Environmental standards are redefining luxury in cruise ship interior design
Fabiana Vale Dornelas, senior interior designer at YSA Design, advocates the use of sustainable materials on board passenger ships
Achieving environmental sustainability in the design and operation of any vessel is a crucial and complex undertaking, but the scale of the task is particularly evident for cruise ships. As passengers become increasingly aware of the environmental impact of cruising, passenger ships must achieve and demonstrate sustainability not only in their construction, but also in their interior design – from deck to furniture to decorative elements. .
“Almost everyone is aware that shipping does not have a positive impact on the environment, but most ships are not in the public eye like cruise ships are,” says Fabiana Vale Dornelas, senior interior designer at YSA Design. “Cruise passengers interact with materials on board ships, see them up close, and live among them for days, weeks, and even months at a time. Increasingly, they want to know how these materials affect the environment.
Such is the interest of modern cruise lines in environmental standards that the consumer power of passengers has come to act as a kind of regulation, pushing operators to provide a more sustainable cruise experience – or risk losing out to the competition.
“The pressure on cruise passengers is immense and comes from many angles,” says Dornelas. “Strengthening regulations are clearly an important factor, but customer expectations are just as important, so much so that environmental performance is now a major selling point. In modern cruising, the words “luxury” and “sustainability” are linked like never before. »
As a cruise ship interior designer, YSA Design has a responsibility to help owners and operators ensure that their ships meet regulations and customer expectations. The company therefore engages with suppliers to determine the origin of products and verify their sustainability credentials.
“Form and function have always been fundamental elements of architecture and design, but now we should see sustainability as of equal importance,” says Dornelas. “A product may be attractive and fit for purpose, but where does it come from? How is it done? Where will it end? These are the questions we need to ask our suppliers.
More often than not, Dornelas and his colleagues are pleased with the answers they receive to these questions, suggesting that positive change is already underway. Over the past few years, YSA Design has worked with a number of innovative and environmentally conscious suppliers.
One example is Mater, a Danish design brand whose Ocean table and chair collection challenges the furniture industry’s overreliance on virgin materials. Rather than exploiting natural resources further, Mater’s sustainable collection uses plastic waste and fishing nets scavenged from the ocean to create stylish furniture that can be taken apart and reused at the end of its useful life.
Another Danish brand, Kvadrat, followed a similar approach when designing its Reflect and Really textile solutions. To support a circular economy, Kvadrat manufactures its Reflect twill upholstery from recycled polyester, resulting in a material that is both durable and soft to the touch. For its Really line of hard-wearing table tops, the company recycles cotton and wool waste.
However, in addition to material development, application and reuse, sustainability in manufacturing is also a consideration, Dornelas explains. “Although the product itself ticks all the boxes in terms of sustainability, if the manufacturing process relies heavily on fossil fuels or other pollutants, it still has a negative impact on the environment,” she explains. . “As designers, we can help by sourcing environmentally friendly materials, but it’s ultimately up to the yard to know who works with them and how they work.”
Like Mater and Kvadrat, UK flooring systems specialist Forbo Flooring Systems is a supplier that places great emphasis on green design. Its Flotex FR flocked flooring combines the durability and cleanability of resilient flooring with the anti-slip and acoustic properties of textiles. Crucially, in manufacturing Flotex, Forbo only uses electricity from renewable sources, while the coloring process relies on water-based dyes and inks instead of harsh, polluting chemicals.
The importance of selecting the right products and suppliers cannot be underestimated, but there are other ways in which design can help minimize the environmental impact of cruising. According to Dornelas, simply using lighter colors and reflective materials to decorate cabins and public areas can save energy by reducing the need for artificial lighting. Carpets can also reduce energy consumption by increasing a room’s heat retention by up to 10%.
As a final example, Dutch manufacturer Bolidt demonstrates that sustainability in the supply industry is not a new concept. Its Bolideck Future Teak was developed more than 15 years ago, amid environmental concerns that teak forests were being decimated and the wood was not always of legal origin. Since then, this realistic resin-based alternative to traditional teak decks has been widely adopted by the cruise industry.
Cruising still has a long way to go to be considered a form of sustainable tourism, but with regulators and customers imposing environmental standards, and owners, yards, suppliers and designers working together to meet requirements, Dornelas says that the sector is moving in the right direction. .
“It’s great for the industry and the environment that luxury operators are treating sustainability as a competitive differentiator,” she says. “Hopefully, sustainable interiors will soon be seen as a necessity for all cruise ships, and environmentally friendly recyclable materials will be the norm.”