Sustainable design: trends and challenges

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CID talks to regional experts about the current green trends and the challenges of balancing sustainability, aesthetics and functionality.

In recent years, the integration of sustainable interior design has been the fastest-growing segment in the design industry worldwide and the Middle East is no exception.

From the use of reclaimed and energy-efficient construction materials to using furniture and products from suppliers that promote eco-friendly manufacturing processes, innovation is vital when it comes to designing healthy indoor environments.

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However, leaving spaces with open eaves, exposed services and unfinished wood-based panels is not necessarily sustainable design, according to Colette Van Jaarsveld, managing partner of Arcology International, a Dubai-based interior design firm providing sustainable solutions.

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“Sustainable design does not necessarily look different, it ticks those invisible boxes in terms of meeting and exceeding LEED guidelines and requirements, running costs, flexibility and innovation solutions to clients’ needs over the lifetime of the building or space without any adverse effects to the environment,” says Van Jaarsveld.

“Sustainable design is more appropriately termed invisible design, not in terms of minimalist design but more related to the human experience and interaction with a space as well as the ability for a space to be modified in line with user-requirement over time.”

Promoting transparency

One of the key issues impacting on the success of sustainable design is transparency, according to Louise D’Costa Emanuelsen, marketing manager at Interface, manufacturer of modular carpets. She explains that without clear and honest information or standardised data, it can be a challenge for a business to find partners capable of supporting environmental targets.

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“In 1994, recognising that the way the carpet industry worked was fundamentally unsustainable, Interface took the decision to eliminate its environmental footprint and, ultimately, become restorative in all places it has an impact,” says Emanuelsen. “To achieve this goal, Interface established product development targets to be met by 2020 – its Mission Zero pledge.”

Over the course of the company’s Mission Zero journey, it has developed ways to reduce waste and cut carbon emissions, from glue-free installation to bio-based yarn and was the first North American carpet manufacturer to publish a third party verified Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).

“These documents provide a standardised, independent verification of a product’s environmental impact, helping environmentally conscious businesses find others who are likeminded,” explains Emanuelsen.

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