As our population continues to grow and climate change becomes a more prominent issue, the need for sustainability has never been greater. No matter how big or small the action, any act helps in the collective goal to create healthy, safe and sustainable environments. This movement toward sustainability is creating new techniques and materials that are now being used in constructing “green” buildings, redesigning or fitting-out existing ones, managing resource consumption, and reducing harmful emissions.
But making sustainable choices doesn’t just stop with the external components of a building, it moves inside as well. Spacestor identified sustainability as one of the Top 8 Workplace Trends for 2019, with an upward trend of combining wellness culture with sustainable design. These are some of the trends surfacing in each of the primary areas in architectural and interior design.
Building & Materials
Today, there are new artificial materials that are more environmentally safe than traditional materials. Since 2015, the Dubai Municipality has required the use of sustainable “green” concrete in all new construction which uses environmentally friendly materials that have low-energy costs, high durability and low-maintenance requirements, and contains a large proportion of recycled or recyclable materials. Many new buildings are being constructed as multi-use spaces or structured for modular interior design, which will be more sustainable over time because it can change and adapt to new occupant needs. Instead of building spaces for specific functions, architects and designers are creating buildings that can serve a wide range of uses.
With water, the goal is to use less and reuse more. From high-efficiency fixtures, automatic sensors, metering and flow controls, to reduced flow toilets and urinals, low consumption fixtures for sinks and showers, and dual flush water closets, there are numerous options to help us become sustainable with water consumption.
According to a recent study by Harvard based researchers, buildings consume nearly 40% of primary energy production around the world. Any cuts in energy consumption can have a tremendous impact on carbon emissions, which is the main source of climate change. One method of reducing energy consumption is increasing natural light through sky lights, sloped ceilings, light shelves, or solar harvesting. Other options include automatic lighting control, timers to turn lights on or off during office hours, and energy-saving lighting like LED, T5 and HE fluorescent.
Tracking your waste, generating less waste, and recycling provide the key foundation for a successful waste management program. For existing businesses and buildings, tracking it is the first step to knowing the type and amount of waste your company creates. With this knowledge in hand, you can determine the best sustainable practices to implement for reducing waste.
Changing from single-use to multi-use cups, switching to paperless documents where possible, donating items that are no longer needed, reusing items that you already have in new ways, and implementing a recycling program are just a few of the ways to become more sustainable with waste in the workspace.
The EPA's guide to managing and reducing waste in commercial buildings also shares that organizations that sign up as a partner in WasteWise, the Food Recovery Challenge or the Federal Green Challenge can use the Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Data Management System hosted in Re-TRAC Connect. Through the SMM Data Management System, partners can track and report to EPA their annual waste management and green purchasing activities, set annual goals and apply for recognition.
When it comes to air quality, the EPA also states that indoor pollutants are often two to five times greater than those encountered outdoors. To create a healthier and more sustainable workplace, improvements to air quality can be made by integrating plants inside, selecting low-emission materials, creating separate spaces for high-emission equipment, and ensuring fresh air through windows or ventilation.
Sustainable Interior Design Elements
Design elements such as wood, cork, bamboo, and linoleum are all low-maintenance, durable and renewable. Countertops made from recycled materials, sustainable textiles and natural fibers such as soy, wool, hemp or flax are also eco-friendly options in sustainable design planning.
Seattle’s Bullitt Center, a six-story office space is billed as the “Greenest Commercial Building.” It is outfitted with solar panels, rainwater treatment systems, and a ground-source heat exchange system, all of which result in a net-positive energy environment. Additionally, the building materials were carefully handpicked so as to avoid 14 categories of chemicals. Impressively, as of 2015, the Bullitt was the world’s largest certified Living Building Challenge (LBC) facility. (Living Proof: Building the Bullitt Center from Brad Kahn on Vimeo.)
Sustainability is also becoming more important to the employees that are, or will be, working in the spaces being designed. According to a recent Nielson study, Millennials and Generation Z will be the first generations willing to pay more for sustainable products and view sustainability as a critical component in the company culture they want to join for their career.
At Kimball, we are proud of our environmental stewardship we have been practicing since the founding of the company and are committed to not only meeting current environmental standards, but also setting new ones. Kimball works diligently to improve our understanding of our impact on the environment. We partner with companies and certifying bodies such as LEED and WELL that can help us monitor and reduce our overall impact so we can continue to be a responsible steward of resources. We continue to bring products to market that are not only innovative, but sustainable. It’s part of our heritage to take initiative, reduce waste, conserve energy, commit fully and lead by example. It’s not enough to simply sustain. We strive to enhance our world. And we hope you’ll join us.