Sustainable design: the ultimate brief

Sustainable design may be a modern-day buzz word, but according to Seymourpowell’s Chris Sherwin, it is too often viewed as “the guilt trip you have after doing the wrong thing”. In fact, with the right approach, it can be a rewarding design brief in its own right. As an industry that is both creative and wasteful, design has the power to become a pioneer or a scapegoat, if not both. Or, as experience designer and sustainability expert Nathan Shedroff puts it, design is the problem – but it’s also the solution.

“Clients often look to designers for leadership,” continues Sherwin, in his role as Seymourpowell’s head of sustainability. But if designers are to take the lead and encourage their clients to embrace more sustainable practices, it’s important to clarify what that actually means – and what it doesn’t. Sustainability is a process, not an absolute: “It’s a spectrum of activity, from making tiny alterations at one end, like changing how you run your studio without touching your design processes, right through to designers who only take on projects underpinned by sustainability.”

“Personally, I prefer to use the term ‘environmentally preferable’, because there’s not really any such thing as being green or sustainable,” reflects New York-based designer and sustainability consultant Naomi Pearson. “It’s more realistic and attainable to try and lessen the impact that you’re having. The more you can do, the better.”

Material decisions

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