Woodworking in the Lion City – The sustainable nature of Roger&Sons
Singapore-based studio Roger&Sons creates beautiful bespoke furniture with an emphasis on thoughtful design and the goal of becoming an environmentally-responsible business.
Founded in 1988 by Roger Yeo, Brothers Morgan, Lincoln, and Ryan took over their father’s carpentry business when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, passing away 6 years ago. They renamed the company Roger&Sons as a tribute to his legacy and, in response to the changing economic climate, the business has evolved into a woodworking studio; creating bespoke furniture with an emphasis on thoughtful design and the goal of becoming an environmentally-responsible business.
Now a team of ethical makers and mavericks who craft fine furniture and thoughtful objects, their work spans several design disciplines: furniture, industrial, product and woodworking.
A key initiative for the company is The Local Tree Project. The aim of the project is to rescue trees that are destined to die – in an environment where there isn’t room for the old and outdated. It provides a solution to the accumulated stockpiles of logs from Singapore’s sawmills – where trees have been felled for urban development and which serve no immediate purpose other than to be turned into wood chips or shipping pallets.
There is a lack of infrastructure to process the logs into usable forms and a preference for importing wood, so the surplus of logs are often left to rot. With 15,000 more trees slated to be felled over the next 15 years combined with throwaway culture, the project gives longevity to these abandoned logs by turning them into durable, future-proof objects.
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Roger&Sons believe that, as the younger generation in the industry, they have a responsibility to take good care of the materials they use -especially concerning trees that can take decades to flourish. This means looking at the current processes (with particular regard to timber production in Singapore, in this instance) and making improvements that are eco-friendly and sustainable. They are steps that are important for both the longevity of the industry and to the earth.
Lincoln, son of founder Roger Yeo, says: “Many people don’t believe that Singapore has the resources; we want to work with the available materials that we have, rather than constantly shipping in wood from overseas. As individuals, we can’t do much, but as an industry, we can solve this problem together.”
Research and education are key elements for Roger&Sons in building a sustainable business and the decision to focus on these was a collective decision by everyone in the company. The company conducts workshops, talks and tours for students and industry professionals as well as members of the public to educate them on the aims of the Local Tree Project.
The long-term goal for the company is for all of its processes to be entirely sustainable and carbon-neutral/negative. This includes every piece of furniture or smaller item produced along the way, with packaging also part of this drive for sustainability.
Singapore is a city-state that relies heavily on the import and export trade – it is a necessity for the economy to thrive. However, CO2 emissions are hidden in imports, with 26% of the global emissions coming from producing goods for trade as reported by BBC in 2011.
By supporting a local business, you are supporting a circular economy and when products are manufactured and bought locally, carbon emitted from logistical movement is limited since no cross-border shipping is required.
Whether buying a piece of furniture, food products, soap or anything else we might purchase or consume, doing so locally helps create demand and jobs, reduces carbon emissions and eventually, pushes the market to supply more sustainably-made goods.
For Roger&Sons, the sustainable journey has just started. But the sons of the founders, Morgan, Lincoln and Ryan want everyone to join in and make the effort to change things for the better.
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As a woodworking studio, Roger& Sons uses popular local wood species in their designs. The wood species used include Angsana Pterocarpus indicus, a tree native to South-east Asia, this species is popular in Singapore as a shade tree. Known for its range of golden-yellow and reddish-brown tones, its grains are wavy and well-defined and it gives off a comforting, natural lingering fragrance when working with it. An optimal choice for indoor furniture and fine objects.
Another wood variety used is Raintree Albiza saman. Introduced to Singapore’s soil in the 1880s, the raintree can be seen planted all across the island. Its grains extend from a pale yellow sapwood to a rich, light- to dark- chocolate heartwood. As a result of the way that the way the tree grows, the timber normally shows criss-cross grains which gives a variety of patterns within each slab. Robust, sturdy and resistant, it is versatile for furniture making.
And finally, the African Mahogany Khaya senegalensis, more commonly known as Khaya or African mahogany, this wood is defined by beautiful bronze, dark reddish hues. Like the raintree, it is also a favoured roadside tree that was introduced to Singapore in the late 1970s. Native to the region of Africa, Khaya is extremely hardy and adaptable.