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Ocean Talks 2022: 10 commandments of sustainable yacht design and construction

10 June 2022• Written by Robert van Tol from the Water Revolution Foundation

The Water Revolution Foundation (WRF) is on a mission to make sure the design and construction of superyachts are as ocean-friendly as possible. 

"Yachting can make sustainability the new essential good in luxury lifestyle. It is only logical to have no negative impact on that what we love exploring: the oceans,” says WRF's executive director, Robert van Tol, who also shares his insights on how that can be achieved, from using recycled materials to demanding more sustainable solutions from suppliers. 

1. Apply a life cycle approach

Look at the production, use and end-of-life phase of every decision that is made in a yacht project. This avoids impact being shifted from one life cycle stage to another.

2. Design for a yacht’s accurate operational profile

Adapt specifications to the reality that most yachts spend 10% of their time cruising, 30% of the time on anchor and more than 50% of the time in a marina. For only 1% of their active cruising time do yachts reach their top speed. Be open with clients about this.

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3. Consider your impact

Being aware of the consequences of your idea. The use of exotic or rare materials might create large amounts of waste, or be energy intensive. Collaboration and feedback in the supply chain can help mitigate the impact.

4. Use recycled materials

Working with fully or partly recycled materials significantly reduces the environmental impact of a yacht. This could make a huge difference in the production of aluminium yachts, for instance.

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Read More/Water Revolution Foundation launches Sustainable Yacht Design Taskforce

5. Give components a second life

Yachts can last forever, but many of their components do not. Interiors that are made to last for decades are often ripped out in refit. Consider what can be re-used and given a second life, and prepare for this.

6. Demand solutions and proof

Ask suppliers for more environmentally friendly solutions – and demand proof of their claims. There needs to be more market demand for environmental solutions, primarily by designers, builders and operators, and a third-party confirmation on the improvements.

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7. Avoid over capacity

Only install the engines and generators the yacht really needs and avoid overpowering. Engines and generators often run sub-optimally, resulting in more wear and tear and ultimately more impact.

8. Reduce energy consumption on board

The hotel function of a yacht is always on, while the time that owners and/or guests are on board is limited. Develop crew-only modes and re-use excessive heat. Utilise natural shading and airflow to avoid excessive use of the HVAC system.

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9. Take responsibility

Lead, don’t follow. It is everyone in the yachting industry’s responsibility to provide solutions. Sustainability is the biggest responsibility but also a business opportunity of our lifetime.

10. Save the oceans

Without healthy oceans there is no future for yachting. Everyone in the yachting industry is a stakeholder. Reducing your environmental impact and ocean conservation go hand in hand.

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