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DESIGN IN A CLIMATE CRISIS

Estimates suggest the built environment and construction industry is responsible for 39% of global emissions. At a time when climate change has become a climate emergency, the industry we are part of has a clear responsibility to ensure its impact on the planet is minimised, urgently.

 

Working on commercial and amenity projects, the typical lifecycle of a space is 5-7 years, creating waste and a culture of short term, linear design thinking. For us this necessitated a holistic approach to creating timeless, meaningful, adaptable, human-driven spaces that challenge the “rip it up and start again” mentality. So the question became,

 

"How can we continue to create positive experiences with

a clear conscience?"

Cue a deep dive diversion into a world of tables of data on carbon emissions, offsets and lifecycles, which is great, but in our view we can do more, much more! The question remains so how do we navigate separating the facts from the greenwash, and how can we take a holistic, systems view?

If you've been looking at sustainability or circularity in the built environment as an ambition, you may have come across various systems of accreditations such as BREEAM and WELL which we can work towards, depending on your particular priorities as a benchmark.

Caught up in the web of decoding terminology such as Sustainable, Recycled Content, Carbon Negative, Embodied Carbon, Net Zero, Low VOC and Socially Responsible lead us to define our own approach based on what we know to be good and true. We believe change in the outer world starts with us all individually and the choices we make, although there is often no right answer. With limited current regulation or standard to adhere to within from Government in the UK at least; here we outline our approach when reviewing the suitability of products and materials to specify for projects.

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1. Sense check

Do we need to change anything? What's driving this?

2. Recycle, re-use, antiques

The best products are often those that already exist.

3. Long lasting, adaptable

After its intended use here, can it be re-used or adapted for somewhere new, avoiding trend driven selections. Design for disassembly, minimal components and clear labelling of this to assist future custodians.

4. Non- toxic

Chemicals are bad known to permeate skin and affect the air we breathe. We look for the healthiest options in terms of VOC where the information is available, and ask what is used to treat organic products such as leather to stabilise them for longevity, along with the environmental & human impact this has in its full life cycle.

5. Ethical suppliers

Looking throughout the chain of custody for evidence of responsible employers and environmental treatment, such as B-Corp or Cradle2Cradle certified products or businesses.

6. Environmentally responsive

Making choices that respond to the existing building environment and adapt the form, shape, colour, or character in an appropriate way.

7. Energy efficient

Looking at embodied carbon in extraction, manufacture and transportation. And considering if the product will lower energy consumption.

We are simultaneously looking for specifications that are Affordable, Attractive and Available for our clients. The market has come a long way since "eco" products first launched with high quality, exciting material innovations coming all the time. We feel it’s our duty as designers to think beyond the surface and push circularity forward, communicating its importance to our clients, suppliers and contractors to encourage industry evolution. 

Maven Design Studio is proudly a signatory of Interior Design Declares, part of Construction Declares, a global petition movement uniting all strands of construction and the built environment to take action on the climate crisis.

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