require continuous care, necessitating discussions between manufacturers and public space stakeholders even before they are produced. At Nola, design plays a key role in making products that require minimal maintenance while still offering maximum durability.
Producing maintenance-free products for outdoor environments is ambitious, both in the design brief and in the commissioning process. Perhaps the first step is addressing what ‘maintenance-free’ actually means and questioning what the term implies in terms of sustainability. Materials that can be classified as maintenance-free, such as certain types of metal and concrete, are often made using production processes that counteract the benefits afforded by their long lifespans. Wood materials generally result from low-impact production processes, but wooden products are rarely maintenance-free. On the other hand, wood can often be treated with technologies that make it more durable and longer-lasting.
— It is absolutely crucial to consider the entire life cycle of a product, from the purchase of raw materials to their manufacturing, distribution, assembly and use, and ultimately the care, repair, recycling and reuse. The combination of these factors determines whether the product is sustainable or not, says Henrik Edlund, Nola’s CEO.
“Overlooking quality or the importance of maintenance and repair can be costly further on.”
Durability has always been a key component of Nola's methodology, from both environmental and quality perspectives. Through choosing sound materials and insisting on quality design, Nola create the right conditions for making outdoor products last a long time. That said, it is actually the care and maintenance of the products that determine their actual lifespan, and this responsibility is shared by all.
— Some would claim that it’s irresponsible to procure furniture solely on the basis of having the lowest purchase price, continues Henrik. “Overlooking quality or the importance of maintenance and repair can be costly further on if the products wear out to the point of needing to be replaced rather than merely repaired.”
Stortorget, located in the heart of Kalmar, contains park benches produced by Nola. The benches are robust designs made from steel and wood which are easy to maintain, giving the seating a long lifespan.
When collaborations between clients and manufacturers are meaningful, they can result in truly sustainable environments that are durable both economically and ecologically. The Swedish municipality of Kalmar, for example, has an ambitious and well-considered maintenance programme for its outdoor wooden furniture. Staff from the municipality’s Parks & Recreation department regularly maintain the wooden furniture Nola produced in 1997 for the town square. Today, these products remain as attractive as they were the day they were installed.
“In our view, durability is as much of a question of form as it is of quality”
— Kalmar municipality manages their investments well and understands their responsibility for the furniture’s lifespan, explains landscape architect Anders Linder, who commissioned the furniture Nola produced for Kalmar’s historic centre. “For example, we choose not to bolt the benches to the ground, which means that we can store them inside during winter months and carry out maintenance and repairs at that time.” Kalmar municipality is dedicated to regular routines and preparing detailed condition reports as they perform maintenance and make repairs. “It's not a new invention,” Anders points out, “but a matter of course for long-term planning.”
Anders is referring to Nola’s Arcadia bench, which is no longer in production today. Those looking for similar outdoor products will find a wide variety of wooden designs in our collection. In addition to assembly manuals, all products come with material-specific care guidelines and instructions for how to disassemble them to ensure the best possible maintenance, storage and repair.
— We have a role to play in the product’s lifespan, but it takes collaboration to make it work for the long term, explains Henrik. “If the products are well-cared for, they will become more beautiful over time. In our view, durability is as much of a question of form as it is of quality. We put a lot of effort into producing furniture that can be appreciated for a long time and won’t be replaced just because people get tired of the appearance.”
Kalmar Municipality’s workshop where the products are repainted and revarnished, and where wooden parts can be replaced with new ones if needed.
At Nola, design has always been deployed as a powerful tool that can guarantee a product’s durability from the outset. By working with some of the industry's most talented designers, we ensure that design and aesthetics work together to create products of the highest quality.
— Whether it's a centuries-old town centre that needs to be revamped or a newbuild in a modern neighbourhood, we have products that can melt into the surroundings and remain relevant over time, says Henrik, reflecting on the past and imagining the future.