A New Standard
For nearly a decade now, Interiors & Sources magazine has taken a proactive stance on the imperative for environmental stewardship on the part of the A & D industry. This advocacy led to the creation of the annual EnvironDesign® conference eight years ago, the creation of the Green Guide to NeoCon four years ago, the launch of The Bonda Report (an environmental news portal on the Internet) nearly two years ago and continues regularly throughout the pages of each and every issue (including three issues each year devoted strictly to green topics). A groundbreaking report from the Natural Marketing Institute shows that 63 million adult Americansor 30 percent of the U.S. adult populationmake purchasing decisions based on their personal, social and environmental values. In fact, 80 percent are willing to spend up to 20 percent more for products that coincide with these values. This is a significant trend for designers of residential spaces.
Why do we believe environmental issues are so relevant to our field? Because environmental and social responsibility concerns are increasingly important to the people who use design services.
For those involved in the commercial design sector, consider the following: a 2002 IFMA survey of facility managers reported that 69 percent of respondents are implementing green building concepts and 58 percent use or plan to add environmental criteria to vendor and product selection. The U.S. Green Building Council reports that approximately three percent of all new construction in the U.S. is pursuing certification according to the LEED Green Building Rating System.
What's happening is that many companies are using their buildings as a first step in a commitment to sustainability because these structures represent a very tangible expression of environmental stewardship. Green buildings make sense from a business standpoint because they can reduce energy and water consumption, minimize the use of natural resources in the materials selection process and improve indoor air quality and occupant well-being. They can also impact a company's best asset: its people. Sustainable design and building practices have been proven to increase employee satisfaction, which in turn increases retention as well as improves productivity levels.
To date, efforts to green buildings have been largely voluntary. That landscape is changing, though. A case in point is landmark legislation passed by the State of Minnesota in 2001, which went into effect in January of this year. Profiled in this issue's cover story, "Buildings, Benchmarks and Beyond," we explore the thought processes and work involved in this state's mandate that sustainable building guidelines must be applied to all state-funded building projects, as told by the three project managers who collaborated to get the bill from its passage to implementation: John Carmody, director of the Center for Sustainable Building Research at the University of Minnesota; David Eijadi, AIA, a principal at The Weidt Group; and Rick Carter, AIA, vice president at LHB Architects & Engineers. The legislation continues the state's already long history of sustainable achievements, they say, as well as goes beyond any existing standard because it addresses many disciplines: economical, environmental and human.
Many eyes will be turned toward this Midwest state and the progress it makes as it moves forward with these self-imposed guidelines. Indeed, opinions will probably vary about what's right or wrong, good or bad, better or best about the standards.
"Sustainable design represents a particularly difficult shift in culture because it has pitched such a large banner; it covers ideals which sometimes conflict when they intersect," noted Eijadi. "Where there is conflict, there is often confusion, doubt and sometimes cynicism. We want to help remove the apparent conflicts in and bolster the value of sustainable design by moving in the direction of measurable outcomes and rewards at a project level, a community level, a state level and for the greater environment. We believe that better tools and more facts will lead to better and more sustainable decisions."
We congratulate Minnesota for recognizing the importance of sustainable criteria and for doing something about it beyond mere lip service. Minnesotans can take heart in the words of Benjamin Franklin, one of the greatest optimists and thinkers in our nation's history, who said, "Well done is better than well said."