In 2008, Alexander Elias Architecture was asked to work with KwikEco, a retail start-up, on a conceptual design for their first store. KwikEco can best be described as an environmentally friendly convenience store, one that demystifies and makes affordable a wide range of sustainable products for consuming public.
Our design proposal was based a system of prefabricated, reusable modules consisting of wall/ ceiling assemblies, and storage, display, and transactional components. The design process was guided by the Hanover Principles which outlined 9 concepts for a sustainable human society. Four of them were applicable to the conceptual design of the KwikEco installation:
Accept responsibility for the consequences of design decisions upon human well-being, the viability of natural systems and their right to co-exist.
Create safe objects of long-term value. Do not burden future generations with requirements for maintenance or vigilant administration of potential dangers due to the careless creation of products, processes or standards.
Eliminate the concept of waste. Evaluate and optimize the full life cycle of products and processes to approach the state of natural systems, in which there is no waste.
Understand the limitations of design. No human creation lasts forever, and design does not solve all problems. Those who create a plan should practice humility in the face of nature. Treat nature as a model and mentor, not as an inconvenience to be evaded or controlled.
More specifically, the KwikEco installation employs these sustainable ideas:
Material economy. Typical retail build-outs use materials that must be discarded when the store closes, moves or changes hands. Shelving and casework aside, little can be reused. The KwikEco installation will consist of modular, reusable components that will allow KwikEco stores to be disassembled and rebuilt, in whole or in part, elsewhere. The modules will be designed to use a minimum amount of material required to satisfy their function. Their portability requires this as well.
Energy Economy (construction). The KwikEco modules will be constructed under controlled conditions so as to minimize or eliminate waste. This will not only control production costs, but also minimize the amount of on-site labor required to install a KwikEco store.
Energy Economy (use). The light, reflective surfaces of the modules will create a clean, open retail environment that will attract customers and engender a satisfying shopping experience. The modules will employ state of the art lighting and lighting control devices to use a minimum amount of generated power to maximum effect. Wherever and to the greatest extent feasible, KwikEco stores will use natural lighting.
Versatility and Adaptability. The display, storage and customer interface modules can be used in a variety of combinations to customize the retail space to any store layout or sales plan. Modules can be reused and traded between local stores to minimize the amount of material in circulation and afford individual KwikEco retailers inexpensive customization.
Legibility. The KwikEco retail environment is one that promotes education, understanding and the real-time sharing of information about the products and services sold through each store. Accordingly, every KwikEco store will be easy to navigate and understand. For example, product sections will be separated by built-in “divider tabs” that will clearly mark each section without interrupting the visual flow of the space. Conveniently located customer interface stations will help customers navigate the rapidly expanding market of sustainable products and share their experiences with fellow users.