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We don’t have the luxury to waste space

The industry should be building smarter rather than bigger, thereby steering clear of novelty projects with no meaningful value…

James Roy, managing director at Lateral Naval Architects, argues that the industry should be building smarter rather than bigger, thereby steering clear of novelty projects with no meaningful value.

The world is, in parts, a very crowded place. In these places, humankind has by necessity become highly inventive at maximising liveable space. Boats are a good example of environments where there are hard physical limitations and competing demands on available space. Much like urban environments, if more space is needed you either become more inventive in using what you have or you expand. However, unlike the urban environment, expanding the size of a yacht does not necessarily deliver a proportional benefit. There are diminishing returns.

Given that superyachts are generally limited to 12 or 36 passengers (depending on the regulatory framework chosen), one must ask how much space we actually need in the context of liveability. Certainly, to provide a base level of luxurious liveability, a 12-passenger yacht can be fairly small.

That said, it doesn’t take long to get into ‘inflationary’ territory. If you give a designer a client’s wish list, invariably the design will begin to grow. I can barely think of a project, regardless of size, where the use of space has not been a challenge, and I’m convinced that increasing the size is not necessarily the easy fix that people think it is.

Many yachts are designed with repeating features, the so-called ‘wedding cake’ label as often cited by some observers, and indeed even by clients who specifically wish to avoid it. Other yachts are festooned with countless novel features and spaces, many of which one would question how often they are used.

This poses two questions in my mind. Is one of the biggest luxuries to be wasteful of space (in the case of repetitive areas of similar function)? And is novelty is being presented as luxury?

James Roy, managing director at Lateral Naval Architects

I’m an engineer and naval architect. One of the core elements of my job is to make things more efficient, especially considering our focus on sustainability and our impact on the planet.

It therefore often seems nonsensical to me to be searching for a saving, often investing significant engineering resources in the pursuit of single-digit percentages, to make a design bloated by inflation ever more efficient. I would compare this feeling to designing better running shoes for an increasingly overweight athlete. Is the first step not to go on a diet?

Inflation (more and more) versus deflation (more with less) is where the matter of sustainability begins – being inventive and so avoiding inflation. Ultimately, before we ask engineers and naval architects to apply science via engineering, let’s apply some science in the development of liveable space.

When visiting the latest new builds, I often come away with a sense of awe. We are producing floating artisan showcases. Fine craftmanship meets heavy engineering; go anywhere any time while wanting for nothing. But I’m also left feeling that I’ve not been in a modern 21st-century living space, one that is inventive and avoids inflation. There are some yachts that don’t fall into this category, and it’s increasingly obvious when you are on board one.

Smart design begins with a smart specification. However, aside from a client’s wish list, new-build specifications are often developed based on opinion of what is needed rather than on functionally based fact of what is needed. Every performance criteria is taken to the maximum in the belief that this will lead to a yacht of greater capability. Ultimately it might, but if that capability is never actually used then resources have been wasted. It could even then be argued that the yacht is not fit for purpose.

Those resources are not just raw materials, design and engineering hours, energy and cost. They are also the residual space that is left for the yacht’s primary purpose – the liveable space that is the objective function.

In the context of sustainability, we don’t have the luxury to waste space even if it’s a luxury we can afford. Nor do we have the luxury to conceive, design and build novelty that offers no meaningful value.

We all have a responsibility to design, engineer, build and operate in a smarter way, using fewer resources more effectively. Sustainability does not mean doing or delivering less. The goal is to have the same functionality, luxury and performance or more, using less.

That’s the real challenge ahead of us.

This article first appeared in The Superyacht Owner Report. To gain access to The Superyacht Group’s full suite of content, publications, events and services, click here to join The Superyacht Group Community and become one of our members.

 

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