Nicolas Hubert, a French industrial design student studying in China, used his everyday experience of living in Shanghai to respond to the challenge of this year’s Electrolux Design Lab, specifically finding efficient ways of maximizing space at home. Here we take a closer look at the benefits of the ‘External Refrigerator’.
Two years in China provided the inspiration for Nicolas Hubert’s external refrigerator. Fixed directly on the outside wall of residential buildings, the concept is an elaboration on a way of life in northern China where food is kept on balconies in the winter to save space and energy. During cold seasons and at night, the low external temperatures are used to provide the right climate for items in the fridge. During warmer weather, the sun is used to transform light into energy through solar panels. Nicolas reflects Electrolux design values: the shape and finish are kept pure and simple so as to ensure easy integration with the external urban environment, whilst a range of colors and ambient lighting facilitate this further still.
What was the inspiration for your concept? I draw my inspiration from my everyday life in China. I’ve been living in China for 2 years and I still discover some fascinating aspects of their culture and way of living. Observing their behaviors and habits, I tried to focus on how they deal with small spaces. In big cities like Shanghai, space is a luxury so people find ways to make those small apartments bigger using for example the outside as part of their own space.
How does your concept fit into the theme of compact living?
My concept gives clues on how to avoid the constraints of limited space in future apartments. My project involves a new concept: The use of an unexploited area, the outside. It provides for the inside a greater space to organize furniture and to enjoy home activities.
Why would someone want your concept (what are its main benefits)?
Mainly because my concept increases inside home space for the consumer activities. Secondly, this solution will help the consumer save energy and money by reducing the electric consumption thanks to the re-use of the outside low temperature during winter and the collect of sun energy during the summer.
Beyond the space saving benefit, this concept permits to combine both refrigerator and air conditioning system at home.
Describe the consumer research behind your concept?
I went on the field and focused my project research locally on the food storage habits of Chinese consumers. I observed and analyzed this behavior in the north of China, where during the cold season they take advantage of the outside low temperature to keep the food fresh on their balcony. This permits to unplug their fridge in winter, save money and by extension energy.
What kind of materials would you use to build your concept?
The development of my concept keeps the same main materials used for the current refrigerators, like ABS high quality for the inside body. I chose Polycarbonate plastic for the external cover shape, which allows lightning effect. To control the refrigerator and receive information from the device, a capacitive-sensing touch screen area would be perfectly integrated on the door. On the top part of the refrigerator, a solar panel is added. Considering recent advance in this technology we can hope to reach an efficiency of 25% in coming years. To protect the refrigerator from sun heat, a combination of air layer and dense polystyrene material would efficiently insulate the device in summer season.
I wonder if the designer considered mounting it end-on with a bracket, so the pull-out refrigeration section would be ejected inside the apartment interior? This would eliminate the need for a window or door to be opened for unit access and any undesirable icy blasts into the home interior.
I love this fresh idea (ahem) and it totally hit a personal chord…(plastic bags hung from a tower block window being my first ever “refrigerator”)! Brrr, – great energy and space-saving concept Nicolas and congratulations on being a finalist in this prestigious competition.
Here is a video from the competition which highlights products that may present permeation’s of themselves in our near future…