Upcircle were invited by Knauf AMF to a round table discussion focussing on sustainability in the construction industry, with a leading question of ‘Is sustainable design and construction becoming better understood?’ Joined by 8 experts from the profession, Ophélia Gisquet represented Upcircle in the roundtable.
Sustainability – have we
missed the message?
Sustainability; one word comprising 14
letters and one significant meaning. A
definition we've all grown to familiarise
ourselves with. Whether it be opting
for sustainable components to achieve
that sought-after BREEAM 'Excellent'
accreditation, frantically chasing WELL
and LEED credits or even at home
reaching for that Bag for Life prior to your
weekly dash around the supermarket; in
a way, sustainability has subconsciously
attached itself to many of our lives –
regardless of your professional status.
That said, with such strong recognition,
how has sustainability managed to trickle
through the fingers of many within the
construction realm? Does it stem from
financial restraints? Time pressures?
Or is it construction chain matters
that have placed sustainability on the
backburner? With sustainability at the heart of the company, Knauff assembled a number
of sustainability experts during the first
week of October for a roundtable event
to address these issues and invited
FC&A along to deliver the discussion to
the rest of the industry.
The customer is always right?
Shikha Bhardwaj, Senior Environmental Consultant at ChapmanBDSP, stated that:
"Sustainability generally is understood as a 'checklist' or a race to the finish line to
achieve certification, however it is, personally, a mindset and a design approach." Bhardwaj
revealed that, in her experience, clients, and designers, often relate sustainability only to
certification and compliance and rarely to the building design itself. She went on to explain: "Some clients are passionate and more intrigued to explore the potential and long-term benefits of sustainable strategies, yet some are purely focused on achieving a high BREEAM certification. However, it’s our responsibility, to highlight the potential, possibilities and benefits of a sustainable design, rather than limiting our interventions to meet the compliance/certification requirements.
Lost in communication
Peter Kelly supplemented White's comment: The concern is "...Everyone talks down the line through the commercial and procurement teams and they're necessarily not the best people to talk to regarding sustainability. Teaching and training our commercial and procurement teams may help this matter." Humphries questioned Kelly about how companies, such as ISG Fit Out and Engineering Services, are changing this deficiency in knowledge throughout the construction chain. "We're encouraging people to know who the right contacts are," he responded. "So, you can ask manufacturers, such as Knauf AMF, what innovation and sustainability credentials they can bring to the table. To illustrate, we've had significant challenges trying to obtain LEED materials that are low in VOCs or formaldehyde-free – attempting to have those conversations with manufacturers and trying to locate the right person to have the discussion with takes a significant amount of time."
"Ophélia Gisquet, Head of Interior Design at Upcircle, offered an eye-opening insight into her role. "The great difficulty for me...is if I'm working for a contractor, for example, I have no communication with the architect during the project – I am not permitted to contact the architect. If this changed, it would make a significant difference to how we're undertaking a project...an architect is, effectively, creating the concept of a design and the interior designer should conform to this concept in order to generate continuity." Conte highlighted the concerns of Gisquet's disclosure expressing that an architect may not be working to an equivalent design concept as an interior designer, and may be pursuing demanding sustainability credits, however, without interaction, both parties would unknowingly be unacquainted with the credentials and concept in question."
"Gisquet's design practice Upcircle – a new company with the primary objective of creating sustainable designs and implementing sustainable products within projects – has sustainability at its core. Likening Croft's comment to her experience under Upcircle, Gisquet told: "We're doing a lot of work with contractors for student accommodation projects, and a project's usually refurbished every five years, so we remove the floors, all the furniture; everything and repeat it again and again. I love my job as an interior designer, but it's hard to see so much waste coming out of these projects."
A number of the professionals in the room were concerned with the sustainable future of fit-out contracts- a sector which incurs a great deal of waste. This can be in the form of replacement specifications that are almost identical to the original design, or cyclical fit-out projects that see replacement interiors as often as every 5 years. The group agreed that the promoting a more circular economy mind-set to fit-out is gradually improving to overall thought process to this sector, making it more creative and nimble, with demountable style take-back schemes which are gradually receiving the spotlight they deserve.
We would like to say a big thank you to Knuaf AMF for hosting the discussion at their newly-opened showroom in Clerkenwell. A more detailed account of the discussion can be found in FC&A magazine.