Posts Tagged ‘sustainable design’

Building Designer Mark Iscaro puts the case for sustainable office furnishings

April 23, 2012

Thanks to building designer Mark Iscaro from Firstangle in Victoria, Australia for his views on sourcing sustainable products for office use.

I’m sitting in my lounge-room, staring at my wonderful recycled brick feature wall, with my 7 year old couch sitting in front of it, and pondering how to freshen up my office (in my garage). I have carpet cut offs and old rugs down on the concrete acting as flooring – very ‘eco chic’ of me I know!

When setting up your office, be it for the first time or be it renewing old worn out furniture pieces, considering the eco credentials of the new furniture often plays second fiddle to price-driven decisions of most businesses. In saying that, there are options out there that are not only cost efficient but are also sustainably minded. You just need to know where to look in order to find the product.

Much like incorporating sustainable options within your home, incorporating them into your office can be rather daunting, but don’t despair, for I have some great ideas and suggestions on how and where to look to find those solutions within budget and with eco credentials in mind. Firstly we need to consider the options available to us. There are quite a few but we will focus on the four most popular sustainable choices.

Recycled (Second Hand/Reconditioned Furniture)
Renewed (Repaired/Rebuilt Furniture)
Up-cycled (New Furniture From Recycled Parts)
New (Eco Friendly Furniture)



Guest blog: sustainable timber flooring options

February 7, 2012

This piece comes courtesy of Mark Iscaro, director of First Angle, an architecture and interior design practice in Victoria, Australia. Mark is also active on twitter; follow him @First_Angle. Mark looks at six flooring types and appraises their sustainability from the specifier’s point of view.

When it comes to being sustainable with your flooring, there are many options available. Some you would be well aware of, others you may not know about, and even those that you might believe are sustainable, which actually are not. So how do you determine what flooring is for you? Well, first you need to understand what is out there to choose from.

The list of sustainable and supposedly sustainable flooring is a long one, including bamboo flooring, recycled timber flooring, regrowth timber flooring, cork flooring, linoleum flooring and rubber flooring. So let’s take a look at these flooring options and see what the pros and cons are.

Linoleum Flooring
Now I know what you’re thinking– linoleum isn’t timber. Amazingly it is, as linoleum is made from pine resin, ground cork dust and wood flour amongst other natural ingredients. Created over 150 years ago, it has been a constant in domestic settings, and more recently has begun to be seen as a sustainable alternative to other types flooring.

It durable and comfortable, as well as being biodegradable, and is possibly the most cost-effective flooring around, but it doesn’t have the beauty of a natural timber floor.

Link: Compare lineoleum products on

Bamboo Flooring
Bamboo flooring has in recent times hit the headlines as perhaps the most sustainable of flooring options. It is cost-effective, easy to install and has all the beauty of timber floors. There are numerous styles and options to choose from, ranging from natural-finish, strand-woven through to darker, char-finished styles.

The main issue with bamboo flooring is that the glues used in its construction are generally not good for the environment with most using formaldehyde. The use of low-VOC in bamboo flooring is yet to occur, making it a good choice but not a great choice. Other questions with bamboo flooring are its manufacturing and a lack of fair trade agreements. So although a somewhat sustainable option it is probably the least sustainable of all the timber flooring options out there.


Bamboo flooring: list of UK suppliers on (more…)

Ska Rating

February 13, 2011

I heard about the Ska Rating from Joe Cilia of the Association of Interior Specialists.

It’s an environmental benchmarking and rating tool for interior design and fit-out projects. The system has been adopted by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and will enable you to measure 100% of the environmental performance of an office fit-out. It will allow the sustainability of existing building stock to be improved, where a BREEAM rating would not be achievable.


Design to shape sustainable behaviour

May 25, 2010

It’s not all straw trousers and cardboard chairs, as Benjamin Hubert said.

A post this week on Mel Starrs’ blog that argued Green certification is no substitute for good design, especially when it comes to LEED and BREEAM – evidence that the building actually performs as designed is more important than ticking certification boxes.

This reminded me of a lecture at Ecobuild in March, chaired by Oliver Heath, which focused on designs that help shape people’s behaviour.

Elisabeth Buecher and Aurélie Mossé, of textile design company Puff & Flock showcased the Spiky shower curtain design. The ‘spikes’ inflate after four minutes spent under the water, taking over the space and discouraging long water-wasting showers.

Sofa So Good, designed by Puff & Flock for Ercol at the Milan Furniture Fair 2010, has woolen elements including arms (in the literal sense) that encourage you to cuddle up and keep warm so you don’t have to put the heating up. It also has customisable sections- developing a more personal relationship with your furniture, means you’ll be less likely replace it with something new after a short time.

More information on Sofa So Good is available on the Puff and Flock blog.

Sustainable furniture design at the Botanics

April 22, 2010

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh has a new visitor centre, the John Hope Gateway, a building designed with sustainable materials, energy saving measures and renewable energy production by Edward Cullinan Architects.

The John Hope Gateway is also an education centre, with areas for children to learn and discover about plants, with a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions.

On exhibition, the Wych Elm Project, showcases handmade furniture designed by Scottish furniture makers. The furniture has been made from a magnificent wych elm, Ulmus glabra, that was felled in 2003 as it had become infected with Dutch elm disease.

Botanics links
Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh website
Botanics on facebook
Botanics on twitter
Makers taking part in the project

ESI Links
UK bespoke furniture makers

The design market — looking to growth

March 1, 2010

At the Surface Design Show on 23rd February, the VIP Preview evening inspired listeners to contemplate the next few years of architecture and its potential impact on the economy and the environment.

Executive Vice Chair of The Work Foundation, Will Hutton discussed the need to think about economic growth and create an innovation ecosystem, generating new ideas so firms can scale up and grow markets.

Mark Whitby, Chairman of Ramboll UK, talked about the power of the internet and how it continues to move businesses forward, as well as its uses for talking to the ‘knowledge society’ and its strength in the engineering world.

Cecile Brisac, co-founder of Brisac Gonzalez, looked at how architects can make a change after the recession, concluding that they need to combine long-term thinking with creativity. Architects need to see themselves as role models and young talent should be encouraged.

Former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, ended the debate with an enthusiastic speech on the need to achieve a sustained level of growth in order to pay back the economy. The UK Government needs to invest in the future of architecture and to borrow and invest in the infrastructure of housing and transport to improve the economy. The future is in environmental and sustainable building and we need to build for the future to drive forward new technologies, he advised. He also explored the effects of improving the quality of life in the UK, with people loving their own cities thanks to the regeneration of spaces and squares.

Press release by Think Tank

Masterplanning in interior design

February 5, 2010

Masterplanning is defined as “to develop or improve land, or a building complex, through a long-range plan that balances and harmonizes all elements”. It’s most often associated with urban planning, but how does it relate to interior design?

Coventry City Centre – Final Masterplan

In major healthcare  designs, masterplanning can be an important aspect. The Medical Precinct in Orissa, India is part of an ambitious plan to develop this rural area into to nurture a vibrant university township with a growing population of more than 500,000, into a global center of education and healthcare that would be on par with Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford. The masterplan focuses on sustainable features, including the use of daylighting and atriums.

Interior designers  in multi-disciplinary practices will integrate designs for large projects with the approach of architects and landscape designers and planners – the Highbury College Masterplan by AWW Architects (click Interior Design>Education) is an example.   The first stage in the redevelopment programme will provide a new City Learning Centre in central Portsmouth, enabling the College to forge links with the City, the University and raise its profile generally while improving accessibilty to FE provision across the whole region.

Components of an interior design master plan - Healthcare Design

How to avoid greenwash on interior design projects

January 22, 2010
Crystals, City Center, Las Vegas

Crystals, City Center, Las Vegas - the largest retail district to receive LEED+ Gold Core & Shell certification - Ken Lund on Flickr

Greenwash – the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

TerraChoice’s 7 sins of greenwashing is a useful reminder to think critically when considering the environmental claims of a company, product or programme.

There’s a good article on on how to source genuinely sustainable products and materials.

They interview ‘ten leading architects and interior designers about their approaches to green spaces.’
– What makes a product sustainable?
– How do you find green products?
– What tools do you use?
– What are the shortcomings of these tools?
– When it comes to independent certification, which do you trust most and why?
– How do you cut through all the greenwashing?
– How does budget play into your green-speccing decisions?
– Is there one material that you can’t seem to avoid even though you know it’s not green?

LEED – the green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGB) – is something that turns up a few times in the article.

But even LEED is not above critical analysis.

Preston Koerner revisits some of the weaknesses of the LEED system, including the discrepancies between what a building is designed to do, in terms of energy and water consumption, and what it does in reality.

And Preston Koerner again on Nau’s (an American clothing products company) analysis on the pros and cons of achieving LEED certification.

It’s not easy being green, especially if you try and do it on autopilot.


Post-industrial waste and interior design

January 11, 2010
Post-industrial waste

Dapple coloured plastic sheeting - Smile Plastics

A good article from Chris Tobias on Singh Intrachooto’s work at Kasetsart University in Thailand.

A former architect and construction manager, Intrachooto now leads an ongoing project on creating products from the waste stream of industrial processes. Everything, from pipes, metal foils and plastic chips to Tetra-Pak containers and fabrics, is re-used to create new products.

The Ecologist argues that waste is a resource and design culture needs to move away from a ‘cradle to grave’ approach to a ‘cradle to cradle’ one.

Product examples:
– Tandus produces carpet backing made from industrial waste produced during the manufacture of car windscreens and safety glass.
– Bob Campbell makes ‘industrial art furniture’ using scrap metal such as drums and chains.
– Ecodura is a large-scale producer of beds, bookshelves and storage furniture made from post-industrial waste and sustainably harvested pine in a solar-powered factory.
– Ecobond’s moulded wall tiles are made from ‘secondary aggregates and process by-products, traditionally regarded as waste and other waste materials capable of being bonded with binders.’
– Smile Plastics’ coloured plastic sheets are made from shredded industrial foodstuff containers mixed with factory scrap, with coloured plastic from underground pipes added for a ‘wild effect.’ Applications have included cubicles, tables, work surfaces and wall cladding.

For more information on sustainable eco-smart materials browse Kingston University’s rematerialise database. Find out about frit, straw board and coconut matting.

Required now: innovative design that addresses real problems

January 8, 2010
surface finishes

Laura Morris - Palette

Trish Lorenz writes on Forum for the Future of the importance of innovative design in tackling some of the problems – energy saving / water saving / sustainability – we face.

She mentions Janet Kelly’s Keiri Mat – a bathing pod that uses just two litres of water – and Laura Morris’ Palette – a device that enables the user to quickly and easily change the colour or design of their walls without using liquid paint.

Her piece ties in with the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) Design Directions competition which ‘challenges professional designers-in-training to apply their skills to difficult social issues.’

The 2009/10 competition categories include:

DIGITEX: exploring the benefits of digital finishing of textiles
This project asks how design can explore and exploit the unique performance characteristics of digital finishing to produce highly functional textiles, better able to respond to the needs of specific users and contexts.

Independence days: designing for self-reliant, independent living
This project seeks to reinvent the term assisitive technology for the 21 century and asks how the design of a product or service can directly address the needs of someone living with a long term health condition, improve their quality of life, increase their autonomy and their ability to live independently. Importantly, how can design provide the means to increase and feed confidence, aspiration, participation and self-reliance.

The resourceful supermarket: supermarkets encouraging a productive community
How might a supermarket engage on a local level with its customers and others in the community, using the power of its brand and influence to increase the resourcefulness of the local community and individuals.

Public spaces, safer places: protecting against a vehicle-borne attack
Targeted at architects, landscape architects, engineers and urban planners as well as those from across the design disciplines this project aims to draw attention to the issues of security and counter-terrorism in the process of designing places visited and used by the public.