Experts Offer Ideas for Creating ‘Green’
By John Filippelli
Most designers use their work to make a statement about who they
are or who their clients are. But, what if designers used each
project as a platform, not simply to increase their design prowess,
but for an even greater purpose: to save the environment?
This is the question posed by Annette K. Stelmack, ASID, design
director of Associates III, a Denver, CO-based design firm that
teamed with the Washington, D.C.-based American Society of Interior
Designers (ASID) to create Turning Green: A Guide to Becoming a
Green Design Firm.
As Stelmack suggests, creating “green designs,” or using
sustainable products, is a worthwhile endeavor that will allow
designers to not only adhere to the “home as haven,” concept, but
make that home last for the life of the client.
“By designing or adapting the places we live and work in an
ecologically sensitive manner, we can all contribute to the
continued well-being of our planet and its limited natural
resources. And, by doing so, we can also benefit from lower fuel
bills, healthier environments, less waste and beautiful spaces,”
Adds Ann Knight, v.p./marketing for Bainbridge Island, WA-based
Teragren, LLC, a bamboo flooring and accessory building products
manufacturer: “The main advantages of green building are not only
to benefit our planet’s continued existence, but also to increase
the public’s awareness that building environmentally is critical to
sustaining our natural resources, air quality and energy.”
The way to achieve this, Stelmack notes, is to educate yourself
as well as your employees, clients and other design
As described in the manual: “When a new project is imminent,
attempt to be involved as early as possible so that you can broach
the subject of sustainability at the onset, hopefully in the
schematic design phase. Address the subject with the client, the
architect and the contractor and try to get full team buy-in, and
then work with however much buy-in you get.”
To successfully work toward the goal of “green design,” Stelmack
suggests selecting sites that have minimal impact on the
surrounding area; using systems that are energy efficient or that
come from renewable resources; specifying energy-efficient
appliances and water-efficient plumbing fixtures and providing for
on-site recycling both during construction and throughout the life
of the building.
In addition, both cite the LEED (Leadership in Energy &
Environmental Design) rating system, a credit-based system created
by the U.S Green Building Council, as having propelled the adoption
of green building practices, technologies, policies and standards
for commercial, institutional and high-rise residential
Says Stelmack: “The LEED process is most effective when used as
an early organizing principle for a project, [because] determining
which sustainable design elements work best for a particular
project is a complex process.”
David Knight, president/CEO of Teragren, LLC, adds: “We’re
seeing a significant shift in attitudes about environmentally
friendly products and socially responsible companies.”
He concludes: “At a glance, small businesses don’t appear to
impact the environment like billion dollar corporations, but when
you look at the big picture, the opposite is true.”
Green thumb design
According to Stelmack,
there are many ways to promote green design, whether on the jobsite
in the office.
For instance, marking bins for different types of usable wood
scraps, such as kindling, sawdust for compost and materials for art
projects as well as educating the work crew about recycling
procedures are all potential solutions, she believes.
She also suggests minimizing packaging waste by asking suppliers
to avoid excessive packaging or leaving packaging at the point of
Taking inventory of office products and processes can help
determine where changes can be made as well, especially with
cleaning supplies, recyclable fax and copier paper, she adds. Even
converting to Energy Star appliances and using certain types of
light bulbs can make a difference.
David Knight agrees, noting that his company measures the
company’s overall environmental impact, from the beginning of the
manufacturing process through the time the product is shipped to
distribution points and finally, installed. “Last year, the company
launched a five-year plan to assess Teragren’s total environmental
footprint and develop practices to reduce its overall impact. The
end result will be a plan that could realistically benefit small
companies in any industry with steps for saving the planet and
turning a profit,” he states.
Stelmack believes that “Our commitment to green design, as both
a firm and as individuals, ultimately enhances the services that we
provide our clients.”
A crucial part of the
green design process, according to Stelmack, is finding “green”
Therefore, she suggests that once a firm has identified its
aims, it should strive to find products and manufacturers that meet
its green guidelines.
But, Ann Knight warns against “green washing,” or choosing
manufacturers that claim to manufacture green products when, in
fact, they do not.
Educating yourself about who you do business with is key.
Stelmack also suggests considering smaller firms and custom
manufacturers who are traditional builders especially with
furnishings and fabrics because these companies may already have
eco-friendly practices in place.
Ann Knight notes that bamboo is one viable resource because it
is renewably harvested over and over from the same plant.
She adds: “[By selecting bamboo], you’re helping to reduce the
dependence on dwindling timber resources.”
Knight also cites Forest Certified Wood, cork flooring, hemp to
create countertop materials, crushed sunflower seeds for an
MDF-type of plywood and recycled glass and plastic as other product
Stelmack, citing Turning Green: A Guide to Becoming a Green
Design Firm, notes that designers may also select woods for
interior finish and trim from certified, well-managed forests; use
formaldehyde-free particle board and MDF products for interior
walls or provide documentation certifying that products are from
salvaged wood sources if salvaged woods are used.
According to Ann Knight, the U.S
Green Building Council’s LEED Certification program has had a great
impact on the surging of green products and designs over the past
“The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is leading a national
consensus for producing a new generation of buildings that deliver
high performance inside and out,” she says.
For example, she points out that council members work together
to develop LEED products and resources. These include the
Greenbuild Annual International Conference and Expo policy guidance
and educational and marketing tools that support sustainable
Although reserved primarily for commercial applications, the
LEED rating system does have benefits for residential projects,
“Firms can have a team member become LEED accredited and
projects can become LEED certified by incorporating the LEED rating
systems as a design tool,” she says.
Summarizing, Ann Knight says: “[The LEED system] greatly impacts
architects and designers because what they specify in a home or
building is critical to the environmental movement as well as their
reputation in the market as leading-edge designers.”
Concluding, Stelmack poses one last question: “[After all], who
doesn’t want a healthy environment to live and work in that also
contributes to the well-being of our planet and future