Weekly Editorial

why should you include green design in your next project?

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, officeinsight • April 10, 2023


There are few topics that cause as much consternation as the environment. But what does green design really mean? And how good is good enough when you start making environmental decisions about spaces you are designing?

It is difficult all the way around since dealers, designers and clients all have different ideas about what green design means and how it should be applied to projects. What constitutes green design for a company like Google is going to be far different than what environmental stewardship means for a company like MyPillow.

So why does it matter? The built environment is responsible for half of all greenhouse gas emissions. The construction and demolition of buildings produce 40% of all waste. Simply put, we are a big part of the problem and it is up to us to change.

Green design is an approach to building that reduces the harmful effects of commercial projects on human health and the environment. The designer or dealer who keeps sustainability at the forefront attempts to safeguard air, water and earth by choosing eco-friendly building materials and construction practices.

So as a dealer or designer, where do you begin? First, let’s chat about what’s green and what isn’t. Greenwashing is prevalent in the office furniture industry — marketing products that are environmentally friendly when they aren’t or are marginally so.

It’s interesting, because there are more opportunities than ever to find and specify products that are truly sustainable. BIFMA’s highly successful LEVEL program has helped along with platforms like Ecomedes that allow designers to sort products based on their environmental attributes. At the same time, there’s more confusion than ever over what actually counts when it comes to protecting the environment. Everyone wants fabrics that repel stains, but is it worth specifying one with PFAS?

Designers and dealers also must consider the space itself and not just the products that go in it. Space should be easy to use for multiple purposes and easy to reconfigure when the needs for the space change. Products should not just be made from recycled or easily recyclable components, but designers should also consider how a product will degrade over time and how long the product will last.

So why should you include green design in your next project? Here are three reasons, though we could easily add another dozen reasons.

The environment needs protecting: Green design diminishes the negative effects of construction on the environment. Specifying green products helps reduce CO2 emissions and creates safer spaces for people to work.

Green design reduces waste and energy use: When it comes to green design, little things add up to mean a lot. Renewable materials, solar panels, recycled furniture, low VOC paints — all of these small things add up to big things when it comes to the environment.

You can improve the health of those who use spaces you design: Healthy buildings promote healthy people. Occupants of eco-friendly buildings typically experience better overall health because of improved air and water quality. Being around sustainable, natural materials has been shown to increase feelings of wellbeing.

If you are new to green design, I encourage you to start small, but at least start. There are three primary components of green design: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Let’s agree to start there.

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