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Sustainable Specifying Guide

By October 8, 2021October 13th, 2021Knowledge & Tips

Liz recently presented the launch of the BIID’s new Sustainable Specifying Guide at Planted in London’s Kings Cross. The guide is a tool for designers, suppliers and clients to gain knowledge on typical issues and considerations when looking to improving sustainability of their projects. Liz will tell us more below-

How did the guide come about and how were you involved?

In April 2021 the BIID released its 3-year strategic plan– one of its 7 key aims is to further embed sustainability into interior design practice. At the same time, the BIID’s 3-year Sustainability Strategy was released, which sets out 3 key pillars of the journey to change-

  • Awareness of the issues- you can’t solve an issue if you don’t know it exists. I certainly learned a lot through producing the Sustainability Guide and it’s really inspired and pushed me to look for sustainable alternatives.
  • Knowledge– provide designers with the knowledge and tools they need to reduce their impact and improve sustainable outcomes- both for their businesses and clients.
  • Promotion– share ideas, practices, products and successful projects with others in the profession. It’s our hope that by doing this, sustainable practice will become the norm and consequently the cost for eco products and technologies will come down and be more accessible to all.

Following the release of the Strategy, the Professional Practice Committee produced this guide, aiming to-

  • Provide lots of info and tips to demystify some of the issues and opinions surrounding sustainability. With knowledge, we empower and enable designers to make immediate, small and easy changes- these small actions by lots of people, together will make a big difference.
  • We also wanted to encourage designers to consider sustainability earlier on in the design process- whether that’s talking to suppliers about their sustainable products or options before specifying, or even asking the client early on, if they’d like to consider adding sustainable technologies to their property.
  • Finally, we wanted to give designers the tools they need to ask their current suppliers about sustainability. If everyone challenges their own supply chain and adapts their own behaviour, this will help create widespread and diverse change, rather than promoting a limited number of sustainable suppliers.

We’ve has been working on the guide over the last year, researching, speaking to specialists and collating our findings into this online document.

How do you find the guide and what does it contain?

The guide is now live on the BIID website- https://biid.org.uk/resources/sustainable-specifying-guide or go to News and Resources.

When producing the guide, we realised that becoming more sustainable is a journey and there are lots of ways to improve and make projects more environmentally friendly.  As such, the guide looks holistically at typical problems and opportunities when specifying.

There are 5 key sections, followed by further reading. Use the contents page to click through to the Guide’s specific headings or materials. To return to the contents page, click ‘Sustainable Specifying Guide’ (bottom left of each page).

  • The first section is Health and Wellbeing- It felt important to consider from the start the fundamental reason why we should all want to engage with sustainability- because we all want to live and work in healthy spaces which meet our physical and occupational needs, but also interiors which bring joy and make us feel good when we’re in them.
  • The next section is Energy Consumption During Use. Here we’re looking at the energy consumed by the users of the property and how we could improve it through careful design.
  • Designing for Longevity and Building Maintenance is our next section. The future use of the space should be considered throughout the design process- how the materials might be used and maintained, how easy is it to fix or find replacement parts. Or how the needs of the user might change and therefore the design should adapt over time.
  • Our next section is Products. I found this section really interesting as it made me consider all the steps and processes which come before and after the use of a product. The usual path is take > make > waste, but there are a number of ways that we can disrupt or reduce consumption at each stage. But there’s other considerations than just stopping things ending up in the bin. Who made the product, where and what is the impact of this product on their life?
  • Then our largest section is Materials. Much as we have done for the other sections, we’ve listed
    • Typical issues which are associated with the material, from origin, manufacture, application and removal
    • Next, we’ve provided a series of questions or considerations- which you can either ask of yourself as a designer or query with your supplier.

What are your top tips for someone looking to improve the sustainability of their project?

Read the Guide! There’s so much interesting and insightful information in there.

Sample fact included- Growing organic cotton, produces 94% less greenhouse emissions than conventional cotton.

  • I love this fact as it feels like an easy win, not just in interiors but in my day to day life. I now always look to purchase organic cotton over standard.
  • Until learned this, I assumed organic cotton just meant less pesticides and more cost. But through knowledge we can all make better decisions both for ourselves and the environment.

Start small and consistently look for ways to improve. The first step might be measuring- finding out the carbon footprint of your business, project or an item of furniture. Once you know what the impact is- it’s easier to make informed decisions.

Spread the word– share ideas, successful projects and improvements with clients, friends, family, and colleagues. The more we share the issues the more chance we have of together coming up with better solutions and options

Everyone individually making small changes leads to huge changes collectively!. The more people involved the better!

My final tip is to join Interior Design Declares– work with businesses who are signed up, and encourage any you know to join. It is a pledge to improve and take urgent action against climate change.

If you need help with your renovation in London or Brighton, contact us now.

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