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Why sustainable design is good business.

"Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful," E. F. Schumacher wrote in his 1973 book Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, a compilation of essays on economics and its impact on the environment released shortly after the 1973 energy crisis.

Thirty-three years later amid a looming global environmental crisis, many argue that the economy is still being run as though people don't matter, especially in the design and industrial industries. Sustainable design--also referred to as "green design"--is just one movement that aims to change that custom through projects and developments that substitute less harmful products and processes for conventional ones.

As a senior vice president and director of design at MKDA, a space planning and interior architecture firm that creates office space for businesses and landlords, I have given much thought to the topic of sustainable design. In fact, almost 14 years ago, I helped found Green October, New York City's first ever green interior design exposition and trade show; the Green Design Committee of the Institute of Business Designers; and Seed, a newsletter that informed industry leaders on ways to implement green design in office buildings.

My own personal intrigue with sustainable office design began during investigations into city codes that revealed a new code requiring the elimination of formaldehyde and PCBs from carpeting and composite materials used to make cabinetry and millwork. Since then, the carpet industry has eliminated their use; created buyback programs to recycle used materials into new carpets; made great strides in the purification of production wastewater; and implemented environmentally safe practices at their production facilities.

Today's consumers are increasingly more environmentally conscious--wanting products and services to have as little impact on the environment as possible--so sustainable design is no longer only good for the environment and people, but it is good for businesses, too.

Creating a sustainable office design can be as simple as installing energy efficient lighting, using companies that implement buy-back and recycling programs, using natural and sustainable materials, and following a thoughtful approach to space planning. Here's more:

Lighting

Energy-efficient lighting is the only way to go these days. Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL), for example, require two-thirds less energy, generate seventy percent less heat, and last up to ten times longer than standard lighting, according to ENERGY STAR--a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Lighting manufacturers are consistently creating better quality energy-efficient lighting, too. Today's CFLs give off a warm, steady light--a vast improvement on the humming "white" light of older fluorescent bulbs--and can be applied nearly anywhere that incandescent lights are used, including overhead lighting, accent lighting, and more.

Recyclables

* One of the greatest recent developments in sustainable design has been the advent of buy-back programs that prominent furniture and carpeting companies have begun to implement. These companies buy back used products, dismantle them, refurbish them, and then resell them at a substantial savings to potential buyers. The products' longevity helps to reduce landfill waste and also toxic runoff and energy usage resulting from new product manufacturing.

Materials

Sustainable materials have become very popular and highly accessible and usable in recent years.

At MKDA, we typically use flooring, wall coverings and upholstery made from post-consumer recycled material; fabrics made from natural fibers including jute, sisal and silk; environmentally sound wood products; and even some oil-based products that have greatly improved production processes.

MKDA also works closely with companies that manufacture furniture using sustainable resources, including bamboo and trees farmed through accredited sources. Use of canopy and old growth trees like Rosewood and various types of mahoganies is becoming less common.

Space Planning

Another way to create a sustainable office space is to use standardized office modules.

Unlike custom fit furniture modules, which can create large amounts of environmental waste, standardized workstations are interchangeable, flexible and have the longevity to grow with a company. In the longterm, standardized modules not only save businesses money, but also help reduce landfill waste and toxic runoff and energy usage resulting from the production of new products.

Whether due to political persuasion, moral angst, or the recognition that sustainable design is good business, more and more companies are utilizing sustainable practices in the design of their office space.

And, it's easier and more design-friendly than ever.

BY DANIEL DESIENA

SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT,

DIRECTOR OF DESIGN, MKDA
COPYRIGHT 2006 Hagedorn Publication
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Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:DeSiena, Daniel
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Dec 13, 2006
Words:725
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