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  • How can you catalyze change for greener materials?

How can you catalyze change for greener materials?

  • Posted in Default
  • By admin
  • Date June 14th, 2012 16:15
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  • The most common question we are asked after lectures and trainings is, 'as an individual what can I do to help.' If you're like most designers, your client or your firm doesn't prioritize green design. Though this might exclude you from using state of the art conditioning systems, you can still drive green design with every project.

    How? By demanding healthy materials. Though often overlooked, materials massively dictate the ecological impact of projects. All materials are made by combining molecules and chemical compounds. This is certainly an oversimplification of manufacturing processes, but it is the foundation to measure impact for all materials. Chemical composition dictates the ecological impact of every material, from bamboo flooring, to epoxy. I'm sure this sounds quite far removed from designers but it isn't.


    Material composition is determined by three leverage points:
    1. Regulation.
    2. Buyers (designers).
    3. Performance.

    Buyers are arguably most important of the three because they can influence regulations and performance standards. Designers are the most important buyers because we buy on a scale that can shift what is manufactured and how it is made. For example, two years ago we approached a Manufacturer to become a GIGA Member. We spoke about the benefits of transparently explaining product features, chemistry and environmental brand values. This Manufacturer didn't see enough demand for communicating environmental information with buyers and declined. Two days later, this same Manufacturer happened to make a sales visit at Gensler, and presented his products to one of our earliest adopters. This Designer simply asked the Manufacturer how his materials ranked on GIGA. Two days later this Manufacturer called us to become a GIGA Member and begin benchmarking products.

    Manufacturers have flocked to fulfill LEED requirements. Why? Designers are asking for it. You have incredible opportunities to help drive product innovation simply by voicing your opinions and demands. Progressive manufacturers keep close tabs on designers and even work with them during product development phases.

    Regardless of your company's eco-culture or your client's eco-vision, you can leverage your projects to encourage manufacturers to transparently explain how their products impact what you care about. Set your own minimum information thresholds or use ours and refuse to specify materials that don't meet your standards. Most Manufacturers have plenty of information and are willing to share. Often, you just need to ask for it. We've made it easy for Designers to ask Manufacturers for product information:

    1. Ping. When viewing User Submitted Materials, click 'Ping Manufacturer' to let manufacturers know you are interested in knowing more about the environmental impact of their materials.
    2. What is this made of? When Manufacturers visit your office, ask them about their material composition. If they don't know, ask them to find out.
    3. X-List. Keep a Material X-List in your office (or use ours) to prohibit use of materials that don't meet your standards. Tell manufacturers about this list - they will avoid it.
    4. Your values. Tell Manufacturers what you value. Ask them to participate in GIGA and provide information you value most. If you're looking for it, others are too. Save materials that meet your values and share them with others.

    You can design green(er) today. Don't wait for your boss or client; start leveraging your goals and values.
    As always, we're here to help. If you need help finding the right materials, Ping us.

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