Fitted kitchens may not sound like the areas of technology that I usually cover, but a recent press release caught my eye from Danish tech start-up Stykka that highlights a direction that many consumer products must move toward if we are to become more sustainable and develop a circular economy that reduces and reuses resources through recycling and repurposing.
Back in 2020, I wrote about a new open-source desk design from Danish start-up Stykka. LastDesk was designed for people working from home and included some interesting features, including the ability to customize the desk by adding accessories that could be both designed and marketed by third parties. Stykka developed the LastDesk as an open-source furniture design in the hope of attracting other companies to develop a range of add-ons such as power strips, task lamps and other useful items that would extend the usefulness of the desk over many years.
Now Stykka is taking its format for innovative and sustainable furniture into the kitchen with a new range of products. We all need a kitchen and many of us change our kitchens quite frequently to take account of changing tastes or simply wear and tear. Each year, many old kitchen units and worktops end up going to landfill or being incinerated. According to Stykka, 91% of the world’s raw materials end up being used just once. Stykka wants to change this change from the current “take-make-waste” approach to a tech-infused circular product design. The company has announced its first product for the construction industry in the form of LoopKitchen.
The average fitted kitchen gets replaced after 11.4 years. Kitchens and other types of built-in furniture are some of the most wasteful materials used in the construction industry. To reduce this level of waste, Stykka has rethought how kitchens are designed and manufactured, creating what it describes as the world’s first truly circular and market-ready kitchen. LoopKitchen is manufactured using high-quality materials and is designed to last a lifetime as well as being easy to upgrade, remodel and recycle.
Each LoopKitchen is constructed alongside a digital or virtual twin that can easily be accessed through a unique QR code that’s located underneath the sink. The digital twin of the kitchen holds a list of every part used in the kitchen’s construction and it’s linked to Stykka’s online maintenance platform where replacement parts or upgrades can be ordered.
Digital twins play a key role in helping Stykka to overcome some of the industry’s most urgent sustainability challenges. They are a central component in prolonging the lifespan of almost any product by keeping an identical digital facsimile of what has already been installed and providing the infrastructure necessary to develop a circular economy.
Not all parts of a kitchen get exposed to the same levels of wear and tear during its lifetime. Over time, people change what they want from a kitchen as well as experiencing shifts in their tastes when it comes to color or design. To accommodate this, Stykka has made it possible for a kitchen to be upgraded with new modules and functionality through a series of upcoming partnerships with third parties. Customers can order new cabinet fronts or worktops to change the look and feel of their tired kitchen. Old parts can be returned to Stykka for refurbishing or to be remanufactured before being sent put back into the circular economy to begin another life.
To keep track of the versioning, history and traceability of all the parts used in a LoopKitchen, Stykka has developed a digital tracking system for all the wooden parts. It’s called TrackID and each kitchen component contains a unique RFID chip that’s connected to a cloud database that can provide accurate information on the environmental impact, location and condition of the products. TrackID can be used to to close the loop of the circular design by giving correct and accurate data, efficiently reducing waste and extending the kitchen’s life cycle considerably.
In practise, what this means is that a kitchen could potentially last a human lifespan and be refreshed as various parts wear out or as the homeowner’s aesthetic tastes change. The digital twin keeps track of the parts that have been fitted or replaced and it can be referenced to select any new parts needed to refresh or repair the kitchen.
Because the design of the LoopKitchen is a modular, everything fits together to create a customizable design with fittings that remain the same size and fit over time. The functionality, color and look of the kitchen modules may change, but the pieces will always fit together in the same way. Anyone who has ever tried to replace a kitchen cabinet hinge will know exactly what I mean.
Because of increasing concern for the environment, we are seeing a move towards more sustainable products that can slot into a circular economy. The impetus is mostly coming out of Scandinavia with Danish manufacturers leading the way. Bang & Olufsen now makes wireless speakers that are designed for long-term use and which can be rebuilt many years in the future using new technology, thanks to the use of high-quality materials and a layout that’s designed to adapt and last.
Perhaps the inspiration for this movement comes from Lego. The Danish company has been making children’s construction toys since 1949 and a Lego brick of 50 years ago will still fit a brand-new Lego set today. It looks like Stykka is trying to do something similar with the LoopKitchen and I wouldn’t mind betting that the concept might even spread to Ikea. The Swedish furniture giant is showing even more interest in sustainability and has a volume of sales that could make a huge difference in the development of the circular economy.
More info: www.stykka.com