The future of green building won’t depend on any one product, practice or technology. Rather, it will depend on how these three elements come together to produce projects that take equal consideration for the overall health of the building, its occupants and the environment. Architects and designers today have a keen understanding that when the environment benefits, building occupants benefit. As designers serve the emerging wave of clients who recognize the responsibility each of us have to continue to better our communities, cities and world, the need rises for products that meet and exceed their expectations of what green design can be. In today’s market, a plank of wood can reflect an entire company’s core values; in our case, to make the future better than today. I believe that this trend will continue as new products and projects emerge that benefit both the world and the people people in it, rather than one or the other.
High-profile projects like Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium serve as leading examples of how product performance and sustainability go hand in hand for the current wave of designers. To serve as the city’s premier hub for massive sporting events, the highest-quality building products had to be used to withstand the demands of huge crowds and eliminate the need for replacement down the line. In selecting flooring for the AT&T Perch section of the stadium, the TVS Design team chose our low-emitting, acrylic-infused hardwood for its combination of unmatched durability and sustainability.
Eliminating the need for replacement is the most sustainable practice we can have as manufacturers. By design, durability is one of the most important factors in reducing environmental impact. If we eliminate the need to remove and replace core building elements, there is no excess waste to haul away; no need to fix a problem with new adhesive; no additional carbon emissions from shipping new goods. An equally important element is of course, to ensure goods are manufactured using green technology and practices to produce a low-emitting product, but we believe these two qualities go hand in hand.
To move toward holistic sustainability, here are steps manufacturers can take to enhance product performance and further position themselves as the top choice for environmentally conscious specifications.
1. Eliminate the need for replacement
The greatest thing manufacturers can do to make the least impact on the environment—but the most impact for clients—is to design a product that stands the test of time. Make the choice to stand for high-performance and durability above all else; choose to create the last product a designer will need to specify for a given space. This is a conscious choice, and deciding to choose performance first will not happen by accident. While it’s true that this requires greater investment on the front end, the lower life-cycle cost your customers will enjoy will be worth it for both them and your business as designers continue to return for each new project.
2. Reduce, reuse, recycle
Understanding the value and importance of creating sustainable goods through waste-reducing practices has a major impact on the bottom line. In the flooring industry, so much of the excess from the manufacturing process could result in waste. Leftover raw materials and chemicals used in processing can have a major effect on the environment. Reusing what remains post-manufacturing, such as sawdust, as an energy and heat source reduces unnecessary energy use and the amount of waste that would otherwise end up in of landfills. What processes can you introduce to make use of additional materials?
3. Embrace transparency
In the past, designers generally chose products based on whom they knew, not product merit. Designers now have the ability to take all aspects into consideration as more knowledge is available through third parties and online. Reliance on a local sales representative is taking a back seat as designers realize the best product may not be the product they’ve always used. Every time a designer specifies a product, it is their reputation on the line.
We have a responsibility to ourselves, our designers and our legacy to practice transparency. It’s not just the right way; it’s the best way. As an added bonus, manufacturers see tangible results from transparency as they clearly communicate how building and design elements affect the health of building occupants and the environment, as well as solutions to reduce it. One practical way to work toward greater transparency is to seek well-known third-party certifications, such as a FloorScore Certification or a Health Product Declaration. Through these declarations, designers are able to quickly determine which companies meet their standards and, in turn, educate their client quickly and clearly on why they’ve chosen your products.
In the next five years, we’ll see sustainability in commercial projects moving from a luxury to a requirement. Examining your product and its performance now will put you ahead of the curve. A product that outperforms all others, while keeping sustainability at the forefront, gets people talking. If you produce the right thing, using the best practices, the people who care will catch on. Together, we can make the future of the entire industry that much better––and greener!
Jason Brubraker(*) / Environmental Protection