Sustainable Construction: The New Mantra for Designing Interiors

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Do you consider yourself a sustainability-minded architect or designer (A+D)? If you think placing eco-friendly materials into your designs constitutes sustainability, we’d like to challenge you to step up your game.

The standard for sustainable construction has been pushed higher and higher by industry leaders over the years. Certifications like LEED represent just the beginning, rather than the golden example of sustainable construction.

By reconfiguring, recycling, and repurposing, you can get the most out of your space and materials. The alternative? Hello, landfill!

You don’t have to sacrifice quality for sustainability, or vice versa. Thanks to new technologies and mindful construction methods, you can now have both when you choose sustainable construction as your new design mantra.

Why Is It Important to Consider Sustainability?

Sustainability is more than just a buzzword that says "we care about the planet." It reflects ongoing changes in our environment, our society, and our industry. Your clients care about sustainability—and their clients care about sustainability too.

Have you heard about the circular economy? A circular economy moves away from the traditional “take-make-dispose” economic model to one that is regenerative by design. The goal is to retain as much value as possible from products, parts, and resources to create a system that allows for long life, sharing, digitization, and resource recovery. By applying these principles, we can design waste out, increase resource productivity, and decouple growth from natural resource consumption.

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A sustainable building that takes circular economy concepts into practice gives your client something to feel good about. It goes above and beyond the LEED certification and into HPD, EPD, and SCS Indoor Advantage Gold Certificates. This type of building also gives your client greater leverage within their community, because their sustainability values are on full display.

Why Is Sustainability Important in Construction?

Caring for the planet requires everyone to think about sustainability. In the construction industry, we can make a significant impact through changes in design and implementation.

Landfills represent a source of soil, air, and water pollution and are costly to build. According to a 2012 World Bank report, construction waste accounts for approximately half of all solid landfill waste, which is expected to reach 2.2 billion tons by 2025. When architects and designers fail to consider sustainability in their designs, construction waste ends up in landfills and directly contributes to the pollution of our planet.

On top of all that bad news for Mother Earth, sustainability affects the overall cost of your build project. Recycling and reusing materials are cheaper than manufacturing brand-new materials from raw resources. Sustainable methods ensure those raw, finite resources will be available to future generations while providing cost certainty for you and your client.

Using sustainable materials made from fewer chemicals and pollutants ultimately create healthier environments for people to live, work, and play in. Sustainable construction keeps the end user's health and wellness in mind by taking a holistic approach and aiming for the highest standards possible.

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What Does Sustainability in Construction Mean?

Understanding the importance of sustainability is one thing, but putting it into practice in your designs is another. To join our movement in leaving LEED in the dust, you need to know what sustainable construction really means for you as an A+D and your role in the cycle.

Think Deconstruction, Not Demolition

To start with, begin to think "deconstruction" rather than simply "demolition." Take into account what the existing building has to offer you, or to other architects and builders.

Deconstruction involves carefully removing reusable materials by hand, including decorative elements like floor tiles, fireplace mantles, or wooden baseboards. Other materials that can be repurposed include toilets and sinks, pipes, and electrical components.

Raw building materials, like metal or concrete, can be processed and recycled. When done carefully, deconstruction prevents up to 95% of materials from going to a landfill. This "circular economy" keeps existing materials active within the construction process.

Offsite Construction = Sustainable Construction

Waste isn't generated just in the demolition process. The construction phase also produces byproducts and waste with packaging and scrap materials.

Think about the wooden forms used when pouring concrete. What happens to that wood once the concrete sets? Sustainability in construction means either avoiding these scrap materials or having a precise plan for how to recycle or reuse them once they serve their purpose.

Using offsite construction methods also helps to reduce job site waste. Consider using prefabricated interior construction to significantly reduce the amount of waste generated and to promote efficient and sustainable construction for the life of the space—way beyond the first build.

When the building solutions you specify are Designed For Disassembly, then inevitable space changes made in the future don't need to contribute to landfills. Your well thought-out designs can flex and grow as the client's needs change, without taxing the waste system.

Efficiency via Technology-Driven Construction

Efficiently designing interior spaces comes into play as well. The larger the space, the more materials required to build it. Can the same functionality be achieved in a smaller, more efficient and more sustainable space? As an architect and designer, this is your challenge to embrace.

Physical mockups represent a potential drain of physical and financial resources. Plus, they have limitations that digital mockups can rectify in moments. The plasticity of a digital mockup and the data that can be generated by computer programs like DIRTT's ICE technology make physical mockups look like ancient relics.

By harnessing technology-driven construction practices, you can use software and VR technology to gain the upper hand in your industry. Ultimately you’ll get more peace of mind. You’ll understand your build project materials and cost upfront AND know deep down inside that you’re doing your part to create a more sustainable world.

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How do your designs measure up? Sustainability pays off in many ways, both financially and in terms of your reputation as a forward-thinking A+D professional. Go above and beyond 20th century standards and challenge yourself to innovate. Start with your new mantra...say it with us...sustainable construction.

The GRIT team is here to show you how to get the most out of your space and materials. Let’s talk through your next project!

Angela Glatz