Designers, researchers, and facilities professionals who have helped businesses understand sustainability as a long-term strategy for doing business, offer some earned wisdom
Most clients are interested in sustainability; few completely understand it. The design community is well-positioned to take the lead in helping business executives understand what it means to design and build sustainably.
From lower energy costs to a more loyal customer base, a sustainable business model delivers genuine triple bottom line benefits. Economic and environmental results are easiest to measure. The social component remains less defined, but the social case can be made: a more welcoming and engaging workplace clearly helps attract and retain talent; a healthier workplace delivers measurable productivity gains and healthier building occupants. Synergy matters: reducing VOCs has environmental and social benefits, and it can lead to lower operating and maintenance costs.
Reduced Real Estate Yields Many Benefits
One bright side to the down economy may be the discovery that less real estate has triple bottom line benefits, from lower energy use to a reduced carbon footprint.
Product Content Matters
The growth in the number of sustainable products means greater choices in sustainable furniture and other building products. To help sort greenwashing from the truly sustainable, users should consider third-party certifications, including: Cradle to Cradle™ product certification by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, Indoor Advantage™ by Scientific Certification Systems, Life Cycle Assessment (the International Organization for Standardization has established a LCA framework in ISO 14040), and others.
Reuse, Recycle, Reinvent
There are more options than ever for the reuse of furniture and components such as windows, doors, carpet tiles, and many other building materials. These sustainable choices usually cost no more, and often less, than disposal.
It’s a Journey, Not a Destination
Achieving LEED certification can be a major accomplishment, but it’s one mile marker in a long-term process. Once sustainability is understood and accepted as an operating philosophy, discussions about product certification, water reclamation, or any other sustainability approach can be evaluated for their contribution to the overall goal: a more sustainable future.