Undoubtedly, exhibition stand design and build are aimed to feature the client and its products and services, reflect its brand image, convey a message as well as comply to budget constraints. Thus, brand and economic impacts are largely the first priorities. Environmental impacts, on the other hand, are seldom top of mind.
However, with today’s pressing environmental issues, a call for immediate environmental action is increasing, not only for exhibition stand builders. Likewise, the demand increases for sustainable business models and operation strategies across different sectors as more companies are looking to promote themselves in an environmentally-responsible way. Although reusing and recycling have long been practiced in the trade fair and exhibition stand builders industry, the processes involved still generate a considerable amount of carbon footprint. Thus, arise the need to heighten sustainability measures for exhibition stand design and build as well as at the operations level.
Here are some sustainability ideas that can be incorporated to minimize environmental impact without compromising brand image and creative designs:
When thinking of reusability, think of longevity- whether the design, materials and the building method can withstand the installation, dismantle and ultimately the test of time. That way stand elements such as demonstration and reception counters, podiums, shelving and even big structural elements such as stages, pillars or totems can be reused with minimal repair. Also, as stand builders we think ahead about future needs and requirements so that exhibition stand design and build can address flexibly to these.
The advancement in technology and newer forms of design and build have transformed stands to completely bespoke. Although modularity may still be the more sustainable option but tend to be less appealing, proper design can provide modularity with enough flair and dynamism. For instance, as stand builders we know that the use of modular systems composed of movable and interchangeable stacked cubes that can be disassembled and reassembled differently and thus unique layouts can be created at different exhibitions. This design approach captures both creativity and sustainability.
There are also small and simple design choices that reduce environmental impacts such as the use of lightweight materials which can easily be assembled and require less logistics cost and operations. Some of these include tensioned fabric, aluminium, interlocking cardboard, high-density foam, and inflatable structures. Loose elements, furniture and even AV equipment can also be rented by exhibition stand builders and suppliers rather than procured.
We are exhibition stand builders. Of course, we are big fans of lighting. As trade fairs are highly visual, lighting is essential to feature and highlight products, entrance ways, and to create overall ambiance. However, lighting is not only crucial to the success of the exhibition stand design and build in terms of aesthetics, but can also contribute to its overall sustainability, where utilized properly. The best way to treat lighting is to use energy-efficient LEDs or CFLs that can both create amazing lighting while consuming less energy. After the exhibition is done, exhibition stand builders should consider reusing these bulbs in other places such as offices and houses. At the policy-level, a good way to control lighting to ensure optimum productivity is to set lighting restrictions with trade fair organizers and venue providers such as maximum wattage per square meter or minimum lux level requirements.
Material selection and usage
A conscientious selection and usage materials can significantly reduce negative impacts to the environment. Coordinating with exhibition stand builders and providers will sure go a long way.
- Stand builders should choose materials that have been manufactured using clean processes, has low carbon content, low toxicity levels and do not involve harmful chemicals. Thus, where possible, these materials need to have an environmental certification guaranteeing its source and composition. Such materials include solvent-free paints, FSC certified wood, recycled plastic dais, pressed polyethylene boards, cardboard profiles and cellulose fabrics. Some other materials include organic compound-free adhesives and “green” water-based paints. Limit the use of wood with formaldehydes, paints, varnishes, acrylic, volatile solvents, PVC, among others.
- Opt for a sustainable alternative to wood. Stand builders will find that available in markets there are wood substitute made of cellulose fibres obtained from newspaper, cardboard packaging and agricultural by-products which can be made into the full range of forms and sizes.
- Use recycled and recyclable materials into such elements as furniture. Stand builders consider that a material is renewable when its scale of regeneration is compatible with the time scale of consumption. Such materials include wood, bamboo, paper, cardboard, cork, linoleum, cotton and linen.
- Lay fibre-mixed carpets that can be recycled. Otherwise, if the area is not too large, exhibition stand builders can use carpet tiles too.
- Go local: Source materials locally which reduces logistics cost and operations for stand builders and suppliers
- When using foliage, think of locally-available plant types. In addition, choose plant types that serve a purpose such as to improve air quality other than a piece of accessory. Also, choose low-maintenance types such as succulents. We are stand builders but we know a lot about nature and plants!
- In terms of giveaways, opt for handmade ones which may be tied-in to a local maker or institutions with advocacies. Doing so may help further these social and environmental advocacies and eventually puts both environmental and social responsibility together. Also, opt for giveaways that attendees will be able to use even the exhibition is over such as reusable water bottles.
Travel and Waste Management
Having the processes and supply chain management to ensure travel and waste are reduced where possible, will surely go a long way. Where possible for stand builders avoiding trips to the suppliers’ warehouses by creating small temporary warehouses in the venue will lessen transport cost and negative impacts. On the other hand, coordinating with the exhibition organizer as well as the venue provider to tackle waste management will provide exhibition stand builders essential information such as temporary collection points for different kinds of wastes and designated trash bins. This will not only lessen costs but ensure proper waste disposal. Some other measures include reducing catering waste by using Bio-ware material or reusable materials and avoiding the use of plastic.
Exhibition stand design and build goes green
Wastage amounts to bulk of the negative environmental impacts. Wasted carpets alone amount to as much as 10 metric tons of carbon emissions as small trade show can use 6.5 metric tons of carpet. Responsible measures can include renting and reusing as much of this carpet. For exhibition stand builders, avoiding designs that result in waste trim which means designing and building pieces exactly according to standard sizes of wood panels, tiles, plank, fabric and as mentioned, carpet tiles or rolls. Avoiding excessive curves can also help as more regular shapes and sharp edges are easier to produce. Stand builders could choose the type of joinery can also contribute largely as this dictates the reusability factor of stand materials and elements. Opt for Velcro, clip or pressure-fit connections over fixed joints such as glues, staples, nails or bolts. This makes it easier to dismantle items without destroying them. Also, minimise the number of joining points by opting for stronger materials, for instance, metal parts applied to railing structures and lightweight face panels, reduces environmental impact.
Going digital avoids excessive use of paper which end up the trash bins by the end of the exhibition. While brochures and printed promo materials are staple mainstays of exhibitions, technology has been able to provide alternatives with a whole lot of range of uses. Exhibition stand builders can design a creative use of tablets, dynamic displays on huge screens even virtual reality, to name a few. An exhibition app to collect visitor data can also be used instead of business cards which not only lessens paper usage but gives the benefit of saving participant contact information. Other digital approaches could also include use an app which stores information about products or services.
Evaluation and Assessment
Reducing the environmental impact of the exhibition stand design and build as much as is feasible is one thing but being able to translate these into measurable gauges can help evaluate and assess whether such approaches have significant effects. Carbon calculation & offsetting, done by technical experts in collaboration with stand builders, can calculate the remaining carbon emissions of the stand and offsetting these.
Sustainable exhibition stands
Going sustainable with exhibition stand design and build does not mean sacrificing brand image or budget. On the contrary, research shows organizations who show their environmental and social values benefit significantly. In fact, consumer attitudes improve as companies act on environmental and social issues where 93% have a more positive image of that company and 90% are more likely to trust that company.
Sustainability sure has not always been top of mind for stand builders. But what if the exhibition stand industry could use sustainability as the principal tool to build the brand, attract new customers or clients and build affinity among existing ones? As professional stand builders we think that this is a matter important enough to care about it and we are taking a real compromise with it.