Like many other households around the UK and Ireland, mine has long been indulging in Grand Designs. There is something simultaneously nostalgic and cutting-edge about the end result always being a thing of beauty (despite often flagrantly going over-budget), and it provides some much needed escapism.
While Grand Designs can transport us from our average living rooms and into a converted barn, a treehouse or a lighthouse-inspired home, the show and its presenter Kevin McCloud have always echoed the urgent need for sustainable construction practices.
No more so is this prevalent than in McCloud’s Green Heroes showcase. Green Heroes aims to shed a spotlight on groundbreaking eco-products and new-generation construction materials which promote sustainable living. If we want to live sustainably, the best place to start is at home.
McCloud has handpicked the shortlist of pioneering and beautiful products which will be showcased at Green Living Live at the Grand Designs Live event at NEC Birmingham from the 4th to 8th October 2023. While the products are remarkably diverse – from portable speakers to seaweed leather – they all share a common thread of commitment to the conservation of the planet, recycling used materials, and attention to design.
Let’s take a look at the shortlist of the 12 Green Heroes for 2023…
Kenoteq’s K-BRIQ® is the world’s first sustainable construction brick which boasts a high recycled content and involves circular economy processes. The K-BRIQ® has patents in the UK and US, which shows a promising future for this innovative design. Bricks are used in every construction, so it is essential that the very structures of our buildings have a sustainable footprint.
Gulp’s product is another one which should become a presence in any home with a washing machine. It captures microplastics which results in a much more sustainable laundry process. Every time we wash our clothes, up to 70,000 plastic fibres are released from our washing machines and into our waterways, making microfibres the largest source of microplastic pollution in the oceans. Gulp “swallows up plastics before the ocean does”. It is compatible with many washing machines and detergents and it even cleans itself, eliminating the need for disposable filters.
While not an essential per se, what is a home without music? Gomi’s portable speaker blends high quality sound with sustainability. Its casing is made from “non-recyclable” plastic bags and it’s powered by repurposed e-bike battery cells, and is also very easy on the eye. Even better, it offers a ‘repair for life’ guarantee, something which is entirely unique in the tech market.
FROND by Kylœ Ltd
Kylœ is a multidisciplinary design studio who is no stranger to innovating beautiful products. Frond is their project which created a leather alternative using seaweed, something that is vegan and in abundance.
When we think of home, for most people (who are fortunate enough) this stirs up a warm feeling. A home will never be warm, or eco-friendly, without good insulation. Mykor manufactures carbon-negative insulation. Its MykoFoam sheet is exclusively composed of renewable and bio-based materials sourced from industrial waste.
A large source of material waste comes from the fashion industry, but that doesn’t mean the materials have to stay in the fashion industry if they get recycled. Denimolite uses denim waste (denim uses staggering levels of water in production) and transforms it into premium quality sustainable products such as furniture, kitchenware and jewellery, all of which are impeccably stylish.
NONTALO by Eneris Collective
Design duo Eneris Collective has collaborated with Barcelona-based NaifactoryLAB (a biomaterials company) to produce a unique stool for kids made from waste olive pits. The stool is modular and can be assembled in various ways, which can also stimulate children’s creativity.
SHUTTERMATE by Sahar Ali
The French always get it right and nowhere is this more obvious than their use of shutters: chic and practical. ShutterMate, a product made by product design engineering student, Sahar Ali, uses innovative technology to create a shutter which is self-powered and automatically responds to temperature changes. It is also modular and customisable.
Scandinavian design has established itself at the forefront of sustainability and style, and Woodio, a Finnish new-age interior design brand certainly lives up to the expectation. Their stunning homeware products are made completely from water-resistant wood composite which provides a sustainable alternative to ceramics and stone materials.
Sugarcrete™ is the creation of the University of East London’s (UEL) MA Architecture cohort and Sustainability Research Institute (SRI) with the help of Tate & Lyle Sugars. It is a low-cost, low-carbon construction material which upcycles sugarcane by-products. It is a sustainable alternative to bricks and concrete.
This product creates lights from 3D printed, biodegradable, algae-based bioplastic. While algae can be highly beneficial, absorbing more CO2 and producing more oxygen than trees, phyto light is made from algae which, when allowed to spread out of control, damages marine life. Their design is sculptural and earth-toned.
PIC SMART PLUG
The PIC smart plug couldn’t have come at a better time, when the cost of living and utilities are straining many households. The device harnesses and stores inexpensive energy produced at off-peak hours, to subsequently release it later in daily power rituals such as phone charging and kettle boiling. It is up to 10 times cheaper than standard electricity rates. This product is simply plugged into an existing double plug socket so it can be used by renters to upgrade their home without costing thousands.
Grand Designs remains the home of our world’s greatest designs, and this Green Heroes list is proof of that. Grand Designs Live celebrates its 18th year this year with an event taking place from Wednesday 4th October – Sunday 8th October (10am – 5pm) in the NEC Birmingham. Standard tickets are £13 to £16 and can be bought here or on the door for £17 (weekday) or £20 (weekend). Children and carers go free.