How can we make sustainable design an unconscious effort?
Monday, June 27, 2016
Sustainability is a word that is used a lot these days. Our built environment is constantly being evaluated for how sustainable it is.
Architects and interior designers who are regularly practicing the principles of sustainability will tell you it isn't about the placard on the wall, the number of LEED points they can get or how many LEED platinum buildings they design. They do it because it is ethically the right thing to do.
As more building code authorities start taking this in to account, we have a responsibility as a profession to create sustainable buildings so consciously that it actually becomes an unconscious process. We need to make sustainable design for all building types the standard for modern architecture, interior design and construction.
Global warming and climate change are getting lots of media attention. The idea that we all have a carbon footprint that will be a reminder for generations to come of how we treated the earth is echoing loudly in our industries.
By looking at our design processes and methods for constructing buildings, we understand that if we use technology to locate our buildings on sites that will work with the environment instead of against it, the building will be more sustainable. Material choices for constructing the building and interiors affect our impact on the environment, too.
We have demanded that our manufacturers reinvent materials that have more recycled content and less harmful additives. That they use manufacturing techniques that use less energy and water. That they also produce less waste going into the landfill. Today, many manufacturers do just that. The materials they produce are environmentally sustainable as well as cost effective.
Making a conscious decision when selecting appropriate interior finish materials that are sustainable is something every interior designer should be doing. Keep in mind that not all materials and finishes are created equally and that recycled content is not enough to be sustainable.
Our expertise in interior finish and material selections should provide us with a common sense approach to making these decisions by keeping in mind that sustainable is not just recycled. Having the ability to select the right materials with the idea that we are looking at the overall impact on the environment and how this will benefit our clients should always come before costs.
Research shows that sustainable design practices and greener buildings do not actually cost more to build or operate. Using more sustainable interior finishes also does not add to the project budget.
Those who are doing the specifying and are consciously making the effort to keep sustainability as part of their design criteria are also looking at the overall client budget, even for the interiors. If the idea is to make this conscious act of sustainable design unconscious, the budget needs to be addressed the same way.
Research has also shown that these buildings are more pleasant to be in, employees have fewer sick days, and the operational costs are actually decreased because they require less effort to maintain. Interior designers who actively look at products that don't just provide LEED points, but that are actually beneficial to the client, make sustainability more of an asset for their clients than a liability.
So why do we still need to remind our clients that sustainable design is important? Because it isn't something we do unconsciously yet. We still haven't evolved the practice of sustainable design to the point of making it the only way to design and build buildings.
Until our profession stops looking at this practice of sustainability as something of a holy grail of the built environment and starts making it seem like an everyday occurrence, there will still be naysayers. Making a conscious act an unconscious one is the best way to change the minds of these critics.
Our professions of architecture and interior design have the power to do this by thinking about building green as a standard practice, not the exception. We need to say to ourselves and our clients that we can't do it any other way and that the costs of not doing it far outweigh costs of doing it any way other way.
To sustain something is to keep it going. We need to keep our planet going without harming it any more than we already have. If we are the designers and creators of our built environment, we need our efforts to reflect our beliefs and produce buildings that will help not hurt us or our planet in the process.
Let's together make an effort to make sustainability an unconscious part of our work so that what we pass on to the next generation are design practices that are truly sustainable in every way.
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