Elina Grigoriou one of the United Kingdom’s most forward-thinking designers provided insight at Domotex 2023 on the way designers are working with net-zero targets and how they consider flooring specifications.

Sustainability commitments

People want an interior design that is sustainable, but what does it mean? It has to be good for the people in the designed spaces and should not have an environmental impact.

Sustainability is not a “thing”?

What is sustainability, and does it mean only environmental impact? Sustainability is not a thing, as it is not sustainable itself. Sustainability is the decision by the client or specifier on how they are going to take and use a product and specifically what happens at the end of its lifecycle.

Ask the “how” and “where” questions about sustainability as used in interior design or a building, as it must capture the three pillars of sustainability and how these pillars are coming together.

How can design achieve this?

Clients must have a commitment to net zero, meaning they must have an allocated budget for the project that involves the cost/money and a carbon budget.

Schemes are targeting net zero

With designers putting the future goal in process and breaking down targets into smaller sizes, they help clients to achieve net-zero targets.

How do we enable change?

How can we afford the change environmentally? The more circular the product and the procurement is,the more changes we can make with a much lower impact.

A sustainable design is a design people don’t want to change, and where repairs aren’t needed. If repairs are needed because it keeps breaking down, it accounts to a higher cost with an environmental impact.

Negotiations in the design process

One of the negotiations is embodied carbon, which is carbon that has gone into the manufacturing of floors, for example. Designers must measure every single object, put it together and see the total cost of the carbon emissions and sustainability. Can you afford the total carbon that is in this budget? There are many negotiations in the design process to establish where carbon will be spent.

Setting clear targets

There must be clarity and set targets for where to spend the carbon and limit the emissions from every process. Designers must have specific targets that they are designing towards.

At the briefing stage of a project, with clients and all parts of the team who will occupy that building, it must be confirmed how they are going to behave, as this will impact the energy, durability and lifecycle tempo of a space.

Economic literacy

With the interior fit-out, the weight of carbon per square metre can be established to align with net zero, to help designers meet the project’s targets.

The carbon cost of specifications and how to calculate: New material / pre-loved material / pre-loved and reused material are studied to see each materials’ amount of carbon created. Circularity is again key to bringing down embodied carbon and overall emissions.

Lifecycle stages

All stages must be calculated to establish the end-of-life cycle. For example, the potential of furniture in a space: Can it be used again to extend its life? Standards on a product and project level can be established and planned to be met.

Carbon footprint

How much carbon was in the manufacturing or stages of a design/space/project?

  • Product.
  • Transport.
  • Packaging.
  • Manufacturing.
  • Energy – regulated and unregulated.
  • Operation.
  • Replacement/reuse.
  • Bills.

It is necessary to unpack these, as all these points will make a difference in the embodied carbon calculation.

Design in interior space

Nowadays a product is modelled for 60 years, as it is the benchmark for the standards that are recognised. This amounts to data and trends and systemic thinking by everyone in the community to reach future goals

Integrating systemic change to reach net zero

In practice, it can be done by establishing and limiting the carbon cost.

Environmental Product Declarations (EPD): Carbon cost of an item.

The carbon budget of the product assessed by the manufacturer is needed and has a carbon limit on the EPD.

Comparisons between products and different materials and their durability/reusability will assist designers to work towards the end goal. All items must be modelled to calculate their emissions during their lifetime, to establish what the best product is to use to reach the net zero target.

Considerations having an impact:

  • Where is it manufactured?
  • Where is the factory based? (Distance – remove fossil fuel from transport and use electric vehicles.)
  • Parameters of the modelling– is it more or less sustainable?
  • Circularity – data of carbon – measured by the percentage of the volume of a building. How circular is the product, and can it be disassembled at the end of life?

The end of life is the beginning of a new life

Every product made must be designed with the end of life in mind and manufacturers must work backward to know if they have a truly sustainable space. When increasing circularity and measuring it in percentages, the designer can know how much material goes into a building, its embodied carbon, how much is going to landfills and how much is going to keep going in the future.

Design for 100% disassembly

Designers have to work with manufacturers to specify products. They have to understand where the product will end up and reverse engineer it from there.

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to https://www.domotex.de/ for the information in this editorial.

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