I first met Lim Masulin at the Future Design Week in May last year at Potato Head Bali, when I was also introduced to his company BYO living and their amazing work.
In December I met with Lim again, this time for a coffee-talk in Ubud to spare with him on sustainability-issues in relation to my upcoming book Anti-trend, Resilient Design and the Art of Sustainable Living. We had a fascinating talk about democratic sustainability, sustaining dying crafts-traditions through innovation, and about the main obstacles in the fight against climate change.
In this interview, I ask him about his take on sustainability as well as the environmental challenges we are currently facing. I find his perspective on the current pandemic both touching and immensely inspiring. Enjoy!
WHAT DOES SUSTAINABILITY MEAN TO YOU?
Since 2008, sustainability for better well-being has been my life’s calling through scalable weaving innovation in the architecture and design communities. As climate change and waste problems build up to become a major risk towards our existence and future generations, it’s very hard to see any clarity, accountability and meaningful actions by any government, NGOs, associations, individuals that really tackle this imminent danger.
Our involvements with ASEAN, World Economic Forum, ministries and associations on any environmental programs are impossible to sustain in the longer terms. Unlike the ozone depletion problems during late 1970s, when the whole world agreed to ban the ozone depleting chemicals and the united action came to fruition, it seems that in relation to climate change and waste the world finds it hard to agree on the definition and on meaningful solutions.
And so, we often ask ourselves what we can do. Well, firstly, we know that we can’t do everything so we have to make the choice to focus on something, and for BYO Living that means weaving technology as the starting point.
Secondly, we can’t work with everyone, so we focus on the role-modelling communities and architects, designers and craftsmen who are within of our circle of trust.
Thirdly, we need to connect the past and future by fusing the know-how of environmental vernacular architecture/design heritage and evolving technology such as computational parametric design, environmental intelligence (data driven design on sun, wind, light, weather, noise, etc.), recycling/regrowing material technology and pop culture engineering.
Through these three focal points, we hope to inspire many by delivering circular solutions as well as real social impact, which also shows the proof of scalable win-win business results to our stakeholders.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK AND THE CRAFT-TRADITION YOU TAP INTO?
We are weaving technology providers. We solve problems by innovating our weaving process to meet with real life solutions.
Architects and designers usually come to us to solve their design challenges and implementations. Solar heat gain in the building contributes more than 30% of energy waste in US due to excessive air conditioning, weaving facade/building skin protects the building from the overheating. We work with architects to create the most efficient weaving facade with unique aesthetic feature.
We tap into the Indonesian master-weavers tradition which has universal features to global acceptance and collaborations, and deep technical iterations to create limitless applications.
Our team is comprised of +/- 30 professionals from architecture, interior design, industrial design, graphic design, civil engineering, project management, QC, finance, accounting backgrounds, +/- 20 master-weavers and +/- 50 junior weavers.
WHAT DO YOU VIEW AS THE BIGGEST ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM?
Our biggest environmental problem is mindsets. Complaining or voicing anger alone can’t solve climate change, so don’t waste the energy to promote victim mentality. Waiting for the bigger authority to work is going nowhere; it’s very hard for the leaders of the world to agree on the single definition of climate change or the urgency of actions. So, let’s not point fingers to them.
Negligence also doesn’t make climate change stop. Solving by putting out impossible or dreamy environmental programs will not work either. Solving environmental problems has to start from each one of us. It must start with us doing something, anything that we can within our reach, such as eating less meat or more vegetables, using no plastic bags and straws, reuse our things, saying no to fast fashion, etc.
If you choose to engage in environmental issues professionally, you can always start small, but embrace the possibility and the know-how on how to scale up the social impact significantly. Scaling up capability is common within the business realm, yet I believe the environmental communities could do it better and way more sustainably.
Capitalism is another big environmental problem. Most parts of the world are still operating within the old world’s paradigm, which defines success and happiness as having more money to consume and to feel more secure. This paradigm keeps people stuck in the belief that they have to work and waste endlessly to improve their “quality” of life.
The current COVID-19 pandemic shows a real case, which capitalism can’t solve by providing economic happiness or security. Having more money in urban Jakarta doesn’t provide one with better healthcare nor certainty during this time. Even the world leaders and royalty, who are considered at the top of the capitalistic food-chain can’t get any safety assurance or health certainty. Food security is furthermore a major issue in many cities and countries due to the stop of food supply export.
However, and as a remarkable contrast hereto, the Indonesian remote villagers are feeling happy and secure due to their environmental, agricultural harmony.
During this bleak pandemic, we have lost beloved creative friends and relatives. We are going through a crisis without any visible solution. But yet, somehow the world is allowed to see the clear sky, breath the pollution-less fresh air, experience a life of solitude with loved ones, engage in slow stressless daily activities, etc.
I keep hearing from creative communities that their output is much better in terms of quality and quantity by working at home. It is both ironic and a paradox.
I’m hoping the next normal after COVID-19 is a life in which fulfilment and meaning is more important than money. A life of thanksgiving and contentment. In such a world, achievements or success would concern improving the life of others without depleting the world’s goodness, unlearning the old ways of consumerism and replacing these with the new environmental efficiencies and habits.
Sustainability in its perfect form is a life full of contribution and sacrifice in love to others and God, the creator. Such a lifestyle would include using all given talents and resources efficiently to establish circular goodness and earth conservancy throughout many generations ahead.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
At BYO Living, we are currently developing architectural weaving in waste recycle and regrowable nature material for international infrastructure projects and five star hotels. We are also researching on new building materials from paper waste, cigarette butts, construction waste, concrete, fsc wood, plastic bottle recycle, etc.
Our recent project in Bali, BYO Fab, is a world’s first prefabricated weaving architecture solution based on vernacular Javanese effective building traditions. Unlike conventional construction where most building ideations and processes are taking a long time to be developed, adjusted and machined on site, our fast prefab system is fully processed in the workshop, delivered to site and instantly installed. The whole solution is fully computerized in order to optimize building cooling features and minimize the usage of materials and the amount waste, which also cuts down the time waste from inefficient human error factor.
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