Sustainability and Collaborations at IKEA Democratic Design Days 2019

On Monday evening, I arrived at IKEA home – Älmhult, a small town of just 9,000 inhabitants in Sweden, to attend the annual Democratic Design Days. This year’s focus has been on sustainability, and within the 2-day event, a series of cool things have been announced in this area, some very exciting collaborations, and a project of rethinking cities and living with Space10, which I love!

Beyond CSR and business with purpose, IKEA integrates sustainability into its business directions, and this is essential to make the transition to a clean economy. We shouldn’t need NGOs and philanthropy to make things right, we need companies to do business responsibly, socially and environmentally. Instead of fixing problems, we should try not to generate them in the first place. We have to go from being always reactive to becoming proactive. It’s smarter and more efficient.

How a sustainable event looks like

No prints, no PETs, no waste and no useless stuff. Upon registration, we received a water bottle and a coffee mug which we could refill in different areas, all these in a beautifully designed bag that made my girlfriend extremely happy when returning home. For the agenda and access to resources, useful information and locations, there was an event app (Hello, 2019), where we also received notifications when things happened or when surprises occurred. Well done, IKEA!

Democratic Design Days 2019

IKEA’s vision is ‘to create a better everyday life for the many people’, and alongside the 5 Democratic Design Principles, they are the foundation of everything IKEA does and creates. At one of the interview sessions we found out how everything they develop starts from setting a price tag, from which they do not deviate so they have to innovate to get a product that complies with all five principles:

  1. Form – all products should look very good
  2. Function – to be useful and comfortable to make life easier
  3. Quality – be more durable than competitive and more sustainable than I promise you to be surprised
  4. Sustainability – this has an environmental, social and financial efficiency component, reduces waste to a minimum
  5. Affordability – not cheap, but affordable, even if it is the ultimate principle, is actually the most important since innovation begins after they have set the price they need to get to

The event also took place in several buildings, sometimes different things were happening in the same time. We heard all the announcements in the 2 Spotlight Sessions, but we also had Interviews, Presentations, Tests, Museum Visits, and Interactions with products. I organised by theme all IKEA announced, but I have also added some things that were previously announced, but they are still new for the people.


  • Sonos (speakers in furniture bodies or speakers as supports, super high quality sound at a great price)
  • Ori – ROGNAN, Moving robotic furniture – super cool
  • UNYQ și Area Academy – chairs with 3D pieces made specifically for the body shape of gamers
  • Greyhound Original – small, low budget, repurposing stuff
  • Adidas – how to make more sports at home, the first products will appear in 2021
  • LEGO – gama BYGGLEK, pentru mai multă joacă acasă, aici nu au fost clari cu ce lansează, dar o să apară în 2020
  • Claus Meyer, co-founder of Noma Restaurant – More Sustainable, More Fresh Food in IKEA Restaurants
  • Saint Heron – how to bring art at home, combine art into functional objects – why having to go to the museum always?!
  • Zandra Rhodes, famous British designer – to create textiles with colours, patterns. I can not wait, I love th crazy stuff Zandra is doing

Sustainability Announcements at DDD2019

IKEADDD2019 was both an amazing and useful experience, which, beyond all, made me more optimistic. What IKEA and other similar, large and innovation-oriented companies are doing, serve as examples of good practice for other large, medium and small companies.


  • MUSSELBLOMMA – a collection made partly of recovered plastic, originating in the Mediterranean Sea. Launching on the selected markets will take place in 2019.
  • Recycled Polyester – As part of the transformation into a circular business, IKEA aims to replace all virgin polyester products with recycled polyester by 2020.
  • A new collaboration with the World Wide World Surf (WSL), a partnership where IKEA and WSL will collaborate on a climate awareness awareness project and will inspire action to reduce the pollution of the ocean.

#clean air

  • Indoors: Climate and Clean Air – IKEA joins the United Nations Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CACC) to advance what it learned from the Better Air Now initiative and develop solutions for burning crop residues and reducing pollution air. Until now, they have developed curtains that purify GUNRID air and now work on mechanical cleaners. Bonus, here is a guide [PDF] on how to breathe cleaner air step by step.
  • OUTDOORS: FÖRÄNDRING – a collection made from rice straw, a residue that is traditionally burned, which contributes to local air pollution. The launch will take place in some markets in autumn 2019.


  • SAMMANLÄNKAD – a collection in collaboration with Little Sun and his founder, artist Olafur Eliasson. The ambition behind the collection is to provide tools for everyday life where renewable energy contributes to a better and more independent life.

#food and urban farming

  • Alternative meatballs 😀 with meat taste, but from vegetable protein – beyond the direct impact, the indirect impact is also important. Eating healthier food it is also good for our health but it also mitigate global warming and is fair to animals
  • Urban Farming – news about Tom Dixon’s collaboration through which IKEA is exploring affordable solutions to grow plants and vegetables at home.

#cities and living

Lately, I have researched everything happening around the world in terms of innovation in cities and dwelling, and so far the only company doing interesting things was happening was Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet (Google), making a mega a project in Toronto in a public-private partnership, of rethinking communities. Finally, there is something happening now in Europe as well, which I think, is more interesting: the Urban Village Project.

IKEA, in partnership with Space10 and EFFEKT Architects, has launched the urban village project, but this is such an amazing initiative that it deserves a separate article. It’s almost everything I hoped a project like this to be, some stuff took me by surprise (positive), and in others, I think it’s room for better, but overall, it’s wow. And there is also the collaboration with Ikano Bostad in The better living project I would strongly recommend to look into.

  • RÅVAROR, a collection of 20 flexible, modular products that will be launched in September 2020 for small spaces.

I am also going to write a separate article about the extraordinary experience at IKEA TEST LAB. I was blown away. Stay tunned.

This article is part of Pursuing Sustainability, a series of articles where I find and write about organisations and events that are examples of good practice in terms of sustainability.

What is a Passive House and why it matters, easy explained

At the end of May, I attended the “Certified Professionals in execution for Passive House” course, organized by URBAN-INCERC under the Train-to-NZEB program. From now on, I am a Certified Passive House Tradesperson, attested by Passivhaus Institut (PHI) in Darmstadt, Germany, as a result of the exam passed. Das cool!

For the wide audience, passive, active, nZEB or NZEB, eco or green are often confused and there is enormous or unnecessarily complicated information online, so I decided to write summarily about these concepts. If you want to learn more about this subject, there will be several courses for learning and certification at URBAN INCERC, details at the end of the article.

In short: If you want to have lower priced bills, a smaller negative impact on the environment and a healthier indoor environment, Passive House Certification gives you the following: the confidence that design and execution are  qualitative and according to the requirements of the standard.

Why is it called passive? Because it refers to how the building is heated, namely passive, meaning it can be done only through the ventilation system with heat recovery, the temperature of the people inside and the solar input, due to very good insulation that reduces almost complete heat loss.

So the Passive House is a voluntary certificate given by an institute and comes with a diploma that looks like this, either you can put it on the front of the house for everybody to see, or keep it in the drawer as a guarantor of the house quality.

The principles of a passive house

  1. Continuous thermal insulation, sufficiently thick and of good quality
  2. Effectively oriented windows, doors and openings to maximize the solar intake in the winter time, and minimize it during summer
  3. The watertight building envelope, to prevent air and water infiltrations.
  4. Reducing heat bridges to the minimum to prevent heat loss
  5. Mechanized ventilation, with heat and humidity recovery

The 5 Passive House Criteria

  1. Heat demand for heating max 15 kWh/m2/year or heat load for heating max 10 W/m2
  2. Annual cooling demand max 15 kWh/m2/year
  3. Annual primary energy consumption max 60 kWh/m2
  4. High air sealing n50 ≤ 0.6 shifts/hour
  5. Frequency of overheating max 10%

Advantages of a passive house

  • Uniformity of temperatures resulting in higher comfort
  • There are no direct cold air streams, meaning a healthier and more enjoyable environment
  • you have no dampness because the design and execution have been well done
  • you pay less monthly money for the entire time you will stay in the house, the cheapest energy is the one you don’t consume
  • You will spend 50% of your time in a healthier air
  • You will be ready for legislative changes
  • You will be part of pollution reducement and indirectly reduce your CO2 footprint
  • Devalues harder but you want to resell or rent it
  • EU Directive 2010/31 / EU will enter in effect on 31 December 2018, all new public buildings will have to be nearly zero energy buildings (nZEB), and from 31 December 2020 it will be mandatory for all new buildings to be nZEB.
  • The European Union has a very high consumption per habitant, compared to the global average and takes steps to promote inefficient buildings and subsequently to ‘fine’ them.

Mythbusters about passive houses

  • passive houses don’t have windows -> they do and even many and larger, efficiency matters
  • a passive house cannot be built of any material -> yes it can, it only counts efficiency, there are certifications for materials, which gives you confidence, it is recommended, but not mandatory for the process
  • it is only for new homes -> already built houses can be certified too
  • there are many passive houses -> a home is certainly passive only if it has certification
  • you cannot open the windows in a passive house -> you can, but only if you want, not because you have to
  • the air is frowst -> only if there’s something wrong with the house
  • passive houses are ugly -> many of them are, but this is a problem with the architect/beneficiary
  • only houses can be certified as passive -> certification is not only for homes but also for office buildings, schools, covered swimming pools, etc.

Costs for passive house

  • Initial investment costs are only 10-20% higher
  • Operating costs are 80% of the total cost of a home
  • A passive house, even if it has a slightly higher initial cost, it pays off quickly: 5-10 years
  • There are also indirect costs that cannot be quantified in as far as the benefits of a passive house for health, productivity and preservation of value over time
  • can reduce heating costs by up to 75%

Minuses and pluses to other certifications

Pluses: Certified with seniority, trustworthy, financially accessible, you can easily find resources, materials, technologies and certifiers. Compared to other certifications, the construction is assessed also, not just the design part.

Minuses: It doesn’t consider the water or material side, the CO2 footprint of the materials or their toxicity, the level of indoor lighting or the amount of natural light, etc.

What other certifications still exist for buildings

  1. The Energy Efficiency Certificate (Slab) issued by authorized energy certifiers
  2. LEED, developed by the US Green Building Council, the best known and spread
  3. BREAM, the property of Building Research Establishment in the UK, and 8 years older than LEED, more widespread in Europe
  4. LBC, developed by the Living Building Institute, is the most severe building sustainability certification system

Ok, and what is nZEB, NZEB, eco, sustainable and green, energy independent or renewable house?

  • nZEB and NZEB are not certifications, but they are described at the national level and means nearly Zero Energy Building and Net Zero Energy Buildings = they need to produce locally and from renewable sources as much energy as they consume annually
  • active, eco, sustainable and green are vague terms, abusively used by everyone for everything, hence the necessity for BREAM, LEED, LBC, etc certifications.
  • energy independent means you can produce by yourself the energy you need, all year long, you are supposed to not be connected to the network and have a storage system.
  • the renewable house doesn’t exist yet and I heard this said about the EFdeN house. It would mean that in the event of a malfunction, it can fix itself. But there are already such materials (even in the EFdeN house, the kitchen counter), but today there is nothing at such a complex level as a home. The confusion comes from the fact that energy is produced from renewable sources.


Passive House is a certification standard issued by an institution based on measurements made on a building.

There are 5 criteria that must be followed for insulation, openings, building envelope (outer closure), heat bridges and ventilation system.

Passive House is a certification that measures energy efficiency only, even if there are many positive health and comfort consequences in such a building.

BREAM, LEED and LBC are other certifications that monitor many things,  and they also take into account the materials used, their toxicity for the environment and habitat, the CO2 footprint of materials and types of equipment, the indoor comfort and health parameters, the level of lighting, etc. are.

Thank you Horia Petran and INCD Urban-Incerc Bucharest to support EFdeN project! Courses are not only for designers or consultants but also for future beneficiaries who want it. If you are interested, send email to and learn more about the 2 modules: I) Building Envelope and II) Installations.