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How construction can mirror sustainability in interior design

  • 25 Apr 2017

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The principles of sustainability are hot on the lips of every environmentalist, employer and politician in recent years, with the concept trickling down into every industry and corner of modern society. Sustainability in design is not a recent phenomenon but, with the built environment accounting for 45% of total UK carbon emissions, sustainable design is more important than ever as we look to reduce our impact on the planet. 

Interior design and construction go hand-in-hand, and both industries can learn a lot from each other’s sustainable policies and processes – so, in today’s article, we’ll be exploring ways construction can mirror sustainability in interior design.

Materials matter

Although materials differ between the two industries, the rawest way to action sustainability in any construction or interior design project is by sourcing sustainable materials to use throughout. With IKEA & Form Us With Love designing a kitchen unit made from exactly 25 recycled plastic bottles, it’s clear that the opportunity to creatively utilise environmentally-friendly materials is endless. As Form Us With Love CEO, Jonas Pettersson, puts it: “A plastic bottle is not waste; it is a resource” – highlighting a forward-thinking attitude that all construction and design companies can aspire to.

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Of course, we’re not talking solely about recycled materials here – nobody expects a skyscraper to be built from plastic bottles. But, when you narrow down materials into their core groups: woods, plastics/polymers, metals, textiles etc. it becomes clearer and easier to look for sustainable solutions in each category. From sustainable solid woods such as cork, timber and bamboo used in interior design, through to geo-textiles and even sustainable concrete, the materials you use should stay sensitive to the environment and minimise impact – for the short-term and long-term benefit of our planet.

Forward-thinking

To make sustainability an innate part of the construction process, project managers should look to create and implement an environmental policy, either as part of the overall construction plan or as a stand-alone document. Interior designers, as with most designers, have increasingly used planning to highlight the environmental factors they have considered in their project.

Having a referenceable piece of documentation at later stages in construction can prove invaluable when examining the bigger picture, and shows compliance of the increasingly tighter regulations imposed on the construction industry. Plus, homes that meet a certain level of sustainability can qualify for certifications like BREEAM and Passivhaus, which benefit both the builder and the end-user with higher energy efficiency and a ‘green’ accreditation.

You should set clear, achievable targets that cover the key elements of the build: procurement, tender, transport, disposal and design are all relevant areas where improvements to green standards can be made and policies can be put in place. Having a concrete plan in place will help you implement green practices at every level of the workforce, putting sustainability at the core of the project and ensuring standards are met and objectives are in place.

Once standards and policies come into practice, construction companies could look to get accreditation through schemes like Green Mark or ISO 14001 – proving their dedication to environmentally-aware practices.

Every little helps

Although there are many things that we’d all like to do to be a bit greener, sometimes it’s not feasible to achieve everything with the resources at hand. While we’d all love to design oxygen-rich tree-draped skyscrapers or roofs that harvest rainwater, working within our means often means taking a smaller approach to sustainability.

Small adaptations in construction planning and design have the potential to make a meaningful impact in the move towards sustainability, and this sentiment is shared by those in the interior design community too – where the rising prevalence of LED lighting, indoor composters and energy-efficient windows highlights the steady-steps sentiment.

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Innovations like solar roofs give the construction industry the chance to ‘go green’ at every level of the build. Smaller changes can be introduced; such as; to make a positive impact on your construction sustainability. To make a positive impact on your construction sustainability, smaller changes can be introduced – like effective rainwater recycling systems and adequate insulation to reduce the need for heating.

Doing things differently has become increasingly important in a continuously competitive landscape, across both interior design and construction. With the two intrinsically matched, it’s easy to envision how they can work together in the future to make entirely sustainable living a reality in new builds.

With every build, construction companies are offered the chance to reduce their impact on the planet, and to join our generation in defining sustainability for the future – and with our guidance, you can be one step closer to reducing your footprint in 2017.

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