top of page

INSIGHTS

HOW WE CHOOSE MATERIALS AND PRODUCTS FOR PROJECTS

JUNE 2023

Estimates suggest the built environment is responsible for 39% of global emissions. At a time when climate change has become a climate emergency, the sector has a clear responsibility to play its part to ensure that it minimises its impact on the environment.  In response, various systems of measurement and accreditations have popped up from EPD's to C2C, as well as terminology such as Sustainable, Recycled Content, Carbon Negative, Embodied Carbon, Net Zero, Low VOC content, socially responsible... With no current regulation or standard to adhere to from Government in the UK; what do we look for when reviewing suitable products and materials to specify?

We aim to use products which demonstrate the highest standards in:

  • Emissions minimisation - such as low C02e value, or net zero with offsetting.

  • Material / product circularity - how can this be reused, repurposed after this use?

  • Sustainable materials sourcing- is this a renewable resource?

  • Quality and longevity - does it meet or exceed the demands of its intended use?

  • Social wellness -  how does this product choice impact the local and global community?

  • Minimal use of toxic chemicals.

And which are:

  • Affordable, Attractive, Available.

In addition to our own research, we work with specialists in sustainable product sourcing that are reviewing products on a case-by-case basis, and understand that accreditation, although ideal, can be expensive and inaccessible for small businesses. In this way we are able to confidently support innovative new businesses that are driving the circularity agenda.

cradle-to-cradle-certified-vector-logo.png

CERTIFICATIONS & ACCREDITATIONS

Cradle to Cradle Innovation Institute Certified

For us this is the gold star standard, or should that be Platinum?

"Cradle to Cradle Certified® is the leading multi-attribute standard used globally across industries by designers, brands and manufacturers for designing and making products that enable a healthy, equitable and sustainable future".

It provides the framework to assess the safety, circularity and responsibility of materials and products across five categories of sustainability performance:

  1. Material Health,

  2. Product Circularity,

  3. Clean Air & Climate Protection,

  4. Water & Soil Stewardship and

  5. Social Fairness.

https://c2ccertified.org/the-standard

Because this model looks at the holistic health of our planet in every aspect and on a product specific, rather than company level, this is our preferred certification, but it doesn't cover everything it possibly could currently. And where certification such as FSC is applicable for timber products as an industry specific standard, there isn't the motivation from suppliers to additionally be C2C certified.

B Corporation Certified (B CORP)

B Corp is in simple terms a network of certified companies transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet. Certified companies meet high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency through rigorous assessment, typically a process that takes over a year.

The assessment is very detailed, looking at everything from paying a living wage, supply chain ethics to feedback systems and cleaning products used by the company. The minimum pass score is 80 points, whereas the average business would score 50.9.

As a network of companies they are shifting the global economy from a system that profits few to one that benefits all: advancing a new model that moves from concentrated wealth and power to equity; from extraction to generation, and from prioritising individualism to embracing interdependence.

Whilst it has its flaws, the companies are committed to ethic practise and positive impact.

Digital Product Passports

The EU has plans for Digital Product Passports that will enable construction materials and products to be tracked through their lifecycle with information on reuse, repair, as well as a declaration on performance and conformity. This may or may not be adopted by the UK government. It also doesn't help filter out the short lifecycle or toxic items. This will take some time to come into its full usefulness, and doesn't consider everything we have created to date.

The truth is progress to circular, regenerative products is slow and certifications can be lengthy and cost intensive for businesses to achieve. For smaller businesses in particular, so we still have to keep an open mind and sift through options.

 as well as not having the backing of government or industry bodies like RIBA, SBID or BIID. For now we do our best with the information we can access. 

MINDSET CHANGES

Bespoke Items

Within the process we often design a series of bespoke items, from bar counters to toilet cubicle systems and furniture. Here we will look at off site manufacture for efficiency of all resources.As well as design for disassembly.

We embrace where possible approaches such as Kintsugi; the general concept of highlighting or emphasising imperfections such as knots in wood, or the layer history of finishes on sites that become part of their unique character where appropriate.

Waste Disposal

Often with refurbishments there will be a certain amount of waste removed from site. Increasingly manufacturers of carpets, wood flooring, textiles, paint to name a few are geared up with recycling facilities that can divert these "waste materials" away from the skip and straight back into new materials. At the moment this is something that requires specific intervention from all parties, and behaviour change in the construction industry to implement. End of use programmes where furniture is bought back or otherwise re-introduced into the supply chain, e.g. through remanufacturing, can help businesses dispose of their surplus furniture in socially, economically and environmentally responsible ways.

Others are using the offcuts and over-orders from the production process, such as Haines Collection that resells fabrics at a % of the original giving it a chance to be used rather than recycled.

Foresight & Integrity

We're moving into a era where disposable, poorly manufactured, aesthetic-driven products should be in the past. The saying "you buy cheap, you pay twice" applies. We must consider FF&E items, and even timber flooring as an investment, that will return value in the long term; that can be moved from site to site and reused, resold in the same way we accept for antique furniture. Investing in quality products means they will last and hold a residual resale value for your business, saving future capital investment, site closures for maintenance and associated costs.

bottom of page