Our Forbo Escapes interior design competition gives architects and designers the chance to win an ‘escape’ of their dreams. Now, with the winners of the 2021/2022 competition newly announced, we caught up with Jasper Sanders, Design Director at Jasper Sanders + Partners, who took home the trophy in the 2020/2021 competition for their work on The Refinery, a student accommodation project in Leeds.
As Costa Rica was named the second most sustainable country in the world by the World Energy Council, it just seemed like a really fascinating place to visit and a different culture to experience.
In 1940, nearly 80% of Costa Rica was covered in rainforest. By the 70s, this had dropped to 20%. Part of this was due to the demand for Brazilian Mahogany (a high-end material in interior design), with Costa Rica clearing the forest just to get the Mahogany. However, it’s clear that the country is learning from this and they’re now working on expanding the forest again (secondary forest), with the area covered by forest back up to 40%.
Costa Ricans seem less obsessed with consumerism, which was really interesting. For example, there are not so many new cars on the roads. Instead, all the way along the streets, from one place to another, there’d be little market stalls selling used car parts - the emphasis was certainly on re-use. As a country, they also generate more oxygen than they do carbon with some countries paying them oxygen credits in an effort to offset their own carbon use.
We really don’t ask enough questions about where materials come from. My personal mission is to become net zero. Design is a positive thing; you’re creating beauty. But if you’re destroying things to create beautiful design then you’re not doing any good.
At Jasper Sanders + Partners, we’re all about how we can help people to use buildings in the most optimum way and how we can bring prosperity to our clients. You need to design with people in mind. Once you’ve got the initial design, we thrive off making sure it delivers the right strategy for the client, ensuring that it’s good for people and good for the planet. Delivering the right design with the least number of materials and choosing responsibly is key. That’s why we enjoy using Forbo’s range of flooring solutions, because of Forbo’s clear commitment to sustainability.
Of course, carbon use is just one aspect of sustainability. Another is that we’re living during a period of mass extinction. Animals are a crucial part of our planet; all lives matter. I have a lot of empathy for other living things, including animals.
It’s a sustainable culture from top to bottom. No one is consuming needless things; no one is flexing about what they look like, who they are or what people think. There’s no emphasis on keeping up with the latest fast fashions. Perhaps it’s a climate thing but the people are just so much more connected; they clearly become less concerned with consumerism and materialism and instead just enjoy being outside in the environment.
It would be difficult to get people in the UK to think like Costa Ricans, but in terms of naturally vented buildings and low-energy building materials, these are all smaller things that could definitely be adopted here in the UK.
I’d have to say how incredibly lovely the people were; everyone we encountered was unbelievably nice. The crime rates are very low; there’s virtually no crime and no gun crime. It’s just a very peaceful nation: trustworthy, calm and tranquil.
I think it’s really sharpened my thinking and encouraged me to think more about the planet.
At one stage of the trip, we had a locally guided tour of a forest and saw lots of amazing animals, from tarantulas and monkeys to sloths and parrots. We kept ourselves to ourselves: we didn’t touch anything or leave anything behind that could affect the balance of nature. Nature should be nature and we should learn to manage ourselves to reduce our impact on it.
We had an action-packed itinerary, which included travelling sustainably all around the country.
One of the highlights of the trip was a family-run hotel, where they grew their own food, and the chef used all their own grown ingredients. There was a home brewery with these incredible melon-flavoured ales too, as well as a lake at the bottom of the hill that you could swim in. It was just an all-encompassing sensory experience.
I think the highlight was definitely when we were sitting in one of the hot springs. It was just beautiful. We were overlooking the Aerna Volcano (active until just ten years ago) and the water was so hot, but all naturally heated.
I certainly learnt a lot and have brought back many ideas that I’d like to try and create in this country. We will certainly keep trying to make the world a better place.