Revolutionising tech repairs & refurb devices with an eco-friendly twist

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In a bustling city like Melbourne, where technology plays a crucial role in our daily lives, there is one phone repair business that stands out from the rest.

Refurbished phone and Apple Independent Repairer ecoR Tech provides sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternatives to the purchase of phones, tablets and other tech products to help reduce tech waste.

But it’s the company’s opening of its flagship store which has reimagined the customer experience by using an unconventional design – a shop made from recycled cardboard.

CEO and Co-founder of ecoR Tech Brent Bryce is the man behind the vision and his innovative idea was sparked from a cause close to his heart.

“I’ve spent more than 25 years in telecommunications and have observed the remarkable proliferation of technology, particularly in the form of phones, tablets and laptops, and unfortunately this has also contributed to the culture of disposability,” Brent says.

“There is a need for change. The global generation of e-waste is more than 54 million metric tons each year signalling future environmental concerns about the impact this will have on our society.

“That’s why it’s crucial to educate and advocate for alternative practices, such as opting to reduce, reuse and recycle instead of consistently purchasing new products.”

With his strong focus on sustainability and the environment, Brent set out to create a space that embodied these principles.

“Collaborating with our interior designer, we outlined our vision for a sustainable and eco-friendly fitout.”

To truly convey ecoR Tech’s commitment to sustainability, Brent says something impactful was needed.

“…That’s when I proposed the idea of making the store out of cardboard.”

Brent admits the unusual proposal of using cardboard as the primary interior material was met with scepticism and regarded as a joke among the company’s leadership team and board, but he was determined for the idea to work.

Playing a pivotal role in transforming the vision was local Melbourne-based event and prop company The Cardboard Mill who joined forces with ecoR Tech’s interior designer, Corso Interior Architecture, shopfitter Q1Built, and joiner Atco Interiors.

“Together, we set out to design, manufacture, and install a store predominantly constructed from cardboard – a first-of-its-kind venture for all involved.

“Throughout the process, we encountered numerous valuable lessons, particularly in navigating the complexities of obtaining support and approvals from the design team at Vicinity Centres.

“However, the ultimate sense of achievement and satisfaction when it was completed was truly remarkable, and all those who contributed should take great pride in their involvement.”

Following a 10-week fitout, the walls, furniture, and even the shelves that display a range of refurbished smartphones are all constructed from sturdy, recycled cardboard.

“Thousands of sheets of cardboard were meticulously cut and bonded together to form the amazing contours, allowing for captivating interplays of light and shadow throughout the store,” Brent points out.

On June 27, 2023, the store was officially opened by Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp in front of the team who contributed to the collaborative project.

When asked if he’d alter any aspects of the design since doors opened at the store, Brent says there is always bound to be improvements.

“Like with any first-time builds and leading-edge designs, there are always learnings and things you could do differently or change to improve the look and more importantly the process to be more efficient and impactful.

“But overall, we are very happy with how the store presents and how our customers can feel and see a distinct difference to how we present in the market compared to our competitors.”

The store serves as a reminder that innovation and eco-friendly choices can be both bold and beautiful.

How it all came together

THE INTERIOR DESIGNER – Corso Interior Architecture – Director Joey Corso

When presented with the idea of designing a ‘cardboard store’, Corso Interior Architecture Director Joey says he was proud to take on the challenge.

“It was such an amazing idea. We began brainstorming ways in which we could use the product in a creative way to make the material shine,” Joey remembers.

“I did have concerns about its strength, however the way in which we ended up using it – gluing each piece together so that the edge was exposed – proved to be both creative and strong enough to withstand traffic.”

The interior design involved testing the capabilities of the product and the team set about designing curved walls and sculpture-like surfaces.

“The cardboard was made off-site in modules, then brought in and erected in place.

“During the production process, The Cardboard Mill was required to modify some of the finer details in order for the design to be possible.”

But overall, the end product was very close to Joey’s design vision.

THE CARDBOARD EXPERTS – The Cardboard Mill – Managing Director Ian Douglas

The Cardboard Mill took their combined experience in temporary installations and cardboard to undertake the research and development component of the project to make ecoR Tech’s flagship store come to life as a permanent store made of cardboard.

“This is what we were born for, and what we love,” Ian says.

“It wasn’t our first walk in the park, we’re amazing at temporary – tradeshows and more ephemeral installations being our stock in trade.

“Our first significant project in this direction was the Bridge Road Brewery Site in Brunswick, which was meant to be up for three months, but is still there 18 months later.

“It was very much in consultation with ecoR Tech’s architect, the client, builder, and ourselves about what we could make more recyclable – in fact, the cardboard used has at least 70 percent recycled content in it and is curb side recyclable, or backyard compostable.”

But it wasn’t without a challenge or two.

“Cardboard had not been approved for use in permanent fixture in installations, so we had to work with engineers to manage loads and fixing techniques, plus develop and validate technical documentation to meet both workplace and building requirements.”

THE JOINER – Atco Interiors – Managing Director Adrian Farrugia

“You’ve got to be kidding me”.

That was Adrian Farrugia’s first reaction when he was approached to be part of ecoR Tech’s cardboard store.

“I’d never made joinery from cardboard before,” Adrian says.

“The technical challenges included making
everything work with the different thickness of cardboard, making sure everything lines up at the end of the project.”

But seeing the end project was quite simply “amazing”.

“Stepping back and saying ‘we actually did it’ was a proud moment. It was our first time working with cardboard and hopefully not the last.”

THE SHOPFITTER – Q1Built – Director Ray Borg

A micro cement floor, seamless BOH rendered door, the mounting and commissioning of a cylinder- shaped LCD screen around an existing pillar and extensive prep-work required to cater to the cardboard’s unique engineering and installation requirements – these were all technical challenges faced by the shopfitter, Ray Borg.

When told about the project, Ray remembers thinking: ‘wow this is different’.

He says the result could either be a hit or a risk if not executed properly.

“Ordering the tasks, dependencies and the timing was challenging,” he explains.

“The shop fitout had to keep moving to deliver on time while the cardboard tiles were manufactured and installed.

“An example was the time it took for the curved viewing glass to be fabricated. Even though the feature render had to butt up against the glass we had to proceed with the render without the glass being in place so that the joinery could be put in place to be covered in cardboard.”

Ray says he was proud to see the level of
collaboration between the suppliers and trades on the project, and to see all the hard work come to life at the official opening.

“When the feature lights went on – highlighting sections of the natural concrete floors, rendered wall, cardboard bulkheads and joinery – it gave the shop an earthy and natural feel.”

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