Sustainability Forum - November
By Christina (Zucco) Schmitt, IIDA Georgia
Project Name: Square Feet Studio Offices
Submission Contact Name: John Bencich
Company: Square Feet Studio
Phone: (404) 688-4990 ext 22
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
LEED Certification Level of Project: CI-Gold
What does sustainability mean, and what does it mean to you? I often find that there are many definitions and even more often there are personal preconceptions to those definitions. Those preconceptions are often the clients’ fall back when they don’t really understand the tenants of sustainability; they just think it is hippie propaganda.
Wikipedia says, “The word sustainability is derived from the Latin sustinere (tenere, to hold; sus, up). Dictionaries provide more than ten meanings for sustain, the main ones being to “maintain", "support", or "endure”. However, since the 1980s sustainability has been used more in the sense of human sustainability on planet Earth and this has resulted in the most widely quoted definition of sustainability as a part of the concept sustainable development, that of the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations on March 20, 1987: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”“
How do you communicate to your clients about sustainability? How do you combat the commercialization of sustainability?
What happens when your most convincing argument hits a wall? Here are a few responses that can help redirect conversations headed in the wrong direction.
• A client says that going green limits choices. Tell them it isn’t so. “The notion that you have to sacrifice unique- ness to go green today is just not true,” says Sarah Susanka, AIA. “Take a look at how many more products and materials are available now. There aren’t fewer options; they’re just different.”
• A skeptic pokes holes in environmental research. Be prepared. Make copies of magazine articles or send clients to Web sites that support your claims—and steer clear of material that feels like propaganda, even if it’s based in fact. Be ready to produce evidence, whether it’s that toxic glues are bad for you or that mahogany is not a sustainable wood. “Give your clients good science, not junk science,” says Victoria Schomer, ASID, LEED AP.
• A client plays the budget card—and won’t budge. Allow that green choices can sometimes cost more than conventional ones, but that it’s important to look at the budget as a whole. There are opportunities within every project to balance more costly expenditures with economical decisions. Help them decide what matters most to them and provide options that cover different levels of sustainability, as well as different price points.
• A client likes the idea, but says he’s not ready to go green yet. Tell him that by making changes now—even small ones—he is making a difference. Says Susanka: “Do everything you can. Tell them to choose that low-VOC paint; not to replace carpet, but to expose hardwood floors instead; select nontoxic finishes; buy green furniture ... ” It all adds up, and every small decision increases awareness so that clients will be in the right mindset when they make bigger decisions down the road.
• You’re dismissed as a tree-hugger. Smile and say there those who believe everyone should have green values—but the truth is not everyone does. Tell them you respect their decision—but leave them with something to ponder: “This business of making a sustainable environment is nothing new,” says Susanka.“The planet knows how to do it. All we need to do is get out of the way!
Borrowed from Design so Clients Will Listen by Maria Lapinana
Here are a few resources help you move through the topic, allowing both you and your client to do small things or large things to meet their needs today without compromising the ability of their children, their grandchildren, their nieces and nephews or their neighborhood kids to need their own needs. Happy Designing!
Talking About Green Design So Clients Will Listen (Summer 2006); by Maria LaPiana