Doing it Right

by Carina

I recently had a project where I noticed the client had documentation indicating they wanted to follow LEED. Proud to see, yet disappointed to know there was no real certification related to the project, I confirmed with others on the route to take: take the time to gather the necessary documentation, or not. The answers were not exactly what I expected.

No matter where I’ve worked, or who I have worked with, “sustainability“ is always a term used, but not always quite acted on. Clients assume by adding in a few lines, by including it in their own specs, or even by verbally mentioning the word, the project team will do everything in their power to strive towards that goal – even when the project doesn’t go for certification (or should I say, doesn’t “commit” to a certification). I have seen firms in the industry tout their ability that every project is designed “sustainably”, yet, there is no proof by the time construction documents are issued.

So is it all greenwashing? Have we not cleared this issue of “they want, they say, no one cares enough”?

So back to my project. When I asked a few people how to go about selecting finishes for a client who requests documentation like VOCs and material ingredients, I was told, “if you have time and really wanted to do it… But we haven’t worried about it before in the past.”

As a champion in sustainability at my firm, this has been an issue of concern for me. A client has expressed interest, yet we will simply ignore this beneficial request?  Because they have not said the words “we will go for (fill in the blank) certification”, should we really brush off this mentality of “doing what’s right”?

If a client asked me to design a space, but make sure I add drinking fountains for the users, you can bet I would make a note and make sure drinking fountains were included.

If a client requests high efficiency in laying out workstations, you can bet I will take the time to ensure an efficient number of people in the space while still adhering to ADA clearances and considering design.

So why is “sustainability” such an “add service” way of thinking?

Why must Architects and designers only feel the need to prove they have done the right thing, when the client has agreed to pay for a plaque – not simply when they request it – better yet still: why is it not inherent?

I am a designer passionate in research, technology, and sustainability /wellness. I realize I may not fit the mold of your typical interior designer as I love trying new things and techniques, rather than repeating previous thought processes, or even following trends. But this shouldn’t be out of the norm.

Every project should consider the viability of its design and the health of the people in its space.

So, why isn’t the industry celebrating when we simply do the right thing?

Why can’t we design all projects (large or small) to certification-ready standards?

I would like to take the time to make this post my official declaration of acting as a true, holistic designer. One who considers appearance of space, efficiency in layout, mindfulness for the people, and respect for the planet. I will take my knowledge in sustainability and wellness, and document strategies specific to my clients, and I will educate those I work within the practicality and necessity for such work.

So, who’s with me?!
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