Love Lock Trees Case Study

Experts from our Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering (IISE) worked with a small Derby firm to develop 3D models of its new invention: the Love Lock Tree. These ‘trees’ are steel structures, in the shape of an evergreen tree, designed to safely hold thousands of padlocks as memorials or tributes. This support was provided at no cost to the business thanks to grant funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

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The ‘love lock’ phenomenon and its problems

‘Love locks’ are padlocks inscribed with a message of love that are attached to a bridge, railing or other public structure. Some say the practice dates back over 100 years, but it’s only become really popular since around 2000. Love Locks appear all over the world but most notably, the Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris became a magnet for these tributes.

Unfortunately, love locks can have a detrimental impact on the structures they are hung on. While listening to a radio programme in 2017, retired engineer Ken Massingham heard concerns about the Weir Bridge in Bakewell, which is now covered in over 20,000 love locks: “Although they can be a tourist attraction, they really do pose a predicament due not only to weight but also to rust,” he says. “For example, the vast number of padlocks hung on the Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris caused part of the bridge to collapse and consequently the padlocks have had to be removed. So, I set myself the challenge of coming up with a safer, more sustainable alternative. I decided to design a dedicated standalone iconic structure that would inspire people to visit and leave their tributes.”

Developing the solution with our help

Ken set about doing this, with the help of his daughter Caroline Massingham, a graphic designer with her own company, C' Creative Ltd. By October 2018, Ken and Caroline had a suitable design for the Love Lock Tree and it was at this point they approached The University of Derby to support them in creating a prototype. The University invited Ken and Caroline on a tour of their IISE facility along with other organisations who had attended a recent Network of Entrepreneurs event.

The team at IISE then set about bringing the Love Lock Tree to life by transforming their 2D drawings to 3D (a process known as rendered drawing) and creating a 3D model of the design.  “Before, I was lugging around a very cumbersome prototype and a sketch of the tree to show potential customers,” explains Caroline, who now heads up the business.

"Now, thanks to the University, we have these very professional and lightweight 3D models, which help me demonstrate what the trees actually look like from all angles. As a result, people become more engaged. We can remove and add pieces to the model, so we can show the different options. In addition, the rendered drawings the University created for us can be coloured, to show the clients what the trees would look like in their branded colours.”

Man attaching padlock to a Love Lock Tree while woman hugs him from behind

Now, thanks to the University, we have these very professional and lightweight 3D models, which help me demonstrate what the trees actually look like from all angles. As a result, people become more engaged.

Caroline Massingham
Owner, C' Creative Ltd

Free support

This work was undertaken at no cost to Caroline and Ken, thanks to the Time 2 Innovate and Low Carbon project, a partnership run by the University of Derby, Derby City and Derbyshire County Councils, which was part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Love Lock Trees support the low carbon agenda due to a slide-on cladding panel system which is made from 90-100% recycled stock. In fact, the whole cladding panel feature is recyclable and allows customisation without the need to paint the structure. The foundations of the large Love Lock Tree penetrate just 350mm into the ground, which in comparison to a traditional deeper foundation, is expected to offer a reduction in the embodied carbon dioxide of the product.

The Low Carbon project has now been superseded by the DE-Carbonise project, a similar fund which helps eligible small and medium sized enterprises benefit from carbon reduction audits and grants, as well as technical or research support to help them implement low-carbon processes or make low-carbon products.

Attracting international interest

The pair have now registered the design for Love Lock Trees and Forever Trees — a second product which enables people to hang specially commissioned round ‘leaves’ on the structure instead of padlocks. They are in talks with several organisations that are interested in buying a tree, as Caroline explains:

“We are in discussions with several locations across the UK and a businessman from Hungary is keen to sell our product in Hungary and Slovakia. He believes the Love Lock Trees could be erected at schools, colleges and other public institutions. We've also had enquiries from someone in The Netherlands who is interested in supplying our trees to cemeteries and crematoria in Holland, Belgium and France. It’s early days, but the signs are already encouraging.”