As more and more people become aware of the need for sustainable living, it's no surprise that the repurposing of things has become the norm. According to a survey conducted by The Property Marketing Strategists and UPP, 73% of UK students would be comfortable using second-hand furniture. This trend is particularly popular among Gen Z, who are becoming more conscious of their environmental impact.
While the idea of using second-hand furniture in PBSAs is appealing, it's not always easy to implement. However, the interest in this topic is undeniable and there are new startups trying to respond to these issues.
One example is Haazar, which is an app that helps students exchange items in a sustainable and affordable way. But second-hand items are not just limited to furniture - students can exchange anything from clothes to books. Operators could take this idea further by providing an in-house exchange system, where residents can drop off items they no longer need. This would not only promote sustainable living but also create social interactions among residents. This space could generate lots of social interactions before events and parties where you can find your surprisingly good last-minute outfit. There is something elegant and fun in sharing resources and designers can embrace this trend by creating flexible spaces that can adapt to changing needs.
But what if we wanted to be more proactive and design the interiors for the amenities and bedrooms using second-hand furniture, rather than limiting its use to a marketplace just for students? There would be a few challenges.
- First of all, most second-hand furniture available on sites like eBay is not suitable for commercial use. And therefore also not upholstered in fire-rated or anti-stain fabrics.
- If a designer wanted to get some of these pieces reupholstered, a procurement company would need to collect the items, ship them to their factory, reupholster them, and finally ship them to the site. This additional step often means that the final cost is likely not going to be cheaper than a brand-new item.
- There is also the added issue of the warranty, which commercial developers usually require for PBSA and coliving buildings. But who is going to provide a warranty on third-party second-hand furniture?
- Lastly, we need to consider that there's no guarantee that the pieces will still be available at the time of procurement. Often in PBSA projects, the initial furniture sourcing can happen several months before the items are actually procured. By the time they are ready to be purchased, they are likely going to be out of stock. The items would need to be purchased too early in the process and stored somewhere, which is almost impossible if a procurement company is not yet appointed and the overall budget is not yet approved. This is a point that we often raise with developers: it would be great if we could re-think the procurement process and find solutions.
Some companies are already trying to solve these issues. For example, one option to purchase second-hand furniture (some of which is suitable for commercial spaces) is LOFT OUTLET, a newly-launched pre-loved furniture solution for property developers and we look forward to using it. Another company we love working with is Vinterior, an online marketplace for pre-owned vintage furniture and antiques. Although this is a great start, at A Designer at Heart we strongly believe that further collaboration with developers is still needed. We wish that in the future shopping from this kind of store will become the norm for PBSA projects and efficiently fit within the procurement process.
The trend toward sustainable living is here to stay, and PBSA operators and designers need to adapt and evolve. Proper collaboration between designers, operators, developers and furniture companies could potentially revolutionise the way we look at second-hand furniture in commercial projects. Ultimately, embracing sustainability in PBSAs can lead to a better quality of life for residents while also promoting environmental consciousness.
More articles of this series:
Creating Semi-Private Living Spaces: Our Response to Gen Z's Need
Designing for Wellness: Our Response to Gen Z's Need
Movie Nights & Flexibility: Our Response to GenZ's Needs
Cover image: A Designer at Heart, interior design for the refurbishment of West Hampstead PBSA in London - Over 40% of the existing furniture was repurposed, reupholstered and reused.