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How one company is addressing water scarcity through innovation and sophisticated design

Moen is using smart, connected faucet features to reduce usage while improving the user experience. Here, the brand’s senior director of global design explains how sustainability informs his team’s work.

How one company is addressing water scarcity through innovation and sophisticated design

Moen, long known for its stylish design, is equally regarded for innovation. The company’s founder, Alfred M. Moen, invented the single-handle mixing faucet, which revolutionized plumbing by allowing homeowners to draw both hot and cold water from a single tap. Its design also inherently conserved water, establishing the company as one that prized sustainability alongside innovation. This is even more essential today, at a time when conservation and wellness command heightened attention.

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When discussing sustainability, we generally focus on carbon and energy, but it also includes the well-being of the planet and its people. This is something that Jayson Simeon, senior director of global design for Moen, factors into products such as the Nebia by Moen Spa Shower and Moen’s whole-home smart water ecosystem, known as the Smart Water Network—both part of the company’s ambitious goal to save 1 trillion gallons of water and repurpose 2,000 tons of ocean plastic by 2030. Here, Simeon discusses how sustainability informs innovation and design at Moen.

When it comes to sustainability, renewable energy often steals the limelight. Where does Moen rank water?

Jayson Simeon: Water is very important, for sure. I put it right behind oxygen in terms of the things we cannot live without. Water sustains life, and its consumption and conservation are widely misunderstood because useful information about it is not readily available to everyone—we don’t understand it the same way we might understand things we track more regularly. Sustainability all comes back to doing more with less: How do we deliver more of an experience using less water? And the rise in awareness over the past decade has provided meaningful opportunities for us to lean in and create better experiences with the water we use.

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How do innovation, sophisticated design, and sustainability rank in importance to Moen’s design process?

It’s in that order. As far as consumers go, sustainability is a difficult story to lead with. If we were to release this great new faucet [by saying], “Hey, this uses half the water; isn’t that great?” people would equate that with an inferior experience and think of it as more of a sacrifice. So, by leading with innovation, and then packaging that in a compelling design, we provide the space for sustainability to actually fit into the package. Sustainability is best delivered in a transparent way—we have to feel like we’re not giving something up.

Are there ever any happy discoveries or synergies that surface along the way?

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Oh, absolutely. Identifying consumer workarounds are always product opportunities for us. In our Smart Water Network, when we first tested the idea of voice-activated faucets, most people were confused. But once we were able to introduce how the idea solved unmet needs, like, “What if this faucet could help you multitask, measuring for you without having to pull out more things during your meal prep?” then people’s eyes opened up. That is how we can deliver sustainability transparently. If we can show people—like with our Nebia by Moen showers—how we use roughly half the water but actually deliver a better shower experience, then we’re truly doing more with less.

How integral is the customer through all this?

We’re generating data every day, particularly with the products that are part of our Smart Water Network. And that data fills our data lakes. So now we have lots of new lenses to understand that data and use it to the consumer’s benefit. While many companies use their customer’s data purely to sell things, we feed a lot of our Smart Water Network data back to the consumer so they can contextualize their consumption habits. The Nest thermostat, for example, did a great job contextualizing how much energy people use while encouraging them to save. We’re doing something very similar for water, and that has really opened the eyes of a lot of people who’re like, “Wow, I used 110,000 gallons of water this year. How can I use less?”

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What’s the innovation at Moen that inspires you the most?

I am absolutely over the moon about our Smart Water Network, because I really think that this is going to be the next internet. Water and its connectedness are going to be all the more [necessary] as our global water predicament continues. So, the Smart Water Network is just the beginning, as we start to put pieces of the system together and uncover new features and experiences. For instance, when we combined leak detection with automatic showers and automatic faucets—things that are digitally controlled—we started to unlock new capabilities that help meet previously unmet needs, such as freeze protection. As a smart connected system, it can read the current temperatures in your zip code or area and automatically open your connected faucets to trickle the water and prevent pipe bursts from freezing.

That just blew my mind. Same with the way the Nebia by Moen Spa Shower works. How did its innovative approach evolve?

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It started with the experience in mind. Most people who install low-flow showers hate them and throw them away. The challenge to us was to flip the notion that “using more water is more luxurious.” What the Nebia by Moen shower does is break a stream of water into millions of very specific size drops that surround the user, heating the air, and so your muscles are relaxed, and you can enjoy the experience more, while using so much less. It’s an amazing sensory experience.

Our task for the new Nebia by Moen Quattro Shower—the next generation of our Nebia by Moen Spa Shower—was to create a conversation about the origins of these products. This is why we highlight the fact that we use ocean-recycled plastics, shown in their raw and native green color. While it’s unusual for us to have this green color on one of our fixtures, in the end, we want customers to think, “Hey, I bought something that minimizes my impact on the environment, and I’m getting a great experience out of it.” It gives them peace of mind—which is a win-win for everyone—and for our planet.

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