In Conversation with Joe Pipal

In conversation with Joe Pipal, Joe Pipal Furniture


Joe Pipal, designer of  ‘Carbon Print’ – visual connection of carbon storage potential for timber – talks through his design idea and wider sustainability inspirations.

Joe Pipal – one of the winning designers of the Conversations about Climate Change design competition – has a wealth of working experience. This includes a year working for cabinetmaker David Hall, studying MA Design Products at the Royal College of Art, a BA Hons in Fine Art and started Joe Pipal Furniture in 2003.

Carbon Prints portrays ‘conversations‘ around carbon sequestration, the role of timber in the climate emergency and works to tackle preconceptions around tropical timber use.

“I see good forestry practice as one of the mitigative strategies we have against climate change”. Joe understands the importance of carbon for the climate emergency, sustainability / responsible sourcing and recognises the potential of modelling materials to convey previously intangible environmental issues.

Having the opportunity to work alongside Joe has been a pleasure and privilege. The journey has not been without hurdles, but his decorum to the design project ‘Carbon Print‘ and wider sustainability has spurred us both on. Joe’s initial thoughts to using tropical hardwoods reflect similar perceptions ingrained in many architects, designers and specifiers – which our FLEGT project aims to challenge. Allowing communities and countries to earn an income from well-managed timber, in line with responsible sourcing and sustainable forest management through FLEGT can help with long term sustainability, Joe reflects.

Timber certification is an important criteria of specification for many designers, architects and specifiers, including Joe. Many of those audiences we engaged with during our Conversations about Climate Change project had no prior knowledge of Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) – the EU’s Action Plan to eradicate illegal logging in tropical countries across the globe. All designs in the Conversations about Climate Change exhibition are being constructed from tropical hardwoods sourced from countries working towards FLEGT-licensing. We hope that this project through education and public promotion will encourage further specification and engagement from designers, architects & specifiers.

Conversations about Climate Change aims to raise awareness of the FLEGT Action Plan, materials available from the countries engaging and greater awareness of sustainable timber practices. “Understanding of the FLEGT scheme has brought to my attention the challenges faced by countries where underdeveloped forestry practices and perhaps political instability make it much harder to manage a sustainable timber industry. Providing an income to a community for well managed timber could mean saving a forest from being turned into land for pasture or agriculture. So anything like the FLEGT plan which seems to take a more nuanced approach at a local level to procurement of raw materials, should help with long term sustainability and the development of good practice in these communities.”

Each of the six designs to be displayed at the Building Centre opening January 2021 until April 2021, were selected to instigate distinctive conversations about important climate change topics. Joe’s ‘Carbon Print’ installation focuses around carbon sequestration and the potential for timber use in climate mitigation strategies. I asked Joe to explain his intended ‘Conversation’ below.

“That wood is made from carbon. Wooden objects are storing carbon. Carbon that has been sequestered from the atmosphere by the tree from which it has been taken. To consider the carbon cycle of a tree and show more explicitly and hopefully beautifully the nature of carbon in wood.

We can sequester more carbon and create less CO2 by using more timber and less concrete and steel in the construction industry. To see the value of wood as a carbon store and the possibility that good forestry practices can lead, in the long term to reforestation, increasing the amount of CO2 absorbed from the atmosphere.”

As a timber designer and specifier, Joe views using and specifying timber as a mitigation method in the climate emergency.  “Using timber from sustainable sources and well managed forests is part of an economic opportunity to increase the amount of forests there are on the planet. The only way this will make sense is if there is real sustainability which certification schemes like FLEGT and the political will to support it. I see good forestry practice as one of the only mitigative strategies we have against climate change”.

Joe summarises his view on the biggest challenges for the future as “environmental”. With architecture and design moving towards low carbon solutions encompasses a greater responsibilities to investigate supply chains of raw materials, production and manufacture processes, environmental and social impacts, Joe elaborates. There is “opportunity for a positive outcome if good practice is rewarded and replicated by others. Forests are a crucial resource for our planet”.

“My personal aspirations are to find a way to work that is relevant to the challenge of climate change and to [be] part of that debate about sustainably managed resources. Perhaps in a small way modelling an alternative method of production or as in my work for this show, sensitively using materials to highlight something taken for granted or overlooked.”

Joe’s Carbon Print design will be exhibited at the Building Centre in London, opening January 2021. View Joe’s CARBON PRINT journey