AFP General Manager, Oliver Cohnen Emphasises Sustainability at Idan Exhibition

Speaking at the annual International Designers Association of Nigeria (IDAN) exhibition event in Abuja, Oliver Cohnen, an Architect and Master of Carpentry as well as the General Manager of Abuja Furniture Production, said, “…with regard to the production of sustainable furniture and their challenges, it involves considering various aspects of the production process, including materials used, and the overall lifecycle of the furniture.”

According to Cohnen, “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle are the three fundamental principles that guide sustainable practices and environmental conservation efforts.” He added that, “…these principles are crucial for promoting responsible consumption, minimizing waste generation, and conserving resources. By incorporating these principles into furniture and interior design, we can contribute to a more sustainable future.”

Saying that sustainability is the concept of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, Cohnen added that “…it encompasses practices and approaches that aim to balance social, environmental, and economic considerations to create a harmonious and enduring system.” In a broader sense, the AFP General Manager continued, “Sustainability involves promoting responsible actions and making choices that minimize negative impacts on the planet, society, and the economy. It entails finding ways to preserve and protect natural resources, promote social equity and justice, and ensure long-term economic viability.”

AFP offerings at the Gana Street, Maitama Abuja AFP Showroom
AFP offerings at the Gana Street, Maitama Abuja AFP Showroom

Harping on the key principles and pillars of sustainability, which Oliver Cohnen identified as Social Equity, Economic Viability, Inter-generational Equity and Environmental Stewardship, the AFP general Manager further said, “Sustainability fundamentally, operationally involves conserving and protecting natural resources, minimizing pollution and waste, promoting biodiversity, and mitigating the impacts of human activities on ecosystems.”

On the production of sustainable furniture and its challenges, he said it involves considering various aspects of the production process, materials used, and the overall lifecycle of the furniture, with many key factors to consider. Cohnen submitted that in sourcing sustainable materials for quality furniture production, one of the primary challenges is finding and sourcing environmentally friendly and sustainable materials to produce furniture. This he added, includes materials like responsibly sourced wood, recycled or upcycled materials and non-toxic finishes or alternative materials like bamboo, cork, or recycled plastics.

Cohnen, however, cautioned that one must avoid materials associated with deforestation, or high carbon emissions, adding that ensuring a reliable and consistent supply of such materials can be a challenge, especially if they are not readily available in the market. Another challenge, he continued, includes cost considerations. This is to balance sustainability with affordability. He added that this can be a challenge, as consumers often consider price a significant factor in their purchasing decisions.

In consideration of design and functionality to optimize resource usage and minimize waste, the General Manager said that “creative furniture designs that are durable, timeless, and multifunctional, allowing for long-term use and adaptability, will take into consideration modularity to enable repair and replacement of specific components instead of discarding the entire piece. This may be a challenge, but a challenge with a creative promise and hope.”

Cohnen further said energy and water consumption and supply chain considerations are to collaborate with suppliers who follow sustainable practices, ensuring they meet environmental and ethical standards. Reducing energy and water consumption during the manufacturing process is an essential aspect of sustainability, adding that, “…in implementing energy-efficient technologies, optimizing production workflows, a consideration of renewable energy sources and using eco-friendly machinery can help minimize environmental impact.”

A manifestly well-rounded furniture production architect, Cohnen also professionally, and authoritatively submitted that the ability to conduct a lifecycle assessment to understand the environmental impact of a manufacturer’s furniture, from material extraction to disposal, is a top consideration. Under the circumstance, he added that “…furniture producers must use the findings to identify areas for improvement and implement sustainable practices throughout the entire lifecycle.”

Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach integrating sustainable practices across the entire supply chain, from sourcing materials to production, distribution, and end-of-life management. “Furniture manufacturers can contribute to a more sustainable industry by reducing environmental impact, conserving resources, and promoting responsible consumption and production. Collaboration with suppliers, industry partners, and regulatory bodies can also help overcome these challenges and drive the adoption of sustainable practices in this sector,” said the Julius Berger-AFP General Manager, Oliver Cohnen.

On beauty in terms of furniture manufacturing, he said that it is subjective and can vary based on a customer’s personal preferences, cultural influences, as well as design trends.

However, certain aspects and principles can be considered when defining beauty in furniture manufacturing, he said. “Aesthetically pleasing furniture can evoke emotions, create a sense of harmony, and be visually captivating. It may feature elegant lines, balanced proportions, and thoughtful details,” Cohnen explained, adding that the choice of materials being used can contribute to its beauty. He further submitted that “…skilful craftsmanship and attention to detail play a significant role in defining the beauty of the furniture. Precise joinery, seamless finishes, and impeccable upholstery contribute to a piece’s overall quality and attractiveness. The level of craftsmanship reflects the dedication and expertise of the artisans involved in its creation.”

AFP Commercial Manager, Norbert Kossmann (L) and AFP Head of Planning, Benny Brommer with a VIP Guest at the IDAN event Cocktail which held at the AFP State of the art Showroom at Gana Street, Maitama Abuja, recently
AFP Commercial Manager, Norbert Kossmann (L) and AFP Head of Planning, Benny Brommer with a VIP Guest at the IDAN event Cocktail which held at the AFP State of the art Showroom at Gana Street, Maitama Abuja, recently

The experienced furniture manufacturing expert further said that beauty in furniture goes beyond aesthetics and includes functionality. Well-designed furniture should serve its intended purpose effectively, providing comfort and usability. Functional beauty, Cohnen stated, is achieved when a piece fulfils its function seamlessly while retaining its visual appeal. He also listed timelessness, sustainability and emotional connection as other considerations for fulfilling furniture satisfaction.

On the future of manufacturing furniture, Cohnen said, “…it is likely to involve advancements in technology, materials, and practices that further enhance sustainability and reduce environmental impact. Innovations in materials science can lead to the development of new sustainable materials with enhanced properties. For example, bio-based composites, 3D-printed sustainable materials, or even materials made from agricultural waste or fungi. These materials could offer increased durability and a lower carbon footprint.”

Oliver Cohnen mentioned a long list of industry practitioners who have gained worthy recognition for their contributions to sustainability in the field of architecture, declaring with an experientially confident forecast that “…the future of manufacturing holds incredible promise, and sustainable furniture represents a beacon of hope in this journey. Julius Berger-AFP promises to remain at the frontlines of that progressive journey for the manufacturing of sustainable furniture.”

It would be recalled that the organiser of the annual design exhibition, Design Week Lagos, DWL, Ms. Titi Ogufere had last year described Julius Berger-Abuja Furniture Production, AFP, as Nigeria’s leading furniture production company with no equal.

Ms. Ogufere also spoke at the just concluded 2023 IDAN exhibition in Abuja amidst similar encomiums from other high-profile visitors to the AFP exhibition stand. She said, “Julius Berger- AFP pavilion is a great stand with amazing new designs. Year after year, AFP’s product quality and strength keeps pushing the standards higher. AFP is a superb Nigerian brand, consistently setting a sustainable global benchmark, indeed, for the furniture industry.

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