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Sustainability; is it a choice anymore?

Sustainable projects are on the rise despite architects’ and designers’ doubts about manufacturers’ claims and potentially prohibitive costs. By Christina Zweig Staff writer T he majority of architects and in- terior designers, 87 percent and 86 percent, respectively, acknowledge a concern about sustainability in the manufacturing of products, according to an online survey of 812 architects and designers. The research by IMRE (Digital. Adver- tising. Marketing. Public Relations) in conjunction with the American Insti- tute of Architects and the American So- ciety of Interior Designers, shows that sustainable projects performed by ar- chitects and interior designers are pro- jected to increase in number in the next year. Nevertheless, the study shows sus- tainable products are often associated with higher cost. Sustainability often paired with greater expense. A huge majority of survey respondents, nearly 90 percent of architects and 82 percent of interior designers, said their clients think sustainable products cost more. It also reported that more than half of all respondents agreed sustain- able products are more expensive. is Furthermore, architects and interior designers seem to hold a good deal of skepticism about the “sustainability” of such products. According to the IMRE study, 40 per- cent of architects and 34 percent of interior designers are “uncertain” if products claiming to be sustainable are actually sustainable, and almost 22 percent of architects and 11 percent of interior designers are “somewhat” or “not at all confident” that products are actually sustainable. A very small num- ber – only 2 percent of architects and

3 percent of interior designers – are “completely confident” in manufactur- ers’ claims that products are actually sustainable.

ed use is on the rise. According to the survey, 70 percent of architects and 49 percent of interi- or designers surveyed used sustainable products in their projects “very often” or “always” in the past year, and more than half of respondents from each group expect the number of designated sustainable projects they complete will increase in the coming year. Architects and interior designers are using sustainable products because they want to, not because of external pressures. Nearly 60 percent of architects and 56 percent of interior designers iden- tified their own sense of environmen- tal responsibility as the key driver for specifying sustainable products, while 19 percent of architects and 20 percent of interior designers said they specify sustainable products because they are required to, either by project scope or client request. Government and industry incentives are nearly negligible as a key driver – only 0.5 percent of architects and 1 percent of interior designers. Lopez agrees. “It’s best practice to use products that minimize the negative environmental impact, so as a design- er, I look for products that have sus- tainable characteristics,” she says. Bergman feels sustainability is be- coming a necessary element in all proj- ects, citing two examples of new build- ing codes: California’s new CalGreen building code and the International Green Construction Code due for adop- tion in 2012. “Architects that contract with public agencies are presented with program requirements to design sustainable buildings. This is the current trend for the GSA, the U.S. Military, state-fund- ed projects, and the Los Angeles Com- munity College District, to name a few,” Bergman says.

What practitio- ners are saying. “Many manufacturers claim their products are sustainable and use words like ‘high recy- cled content,’ ‘sustain- able product,’ etc... but this doesn’t mean the product meets all the requirements to be la- beled as sustainable.

Patricia Lopez, Interior Designer, Baskervill.

The use of these words are being mis- represented and sometimes abused,” says Patricia Lopez, an interior design- er with Baskervill (Richmond, VA), a 93-person architecture, engineering, and design firm. The company recently completed Hy- att Dulles, a certified LEED Silver build- ing that won an interior design excel- lence award. Bruce Bergman, principal at KPA Associates, Inc. (San Diego, CA), a 17-person firm that provides architec- tural design, construction consult- ing , and forensic services, suggests skepticism may be due to a heightened awareness of legal concerns, insurance issues, the FTC and other certification organizations. “A product’s performance be- comes more and more crucial as new codes and standards push the boundaries on efficiency. Durabil- ity may be compromised in the ef- fort,” he says. “Compatibility should and will always be a concern, wheth- er it is a sustainable material or not.” Adoption high. Despite the neg- ative statistics, professionals still seek out sustainable products, and project-

“Many manufacturers claim their products are sustainable and use words like ‘high recycled content,’ ‘sustainable product,’ etc... but this doesn’t mean the product meets all the requirements to be labeled as sustainable.”


© Copyright 2011. ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

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