ASID Icon - Spring 2013 - (Page 36)
By Bill Walsh
HEALTHIER BUILDINGS MEAN A HEALTHIER MARKET FOR DESIGN PROFESSIONALS/
SOME EXPERTS BELIEVE the design profession has been forever
changed by a conﬂuence of forces — including the Great Recession
and widespread access by consumers to online resources — pointing toward a future where the designer’s revenue is based more on
value-based fees and less on product sales. While some designers
bemoan this shift, the growing awareness of health-related issues
in buildings and building materials offers myriad new opportunities for design professionals.
The rising consumer interest in healthier buildings and building products, coupled with a suite of new incentives and tools for
reducing occupant exposure to potentially harmful chemicals,
creates new openings for designers to demonstrate value to their
clients — and potentially replace revenues lost in the shift away
from product sales.
Green building has historically focused on energy efficiency,
with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program heavily
weighting its credits toward design features that reduce energy
consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. While the interior
designer’s contribution generally provides only marginal gains
in energy performance, interior designers can (and should) make
signiﬁcant contributions to green buildings though selection of
materials and indoor environmental quality.
CATALYST FOR CHANGE
The greatest impact (and LEED points) to be had are in careful
design and specification of low-emitting materials in order to
reduce building occupant exposure to toxic chemicals. Take formaldehyde for example: Classiﬁed by the EPA as a known human
carcinogen, it is still widely used as binder in ﬁber-board products, and in many fabrics and coatings. However, implementation
of a LEED credit rewarding the use of formaldehyde-free interior
materials and furnishings quickly sparked a market revolution,
catalyzing demand for a range of formaldehyde-free products and
undermining the standard industry arguments that healthier building materials cost too much and won’t be accepted by consumers.
Building upon this success, in 2013 the USGBC is expected to
implement two new LEED materials credits that will catalyze a new
age of transparency and healthier products in the building industry.
One credit will reward the use of interiors products that fully disclose their chemical contents and a second credit will be available
to products that do not contain certain chemicals of high concern.
Anticipating this development, green building industry leaders,
in partnership with an array of national product manufacturers,
have created a standard disclosure format for building product content and chemical hazards called the Health Product Declaration
(HPD). Just over the horizon lies a health-based criteria for evaluating the “wellness” of commercial and residential spaces.
These developments create new opportunities for informed
design professionals to bring unprecedented value to their clients. While consumers are inundated with green marketing
claims and labels, these resources are often confusing and possibly even untrustworthy. Tools such as the HPD are geared toward
design professionals, not consumers. Tools like this create new
opportunities for informed design professionals to market a high
value-added service to consumers who are serious about creating distinctively healthy interior environments. Increasingly,
manufacturers of the healthiest materials depend upon design
professionals to help consumers understand the differences
between unsubstantiated green marketing claims and meaningful product advances.
Our generation is experiencing a redeﬁnition of the value of
design as we move from a time of information scarcity to information overload. The key to a successful transition is to seize the
opportunities presented by this new age of transparency. For the
interior design professional, that means anticipating the coming
wave of product transparency, and being prepared to explain the
contents and health effects of building products as routinely as they
discuss price, performance and aesthetics. i
Bill Walsh is executive director of the Healthy Building Network, a national
nonproﬁt organization promoting healthier building products and strategies.
In 2012, he was awarded the USGBC’s Leadership In Advocacy Award. For
more information on the Healthy Building Network, see the related article,
“ASID Foundation Update” on page 38.
the magazine of the american society of interior designers
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ASID Icon - Spring 2013
Made in America
Design for Life
Resource Guide & Advertisers
ASID Icon - Spring 2013
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