Designing in many shades of green
Thursday, November 01, 2018
Green, or eco-friendly, is now widely accepted as a responsible way to design. Yet, in practice, designing green can take many forms. You need to consider your own as well as your clients’ values when offering green solutions.
Even among clients who consider themselves to be eco-conscious and responsible, being green may translate into conserving utilities and faithfully recycling. These individuals want energy-efficient appliances and heating and lighting systems, water-saving fixtures, and well-insulated walls and attics.
They also have their eye on another kind of green — money. They are willing to spend upfront for products and systems that will save them money over the long run, but not so much for products that are eco-friendly but cost more.
A step up on the sustainability ladder are those clients who also care about conserving any kind of natural resources and minimizing waste and carbon footprint. They are more inclined to ask for repurposed, reclaimed or recycled materials; natural materials; and local materials and products (to reduce shipping time and packing materials, and hence, carbon footprint). These clients usually will pay more to ensure they have an ecologically responsible home.
Then there are clients whose primary concern is wellness and having a healthy home. They often prefer natural products that are devoid of potentially harmful fibers or substances.
In addition, they want air and water filtration systems, natural lighting, and views of nature, gardens and indoor plants. For them, green is about purity and living in harmony with nature.
They, too, will pay more for products they consider less harmful or healthier. Sustainability for them may be less of an issue, however. They say yes to some green products and no to others.
If it’s important for you as a designer to practice green or sustainably, you now have more options and leverage than in the past. There is a much larger selection of products and materials to choose from. And because being green is now more mainstream as a lifestyle, many green or sustainable products do not cost significantly more than other products, as they once did.
If not already, you should become familiar with the various product rating systems available, and with green product databases, such as Greenguard, Energy Star and Cradle to Cradle. Initiatives such as the Sustainable Furnishings Council, GreenBlue, and the Healthy Building Network provide information and resources to expand your knowledge of sustainable and healthy products and interiors. You may also want to consider becoming LEED certified or completing the REGREEN course available from the American Society of Interior Designers.
Among other advantages of going green, surveys show that homebuyers are attracted to green homes and will pay somewhat more for a home that is green-rated or certified, which is an additional selling point if your clients need convincing it’s to their benefit to be green. Millennials especially want wellness-minded and eco-friendly homes, as they are both socially responsible and thrifty.
Your normal programming should include sounding out potential clients for the degree to which they are open to green design and purchases. If they are hesitant, you can offer them alternatives, but they may need to be educated a bit to appreciate the benefits of choosing green. Even if they are not overly eco-conscious, the health and wellness benefits may tip them toward the green solution.
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