Lighting the way for sustainable design
Kanebridge News
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Lighting the way for sustainable design

New Zealand’s best known furniture designer David Trubridge celebrates 20 years of his iconic pendant light

By Robyn Willis
Fri, Dec 22, 2023 7:00amGrey Clock 4 min

David Trubridge is not one for standing still.

Whether it’s finding his own path in seldom explored parts of the world, or reviewing the production processes of his internationally recognised lighting range, the English-born designer is, it would seem, in a constant state of movement.

That’s not to say he is always working.

For Trubridge, who has made his life in Aotearoa New Zealand, taking time to explore areas as diverse as Antarctica and Iceland through to Patagonia and remote parts of Australia, is about giving himself time just to be.

In Australia recently to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his emblematic Coral light at the Sydney Mondoluce store, as well as their affiliates in Brisbane and Hobart, he made time to take a hike through Tasmania.

“I need that ability to recharge,” he says. “I love to get right off the trail because when you stick to the path, there’s a safety factor where you know you will always find your way back. 

“I want to find my own course, and see where it leads me. That’s my design philosophy too.”

Trubridge likes to take the road less travelled to mentall recharge.

Trubridge’s path to success is the stuff of legend. A self-taught designer and furniture maker, he studied naval design and had already enjoyed professional success on a small scale while living in the UK, initially creating pieces of furniture for his family and smaller clients before expanding to commissions for significant sites such the Victoria & Albert Museum and St Mary’s Cathedral In Edinburgh. 

In the 1980s, Trubridge and his wife Linda decided to sell their house, buy a yacht and set sail with their two children, arriving in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1985. By 1988, he had exhibited at the National Furniture Exhibition at Auckland Museum. 

As his opportunities expanded, the Trubridges sold their yacht in the early 1990s, using the money to fund building their own home — and a studio for David. Local interest in their house was such that Trubridge went on to design a number of homes in the area.

The Coral pendant propelled Trubridge’s work onto the international stage.

Designs for more furniture followed, notably, the Body Raft bench, which Trubridge took to the Milan Furniture Fair in 2000, where it was picked up by Italian design powerhouse Capellini.

Interested in the applications of plywood but, Trubridge turned his attention to lighting, resulting in the Coral design. Again, Trubridge made the trip to Milan in 2004, where it was warmly received — and an ‘overnight success’ story was born. 

”I was a guy in a shed in the backyard when Capellini picked up the Body Raft bench,” he says. “The market for handmade furniture in New Zealand was very small and I was looking for a bigger market.”

Twenty years on, the Coral design has been joined by a range of biophilic pendant lights, including the Toru, the Navicula and the Kōura. All made from bamboo plywood and shipped out to clients in kit form to reduce the amount of packaging and space required, the lights are designed to be both sculptural and throw shadow patterns. 

The Navicula pendant is inspired by microscopic diatoms, a type of plankton, that produce half the air we breathe.

While the lights are highly successful commercially, it’s evident that Trubridge continues to strive for improvement, particularly in terms of environmental impacts. 

“The design process does not really change much for me,” he says. “It is more important for me where we source the materials,” he says. “A lot of the embodied energy you can’t recycle. I would like to source a new material that is of our land, that is compostable and recycled. I’ve been looking at New Zealand flax which is very fibrous, like hemp.”

In the meantime, he has eliminated almost all plastics from the production process in recent years and he is exploring energy efficient lighting options beyond LEDs. For every Toru light sold, $50 goes to Sustainable Coastlines, a New Zealand charity committed to keeping the country’s beaches clean and plastic free.

While there is still much work to be done in terms of sustainability, Trubridge is hopeful.

“There is an awful long way to go but the mood is there, I think. There will be some big changes,” he says.

“We are trying to achieve sustainability and we are working towards it. We are always trying to improve and do better. How can we supply the things that people need that have the least impact?”

Only time — and more work — will tell. 

 



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The pressure on companies to cut their carbon footprint is coming more from within the organisations themselves than from customers and regulators, according to a new report.

Three-quarters of business leaders from across the Group of 20 nations said the push to invest in renewable energy is being driven mainly by their own corporate boards, with 77% of U.S. business leaders saying the pressure was extreme or significant, according to a new survey conducted by law firm Ashurst.

The corporate call to decarbonise is intensifying, Ashurst said, with 30% of business leaders saying the pressure from their own boards was extreme, up from 25% in 2022.

“We’re seeing that the energy transition is an area that is firmly embedded in the thinking of investors, corporates, governments and others, so there is a real emphasis on setting and acting on these plans now,” said Michael Burns, global co-head of energy at Ashurst. “That said, the pace of transition and the stage of the journey very much depends from business to business.”

The shift in sentiment comes as companies ramp up investment in renewable spending to meet their net-zero goals. Ashurst found that 71% of the more than 2,000 respondents to its survey had committed to a net-zero target, while 26% of respondents said their targets were under development.

Ashurst also found that solar was the most popular method to decarbonise, with 72% of respondents currently investing in or committed to investing in the clean energy technology. The law firm also found that companies tended to be the most active when it comes to renewable investments, with 52% of the respondents falling into this category. The average turnover of those companies was $15.1 billion.

Meanwhile, 81% of energy-sector respondents to the survey said they see investment in renewables as essential to the organisation’s strategic growth.

Burns said the 2030 timeline to reach net zero was very important to the companies it surveyed. “We are increasingly seeing corporate and other stakeholders actively setting and embracing trajectories to achieve net zero. However, greater clarity and transparency on the standards for measuring and managing these net-zero commitments is needed to ensure consistency in approach and, importantly, outcome,” he said.

Legal battles over climate change and renewable investing are also likely to rise, with 68% of respondents saying they expect to see an increase in legal disputes over the next five years, while only 16% anticipate a decrease, the report said.

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