Companies, designers and retailers talk about the measures put in place to deal with the increases in electricity, fuel and raw materials

A survey by Maison&Objet reveals that the increase in bills is affecting 97 percent of professionals in the sector, equal to 8 out of 10 interviewed.

Designers, retailers, companies are adapting to rising prices with courage, flexibility (and sacrifice).

An example? 41 percent of those interviewed started production to order, among retailers there are those who turn off the lights in their windows an hour earlier, and designers save on travel and transfers by opting for Zoom meetings.

We interview two companies, two retailers and two design and architecture studios to understand how they are tackling the energy crisis. And how the contingent emergency is accelerating investments in more environmentally responsible practices.

Andrea Mulloni, head of sustainability at Arper

"The energy crisis is certainly a contingent emergency and, as such, we try to tackle it with concrete and immediate interventions, ranging from the lowering of the heating temperature to the optimization of lighting, we have been using twilight sensors in offices for years and we are switching to LEDs for outdoor lighting.

We also optimize travel and fuel consumption. These initiatives form part of a more complex design: developing and promoting a more responsible attitude towards the environment is one of our development goals as a company and growth as people.

Remaining in the area of ​​ travelling, we are promoting electric mobility with the installation of columns for recharging electric cars, and we have just launched a project which makes available of Arper people some bikes for the commute from home to work.

In the production processes we implement solutions and technologies that allow us to produce in a more sustainable way: all our latest collections go in this direction, from the use of recycled and recyclable plastics to certified woods, without forgetting the weight of shipments.

For example, the Aeeri table, designed by Peter Kunz and launched at the 2022 Furniture Fair, is made with a steel sheet with a minimum thickness of 4 millimeters, is light and compact and is shipped disassembled, in flat packaging to reduce volumes and optimize transport".

Davide Malberti, owner and financial director of Rimadesio

"We have a fairly energy-intensive production activity. In 2007 we equipped ourselves with a photovoltaic plant, we were the first in Italy in the furniture sector, then, in 2012, we built a second, and in 2016 a third.

These plants allow us today to face the energy crisis with more serenity. The data at the end of October confirm that the company is 60 percent self-sufficient thanks to the photovoltaic system, and we also sell a lot of electricity that we don't consume at the weekend.

Since June 2022 we have modified the working hours of the staff in the production plants, to make the most of the power of the solar panels.

We have also put in place virtuous practices, ranging from the most basic, how to use electricity carefully in offices, up to energy optimization in the production phase. We have reduced energy consumption in the two aluminum painting plants, and we have lowered the temperature of the drying ovens by 7.5 degrees, lengthening the permanence times of the products being cooked.

The end result is a saving of 720 kg of CO2 not dispersed into the environment per week, about 33 tons per year, reduced emissions which also mean less consumption.

We have intelligent 4.0 machinery that allow us to consume less electricity: for example, the glass and aluminum cooking ovens switch off by themselves based on the production load. We also adopt good practices in the showrooms: our flagship stores in London and New York, opened respectively in 2020 and 2022, have been designed with domotics in mind to optimize consumption.

We have reduced the use of lighting both in the Milan stores and in London and New York: at dusk the lights are partially on, and they go off at night.

To the increase in energy, we must add the increases in materials: aluminum and glass, our main materials, have doubled over the course of 2022, and the prices of paper and cardboard, which represent an important item of our budget, increased by 60%.

But thanks to our attentive behavior, photovoltaics and accurate financial management of the company, we are able to face the situation with serenity. We have increased prices by only 5%, and this allows us to close the year with positive results: at the end of October we recorded +22% abroad, and +17% in Italy compared to the year previous one.

We have 300 retailers nationwide and all with growing sales, people invest in durable goods, which stay at home for twenty years or more, just like our products".

Architects Ludovica Serafini and Roberto Palomba

"The energy crisis has an impact on the lives of all of us. As architects and planners we are among the first to be invested with this responsibility.

In everyday private life as well as in that of the studio, we manage energy wisely. We make more daily calls, remote speeches and talks, less physical travel.

We keep the heating turned down and off for a few hours of the day while working in a large open space, we have changed all appliances and light bulbs with better energy efficient models, we turn off all power supplies PCs and printers when not in use.

In terms of design, we have been integrating ecological and renewable energy sources into our architectures for some time, and in design we use more and more materials that allow us to reduce the amount of raw material.

Today we all live in artificial environments, constantly heated and cooled according to the season. This crisis will most likely teach us to deal more, in temperate periods, with the natural unfolding of the seasons, and through renewable and environmentally friendly energy sources, finding alternatives to traditional sources.

For many years our study philosophy with regard to architecture has been to develop km0 projects, with an evident reduction of waste and thus enhancing the territory, this represents a design choice as well as a figure aesthetics.

The emblem of this design is the Salento residence of Sogliano Cavour, such as the boutique hotel Palazzo Daniele.

As designers and producers of everyday consumer goods, we cannot overlook the fact that 8 billion people live together in the world today, for this reason, any product must start from the objective of reducing the amount of material used as much as possible, especially those that they require energy to be produced.

For example, with Ideal Standard we have developed and patented the new Diamantek ceramic, made with 40 percent less raw material, saving on the use of water and energy".

The designer Luca Nichetto

"I have two studios, one with four people in Stockholm, the city where I live, and another in Venice with four other collaborators.

The energy crisis is making itself felt in Sweden, but certainly less so than in Italy, because Sweden has nuclear power, the country does not depend on gas and the state provides aid to deal with bills.

In both offices we have reduced the temperature of the heating by a few degrees, and we turn off the lights when they are not needed. Furthermore, in Stockholm, we also use geothermal energy to heat the studio, plus I am considering installing photovoltaics.

Energy expenditure does not have such an impact on my activity as a designer, but it has a dramatic impact on the economy of Murano, a reality from which I come and with which I often work. The situation on the island is unsustainable, either the government intervenes or Murano will disappear.

Beyond the big brands, such as Venini and Barovier&Toso, the smaller furnaces are still, we are talking about two hundred realities managed by families. I have friends in the lagoon who have had to close because they received a gas bill of 70,000 euros.

Murano has many orders, but at the moment work is in fits and starts, the artisans only open a few days a week in which they concentrate production. In my opinion, beyond the current period of energy crisis, in order to save Murano, it must focus on premium-luxury production, on products of excellence.

We are living in a complex period. The energy crisis will probably lead companies to make more targeted investments, focusing on fewer products. Maybe it's an opportunity to understand that you don't necessarily have to grow year after year. And it's also the historic moment in which to make the right investments to then make a difference, make small or big improvements to be more efficient and work better, optimize space, become self-sufficient in terms of energy.

In my own small way, during the pandemic, I bought the space where I have my studio in Stockholm, and now I'm not in trouble due to the inflation that is causing rents to skyrocket.

At the same time, I'm reorganizing the studio from an organizational point of view, I'm hiring people to fill roles that we used to do internally in a multitasking way, I'm thinking about activities and services to offer to companies. The important thing is to be proactive and not passive".

Andrea Salvioni, purchasing manager of the Salvioni Design Solutions showrooms

"Since the second half of the year we have been suffering from electricity price increases, but it must also be said that we have been helped by government reimbursements on energy costs.

We have several stores in Switzerland, in Brianza and in Milan. To deal with the energy crisis we are installing photovoltaic in Brianza, both in the shop and in the warehouse, on an area of ​​about 500 square meters.

We have implemented small measures to reduce consumption and waste: we have modified the lighting scenarios, after closing time we switch off the windows, and when there are no customers on the floor the light goes off automatically.

In our Baxter flagship store in Milan we are carrying out various structural interventions to improve energy efficiency, installing large fans that push the hot air downwards, thus optimizing heating costs.

We are also updating the fleet, with more modern trucks, which consume and pollute less. With the energy crisis, inflation has also increased, and consequently the rent of properties, which for us resellers represent one of the major expenses.

Price lists have also increased, for the middle class the purchase of quality furniture risks becoming little accessible. Despite the critical general situation, our category is lucky because energy costs have an impact, yes, but less than production realities.

In terms of revenues, we had a good year, perhaps one of the best in our history".

Arch. Beatrice Frattali, owner and general manager of Frattali Show-rooms

"Very high bills have arrived, electricity costs have increased 5 times.

We have three stores in Rome: one of 3,000 square meters in via Aurelia, a Molteni&C|Dada single-brand store in piazza Cavour of 300 square meters, and finally one of 400 square meters in via Cassia.

We are trying to understand on a technical level whether it is possible to install solar panels, and in our showrooms we have recently reduced the intensity of night lighting.

Another effect of the price increases is the price increases: usually, the price lists increased by 5 percent every one or two years; this year, however, the price lists have risen several times up to increases of 10 or even 18 percent in one year, it is the first time that this has happened.

Fortunately, the year is progressing well as we are benefiting from the increased interest in housing triggered by the pandemic.

We sell less but with a higher value, our customers are entrepreneurs and professionals, basically only those who can afford it buy luxury furnishings, the market share has shrunk and the mid-range is the more impressed.

Energy price increases affect the entire supply chain of the furniture sector: there are many subcontractors who have closed, first due to a lack of raw materials raw, now for the unsustainable bills; as a result, sometimes furniture companies find themselves without some components or necessary processes that smaller contractors used to do in the production chain, and therefore there are delays in the delivery of the finished product.

In my opinion, the effects of energy price increases will be seen above all next year".