Design Insider is pleased to announce February’s Member of the Month, Roca. Kicking off the year with an exciting new collection, we caught up with David Bromell and discovered the inspiration behind the Ona collection, how Roca have been addressing sustainability throughout their manufacturing and some exciting new projects launching this year.
Please can you introduce Roca and your role within the company
Roca is an international company dedicated to the design and manufacture of bathroom products across several categories, specialising in ceramics, brassware, furniture, baths and showering; so almost everything involved in that space. The brand was founded in 1917 in Gava by the Roca family and remains family owned today, despite a now global presence and more than 24,000 employees. The family vision has always been progressive and entrepreneurial, and that ethos has continued to manifest the key pillars of the business today. I’m Head of Marketing for Roca Group in the UK. My team and I are responsible for all of our marketing activities across every customer sector and all of the group brands in the UK, which also includes Laufen, alongside the Roca brand.
Roca have just released a new collection, Ona. What was the inspiration behind this? Did you work with any designers on this collection?
Ona takes its cues from nature; not only the inspiration of The Mediterranean and the natural materials central to the Mediterranean landscape and lifestyle, nor its name (Ona means “wave” in Catalan), but even in the aesthetic approach. The intention was to create a product which carried the simple, easy beauty of nature.
The collection was developed by the Roca Design Centre in collaboration with the international design studios NOA Design and Benedito Design, both of whom have worked with us before. Roca has an established tradition of combining external input with our own internal expertise, to strengthen the core of what we do. NOA, who also designed our Inspira collection, focused a lot on facilitating individuality in the products but creating something that is easy to use, contributes to quality of life, and a simplicity that hides the complex processes involved in designing and manufacturing this kind of product. Benedito Design worked extensively on the brassware, within which they wanted to evoke a sense of memory, with a modern interpretation of a classic tap design. These approaches led to a product that feels very organic, very human, even when bordered by rational lines, making for a very universal and relevant collection.
When designing the collection, was wellbeing considered? How did this impact the final product?
In the essence of what we do as a manufacturer, we’d be doing a really poor job if wellbeing wasn’t fairly front and centre. But in terms of Ona, I’d draw reference again to this very human feeling which sits at the centre of the range concept, because this informs everything with a very sensitive approach to the design. The materials are very tactile, from the natural ceramic (which is also available in matt white) to the warm touch of the Stonex® bath tubs; the baths have slim sides to facilitate a deep and relaxing soak but within a relatively compact footprint; and all pieces in the collection, from the brassware to the furniture, are smooth, comfortable and intuitive to operate. You can see from the fabulous photography (taken at La Ricarda by Antonio Bonet Castellana) how the colour palette of the collection is warm and evokes a calmness, drawing on inspiration from the natural world. Hygiene has remained a big topic over recent years, but remains a very elemental commitment for us. Both the hygiene of the products and the user are integrated seamlessly in the design, from the easy clean Supraglaze®, or the smart toilet options which will be available later this year.
How do you see this collection fitting into the hospitality sector?
From a purely pragmatic point of view, Ona is a really broad and versatile collection. It covers every element of the bathroom, within one democratic design line. Hospitality settings require an amount of adaptability style wise, but also the ability to continue a coherent aesthetic, irrespective of room dimensions, which Ona facilitates through a huge range of sizes and both standard and compact options.
Materiality is also key. Ceramic remains the gold standard in hygiene and durability, particularly in spaces that endure intensive use, and the Fineceramic® basins in Ona offer maximum functional space with efficient outer dimensions, while retaining all of the traditional qualities associated with ceramics. The brassware combines a polished brass body at its core, with our ceramic cartridge technology for robustness of the piece itself, as well as the mechanism and functionality. After which, the finishing becomes very important; alongside the classic chrome, we have two finishes (Titanium Black and Rose Gold) in Everlux®, Roca’s PVD solution finished in-house within our brassware factory. Everlux® provides an exceptionally resistant finish, ideal for hospitality. For larger projects, we have a number of custom finishes that are also a possibility using this exact same technology.
Throughout the production process of this collection, how was sustainability addressed?
Sustainability always has to be approached transversally and that’s no different with Ona, which uses a lot of the manufacturing techniques that we have learned over more than a century and continue to evolve for greater impact, through innovations and processes. Ceramic already holds some good credentials in terms of being a composition of natural materials and offering recyclability at different stages of its life, either within our production processes or within other construction industries. In the case of Fineceramic®, not only does this offer us greater design scope, but also creates pieces which are finer and lighter, with zero waste and this weight reduction has a positive impact on firing, transport and reducing CO2 emissions. The accessories are manufactured using recycled materials and our Everlux® PVD coating for the brassware is a non-chemical process and helps to achieve a durability that facilitates a long life for the product, even in demanding spaces.
Can you tell us how Roca aims to reduce its CO2 emissions?
CO2 emissions is one of the many workstreams being worked on by the Roca Group Sustainability Committee, whose influence extends to every discipline within the company. In the last few years we’ve consistently made reductions (5% saved per year over the last 3 years) and have a clear roadmap for all of our factories to be carbon neutral by 2050. This is a complex project with many aspects going on, from material innovation, clean industrial methods to facilitate reuse and recycling, transport and packaging improvements (in 2022 we will continue to remove single use plastics from our packaging and are working on an evolution of our boxes to maintain protection while limiting adhesives, staples and other materials) and of course factory processes. In 2021, we announced a global partnership with Schneider Electric, part of which includes the sensorisation of all of our factories to be able to measure our efforts and their impact in great detail. As part of the same workstream, our Zero Waste programme is also progressing at speed, with all of our factories set to hit this target by 2023.
How is Roca helping consumers reduce their impact on the environment?
In addition to everything we’ve already mentioned that impacts this, the responsibility of product performance is another pillar of our sustainability strategy and in this area it’s really all about constant evolution to try and improve efficiency wherever we can, but do so across the board. There’s a number of features that can have an impact, even in a consumers home, let alone when you scale that impact up to a hotel. The approach is often to embed these features in a way that they’re imperceptible to the user in terms of comfort and performance. As an example, the Ona basin mixer follows the format of our other recent collections by including a really efficient 5L per minute aerator, which maintains user experience with a nice soft flow that also avoids splashing, but with minimal water consumption. Likewise, our Cold Start feature means that when you open the basin mixer flow, it always starts on cold, where conventional mixers tend to provide a mix of hot and cold, even if the user only wants cold water (video here). This then fires up the heating system unnecessarily, wasting energy and CO2. We’ve also recently developed Supraglaze®, a secondary glaze that contributes to the perfect finish of our ceramic, meaning that even less water and cleaning detergents are needed during the maintenance of the product. Further incremental gains are available with rimless WCs, which now dominate our collections and offer even easier cleaning and efficient flushing. We also shouldn’t overlook the importance of lifecycle, which is linked critically to two areas: product quality and product design. It’s critical that we design products that integrate sustainability throughout their life, from their development, production, use and beyond, all within the framework of the circular economy.
What’s next for Roca?
We always have an extensive pipeline of initiatives and activities. Outside of the perennial product development and launches detailed for 2022, there’s a number of wider actions taking place too. Sustainability and innovation, as vital keystones of what we do, continue to top this macro agenda. One really exciting project is the launch of a corporate venturing fund endowed with 25 million euros, that will invest in start-ups and entrepreneurial projects. The fund is called Roca Group Ventures, and will prioritise start-ups that focus on environmentally-friendly practices, to extend our green strategy to all the projects it works with. On a micro level, we are all looking forward to a full year of reconnecting with our partners at a number of the great industry events throughout 2022 as well as hosting our own. The Roca London Gallery has an exciting programme of architecture and design exhibitions and events which are already in motion, as we celebrate the space being 10 years old!
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