Top 10 Sustainably Sourced Design Materials to Look for This Year

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Since then, more and more businesses have adopted their own sustainability and corporate responsibility programs that establish environmentally responsible practices and products. These are not just touchy-feely programs – a recent Forbes report found that 35% of employees would take a 15% pay cut to work for a company with a commitment to sustainability.

“In order to be counted as a truly sustainable business,” reports Maureen Kline for, “a company’s supply chain must be sustainable. As companies make sustainability demands of their suppliers, and those suppliers make similar demands on theirs, a spider’s web of sustainable practices and transparent reporting is extending itself across the globe.”

A worldwide initiative for more sustainable practices means there is more demand for products and innovations that create higher-efficiency, healthy spaces that reduce dependence on natural resources and can improve occupant health and productivity.

Sustainably-sourced materials can be anything that’s been recycled: metal, paper, wood, glass, and plastics. Rapidly renewable products such as bamboo, cork and sorghum grasses are also sustainable materials these can be grown and harvested in a short span of time, without depleting the natural resource.

We’ve found 10 sustainably sourced products that builders and interior designers should check out this year, as they grow in popularity. These products lend a natural beauty to commercial spaces and provide a range of benefits to the environment. Let’s take a look!

1. Modular Carpet Tiles

Mix and match these carpet tiles, made from recycled materials, and create your own masterpiece! Modular carpet tiles from companies like Flor are are reusable, recyclable, and do not require any glue to install them. You can arrange them however you like let your creative side shine through!


2. Coco Tiles Backsplashes and Wall Accents

The list of uses for coconuts is quite extensive, and includes more than just using the meat or oil in your favorite dishes. The hard shell of the coconut has been used in a number of different applications, and Kirei has developed Coco Tiles using reclaimed coconut shells that are left after being harvested. Perfect for a backsplash in your office kitchen, or as a decorative wall statement.


3. Bio Bricks


Did you know that about 1.23 trillion bricks are manufactured every year, resulting in an estimated 800 million tons of carbon emissions? Bio bricks are one of the latest solutions towards reducing carbon emissions and preserving the environment, and these don’t need to be fired in order to harden, like traditional bricks. Biotech startup, bioMASON, uses natural microorganisms and chemical processes to “grow” these innovative bricks. These can be used for the exterior of your home, or for adding a creative, yet environmentally aware touch to your home or office interior.

4. Bamboo Tabletops and Wall Panels

Bamboo is a popular sustainable resource, because it grows so quickly (one to four inches in a day!) and can be harvested every three years. Kirei Bamboo is ideal for contemporary interior design and finished products, is highly versatile, and can be made used for tabletops, cabinetry, wall paneling, and a myriad of other building products.

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5. Recycled Aluminum Tiles and Fixtures

Recycled aluminum is collected from a few different sources: soda cans, auto parts, appliances, etc. The recycled material is broken down, then melted at a high temperature, and can then be poured into molds. This sustainable product is a great choice, since it relieves overload at recycling facilities. Recycled aluminum can be seen in the applications seen from Eco-Friendly Flooring, is great for countertops, wall finishes, backsplashes, or wherever you might want a creative and environmentally-friendly design element.

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6. Sorghum Grass Wall Panels and Furniture

Sorghum grass has long been a food source used by countries around the world. When harvested, the stalks left behind can be reclaimed and manufactured into gorgeous, lightweight, durable boards. Sorghum is a unique replacement for wood in a number of products, including cabinetry, furniture, or wall paneling. The Kirei board is made from reclaimed sorghum straw, and contains no added formaldehyde. It can help designers and builders meet LEED certification or other green building standards.


7. Sound-Absorbing Recycled Plastic Tiles and Panels

Many manufacturers are helping to reduce the use of plastic by incorporating recycled plastic into their products. Kirei has created sound-absorptive recycled plastic tiles and panels, designed for use in commercial spaces. These easy-to-install panels control sound in your office, conference room, or lobby, and add eye-catching style to any design.

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8. Recycled Glass Tiles, Backsplashes and Accent Walls

Glass is used in a wide range of household products, and when it’s discarded, it can be manufactured locally to create tiles, accent walls and backsplashes in offices, homes, and other spaces. Vetrazzo sources recycled glass to create these gorgeous tiles, which are then used in wall applications, tabletops, counters, or wherever you need a unique design element.

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9. Silica Sand Wall Tiles

Silica sand is a natural resource and is among the most commonly found minerals on the planet. Oceanside uses silica sand and combines it with recycled bottle glass, obtained from local curbside recycling programs, resulting in beautiful tiles that can be used as backsplashes, in swimming pools, and on accent walls.

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10. Reclaimed Wood

Using reclaimed wood in design projects, like The Old Wood Co. does, has been a growing trend for the past decade. The wood can be taken from demolished buildings, railroad ties and even barns to be used in a number of applications: office furniture, cabinetry, wood flooring, or counters.

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Healthy buildings are top-of-mind for everyone from architects to designers to commercial building owners and it’s important that design projects include sustainable, healthy materials and products. The companies we’ve listed have created beautiful, sustainable products that support the healthy building movement and will hopefully inspire your next project.



8 Bamboo Interior Design Ideas

bamboo interior design ideas

There are many growing trends throughout the interior design industry, but one of the fastest growing and most persistent is sustainable design. Homeowners looking for materials to use throughout their homes want not only style and on-trend looks, but materials that are healthy, and that have less of an impact on the environment. For this reason, bamboo, a fast-growing grass, has skyrocketed in popularity within the last several years. While first gaining traction as a flooring material, bamboo can now be found throughout the home in a variety of different areas and uses. These eight bamboo interior design ideas will help you see just how easy it is to incorporate this green material into your home.

1. Adding Dimension to Contemporary Cabinetry1

Modern kitchen design is also at an all-time high in popularity. Slab-style doors in particular, with their clean lines are beginning to turn up everywhere. Unfortunately, a plain slab door or one that’s been painted tends to fall a little flat in style. By using bamboo lumber to create the cabinets, you get instant style, depth, and dimension added to the sleek lines of the doors and drawers. The vertical grain of the bamboo complements the clean lines of the slab-style cabinets perfectly, enhancing the overall design.

2. Adding Interest to Ceilings and Lighting Treatments


For kitchens with high ceilings, it’s common to use soffits or light fixtures to help bring the ceiling down visually in height, helping to create visual proportion within the room. A plain drop ceiling or soffit, however, leaves a lot to be desired in warmth, texture, and style in the room, which means that it sometimes has the opposite effect of what was originally intended.

Adding bamboo veneer to your soffits, dropped ceiling, or light fixtures instantly adds character and warmth to the room, while still providing that visual balance that tall rooms need. This honey-colored bamboo light fixture glows with the warmth of the lights below it, instantly making the room appear warmer and more comfortable.

3. A More Appealing Butcher Block


Butcher block table and countertops are a nice way to add a little warmth and texture to your kitchen. They also make an ideal surface for those that like to cook and bake to prepare their dishes on. You can find butcher-block style table and countertops in a variety of different wood species, each with their own grain and characteristics.

Bamboo’s knuckles and naturally visible lines make an appealing complement to the butcher block style. With a slightly more updated and contemporary appearance, using bamboo in this style helps give your home a more modern look.

4. Rethinking the Farmhouse Table


Rustic modern design is one of the most popular types of transitional interior design right now. Blending contemporary lines with raw materials and edges, rustic modern homes have a lot of style and dimension. One component of this design that receives a lot of use is the contemporary farmhouse table – a sleeker rendition of the old favorite meant to hold a number of diners at once.

Bamboo veneer helps bring even more style and interest to this dining room favorite. With a raw edge that helps meet the rustic modern criteria, and lots of clean lines in the surface, a bamboo farmhouse table helps make the transition between rural and contemporary design effortless and complete.

5. Updating the Bathroom Design

Bathroom design has been becoming more contemporary over the last several years, as people gravitate toward cleaner lines and more texture within the space. For bathrooms that include a cabinet in the design, bamboo makes the ideal addition to the room. This floating vanity in a chocolate brown bamboo veneer helps make the room appear larger by increasing visual floor space. At the same time, the color and pattern of the bamboo contrasts with the tile backsplash for a lot of depth of design.

6. Wall Panels with Organic Style


It’s been common for centuries to use wood or types of wall board to protect the walls and add interest and detail to a room at the same time. Most wall panels, however, are fairly traditional in style ranging from raised panel to bead board. For a more contemporary look that still packs just as much interest and detail, consider using a bamboo wall. Added as an accent wall to any room, the texture and lines of the bamboo instantly draw the eye.

7. The Sleekest of Pocket Doors


Pocket doors have long been used in small spaces where privacy is at odds with the amount of room necessary for a traditional door. Most pocket doors, however, are either plain and utilitarian or else heavy and traditional in style.

This bamboo door effortlessly bridges the gap between function and fashion. Edged in metal trim, this sleek door slides out when needed to create a unique barrier between rooms, then tucks away to reopen the space again.

8. Raw and Real Shelving


Floating shelves have become popular in many types of contemporary and transitional design as people look for more ways to store and showcase items without detracting from the space in the room. Bamboo board with its raw, yet contemporary edging adds a stylish touch to anywhere you need to hang some shelving. Bamboo is also durable enough to stand up to whatever you need to it to hold without sagging or supports that could detract from the style.

Update Your Home with Bamboo

Bamboo lumber and veneers can create countless looks in and around your home or office. Rethink your interiors and consider sustainable, attractive bamboo for your next interior design project.

4 Natural Products Perfect for a Sustainable Learning Environment

What makes a space great for learning? It can be the shape of a room, the lighting, the sound quality, or the surface materials. All of these elements contribute to a room’s psychological feel. How these elements interplay can vastly affect the quality of experience within. Natural products also help contribute to an environment built for learning.

As educators and interior designers become more aware of the effect that color and surface play in these educational spaces, they also need to familiarize themselves with the materials used in the design. Environmentally-friendly building materials are no longer just a passing fad, and there’s a wide selection of natural products that are innovating design in classrooms and other learning spaces.

Sorghum Straw

Sorghum is a type of grass that produces a food grain used in countries around the world. While the grain is harvested, stalks are left behind without any potential use. Kirei found that the discarded stalks could instead be woven together, heat pressed, and glued together using an adhesive that doesn’t need added formaldehyde to form it into boards.

Kirei Board is an eco-friendly sorghum plywood product, and It can be used in place of standard wood to build casework, shelving, desks, and other classroom design elements.



It’s not just for wine bottles! Cork is a highly functional and responsibly-sourced material that’s been used in a variety of applications, from floors in classrooms to countertops in kitchens, and even in hotel design.

Because of its unique cellular structure, cork traps air, which makes it lightweight. Cork is a natural low conductor of heat and noise/vibrations, so it can even help to reduce noise in your learning environment.

Cork material is manufactured hard, and it feels like hardwood. Cork is a great, sustainable choice for a classroom floor and, because of its natural antimicrobial qualities, can be used on tabletops or in cafeterias.


Coconut Shells

Coconuts are highly versatile and used for a number of purposes, including food, oils, and cosmetics. After the inner fruit is harvested, the shell can be manufactured into tiles. Kirei Coco Tiles come in many finishes and can be installed into your design plans as backsplashes in bathrooms, kitchens, and in other accent features.


Bamboo has been used as an environmentally-friendly material in a range of construction and interior design products for years. One great use for bamboo is to have it formed into panels and plywood. It can be finished in a variety of colors or left unfinished. Kirei Bamboo can be used in a range of design projects, including schools and education spaces. It can be formed into tables, desks, light features, pocket doors, and a range of other interior aspects.

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New Uses for Existing Natural Products

Having a deeper understanding about the natural products we use in our lives allows us to find additional benefits and unique applications for these items in all kinds of design projects, especially in education settings and learning environments.

Consider your next design project and how these environmentally-friendly materials can offer any classroom, auditorium, or lecture hall great design as well as solid sustainability benefits.  


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10 Hotels from Around the World Using Natural Products

1. Hotel Indigo, Sarasota, Florida

Hotel Indigo, located in Sarasota, Florida offers guests a comfortable oasis near the beach. The light, breezy design provides a calm atmosphere and “natural welcome.” The coconut shell mosaic tiles made from reclaimed coconut shells accent the coastal beach surroundings of the hotel. It is the perfect place for a peaceful, beach getaway.

Hotel Indigo

Image from Hotel Indigo, Sarasota


2. Maya Boutique Hotel, Valais, Switzerland

The Maya Boutique Hotel, made of straw, is located in the heart of the Swiss Alps, surrounded by breathtaking views. This self-sufficient hotel puts guests at one with nature in a place of natural solitude and peace. “The Maya Boutique Hotel is a eulogy to respect and protect our precious nature, through the low impact it has in its breathtaking environment.” Complete with solar panels and a wood oven, the Maya Boutique Hotel provides a relaxed environment for guests to relax and renew.

Maya Boutique Hotel

Image from Maya Boutique Hotel


3. Kokopelli’s Cave, Farmington, New Mexico

Kokopelli’s Cave might just be one of the most unusual bed and breakfasts ever. This peculiar B&B overlooking the La Plata river is actually built into the Tertiary Ojo Alamo sandstone in New Mexico. The cave offers a beautiful view of sunset over the river and the four states that make up the four corners: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. Kokopelli’s Cave is the perfect place for a unique, very down-to-earth getaway.

Kokopelli’s Cave

Image from Kokopelli’s Cave


4. Ecorkhotel, Evora – Suites and Spa, Evora, Portugal

Ecorkhotel, as its name suggests, is located in an area known for cork forests and is made of cork. Cork acts as a thermic and acoustic isolator, making it energy efficient and bringing guests closer to the nature surrounding the hotel. The Ecorkhotel offers guests a chance to relax and enjoy in its modernly designed building. The light, airy feel of the hotel and soothing ambiance allow guests to rest and unwind.


Image from Ecorkhotel


5. Palacio de Sal, Uyuni, Potosi, Bolivia

The Palacio de Sal is an exotic hotel in Bolivia made entirely of salt. The salt makes up the building itself and nearly everything in the building. Local artisans pack the salt tightly together to create furniture and decor around the hotel. The salt must be replaced fairly regularly, which provides locals with jobs. Salt is very accessible in this area because the hotel is located in the world’s largest salt flat. The salt also purifies the air, improving the environmental impact of the building. The Palacio de Sal is a rare site demanding attention for its innovative use of salt.

Palacio de Sal

Image from Palacio de Sal


6. Hotel de Glace, Quebec, Canada

The Hotel de Glace in Quebec, Canada offers new and returning guests a unique experience each year. Made entirely of ice, the Hotel de Glace is redesigned every year to keep guests coming back for more. The theme for 2017 is The Northern Perspectives, which allows guests to explore the magnificence and splendor of the North Pole.

Hotel de Glace

Image from Hotel de Glace


7. Natur Residence Dolomitenhof, South Tyrol, Italy

This cozy and elegant hotel in South Tyrol, Italy offers guests a comfortable stay in an apartment style room. The hotel boasts a “feel well factor” made possible by natural air distribution, natural building materials, and local wood used to make furniture in the hotel. Staying in the lovely Natur Residence Dolomitenhof is sure to please both visitors and the environment.

Natur Residence Dolomitenhof

Image from Natur Residence Dolomitenhof


8. Bardessono Inn and Spa, Yountville, California

Located in the heart of wine country the Bardessono Inn and Spa is a go-to destination for luxury travelers. Committed to helping guests have a mindful visit, the staff encourage guests to immerse themselves in the “deep green.” Many of the woods throughout the hotel and spa are from salvaged trees. Guests can enjoy the luxuries knowing that no off-site energy is needed to procure them. This inn and spa is truly the perfect California getaway.


Image from Bardessono Inn and Spa


8. Hotel Monte Mulini, Istria, Croatia

Hotel Monte Mulini, which incorporates locally quarried stone into its building, is a great choice for a beach getaway. Guests enjoy serene views while relaxing almost anywhere on site. From the beach and pool area to the spa, there are plenty of choices for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Hotel Monte Mulini

Image from Hotel Monte Mulini


9. I Resort, Nha Trang, Vietnam

The I Resort, which is made of wood, stone, and coconut leaves, offers guests a tranquil place to get away. Settled in scenic Nha Trang, the I Resort is committed to providing a peaceful place for visitors in a natural environment. None of the wooden structures in the hotel have screws or glue, but instead are pieced together by a special kind of joint. Stone from the local quarries makes the spa experience unique to Vietnam. The thatched roof provides shelter from the sun in keeping with the tone of the resort. I Resort is the perfect place for a guests to experience true Vietnamese architecture and design while enjoying being pampered by the staff.

I Resort

Image from I Resort


10. Glen Oaks Big Sur, Big Sur, California

Glen Oaks Big Sur is a gorgeous place for a high-class getaway with an outdoor vibe. Guests will feel like they are camping, but with all of the luxuries of home. The cabin style rooms blend in perfectly with the redwood trees surrounding them. The features in each room, including natural Kirei board in each bathroom, make guests feel as if they are at one with nature. Glen Oaks Big Sur is the perfect place for outdoor-loving travelers.

Glen Oaks Big Sur

Image by James Hall Photography


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7 Sustainable Products for the Responsible Designer

7-sustainabledesign-products-for-the-responsible-designer-1Sustainability in architecture and interior design is nothing new, and more often is (thankfully) becoming the norm. With an endless number of eco-friendly and sustainable products to use in your spaces, the task of narrowing down the options can seem daunting.

We’ve listed 7 of our favorite sustainable design products to help you create more healthy, environmentally conscious spaces.

1) Richlite Commercial Counter Tops


Richlite’s website says it best: “Get the brawn with the brains.” These countertops are designed to be simultaneously tough enough for serious use and appealing to the eye.

With the countertops’ through colors, heat resistance and custom edge design capabilities, it’s hard to believe that this sustainable product is made from recycled paper. Richlite’s products also contribute to LEED points. Eco-friendly win-win!

2) Fireclay Tiles


These handmade tiles are a sustainable step in the right direction. Made of recycled glass, porcelain, and lead-free paint, these bright tiles come in 150 standard colors and 24 standard shapes — not to mention the custom capabilities.

Fireclay’s company value of “treading lightly on our earth”  shines through in their dedication to using post-industrial granite dust, locally sourced glass and local scrap porcelain.

3) Bamboo

MILWOOD KITCHEN TABLE Viesso Furniture Horizontal Carbonized Bamboo

If you’re not familiar with this age-old, rapidly renewable product, we aren’t really sure where you have been. Essentially the epitome of sustainable products, bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world (one to four inches in a day!) It can actually be harvested every three years without any damage to the environment.

Bamboo is perfect for table tops, desk tops, cabinetry, wall paneling — the list goes on and on. Sustainable and versatile – what’s not to love?

4) Emeco Su Chair Collection


In Japanese, “Su” represents the idea of “plain” or “unadorned,” and this cork-based chair collection sticks to that idea in both simplicity of design and environmental footprint.

Made of cork (a rapidly renewable and sustainable product) and aluminum, these stools and chairs offer both indoor and outdoor seating. Emeco also adheres to strict environmentally conscious decisions in choosing materials and methods that go beyond just making their product.

5) Oceanside Glasstile

Vignette photography of Devotion glass tile line includes new patterns and new Italian glass and antique mirror.

 “From Curbside to Oceanside” serves as Oceanside Glasstile’s company mantra, so this Southern Californian manufacturer does not only focus on providing sustainable products. Oceanside Glasstile’s goals also include targeting improvements in energy reduction, elimination of waste and green business practices.

With an entire selection of stunning tiles, our favorite tile stands out from the rest. TheDevotion wall tiles are used to create stunning backsplashes and accent walls. These sustainable tiles are available in 9 patterns and 30 colors. Designer- and earth-friendly all in one!

6) Ecovative Myco Board


If you haven’t seen any of Ecovative’s sustainable products, you’re missing out. This company grows – yes, GROWS – certified sustainable products that help designers create healthy, non-toxic spaces.

Using just three ingredients (mycelium, hemp, and starch), Ecovative creates furniture for your home and office. Their Myco Board serves as non-toxic wood that can be molded into custom shapes and panels. Ideal eco-friendly design solution for a multitude of spaces!

7) Coco Tiles


These coco tiles are renewable, recycled and ready to use in your next indoor project! Available in two styles and 8 different earth tones, this sustainable product adds perfectly to the design and aesthetic of any neutral-toned or tropical-themed room.

Recycled from harvested coconuts, the husks turn into tiles that are either meshed-back or self-backed. These backings make installation easy using a low- or zero-VOC construction adhesive.

Selecting sustainable products thankfully gets easier and easier these days. More manufacturers feel a responsibility to the environment to create healthy, responsibly-produced products, which leaves a lot of options for designers and architects to choose from.

Looking for some ways to incorporate these products in your spaces?


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Commercial Office Design: The Anatomy of Highly Productive Office Spaces

Commercial Office Design is not just an art, it’s also part science. Creating an optimal work environment is a delicate balance of space planning, light, sound, aesthetics and natural elements along with flow and function.  

Increase productivity by making your office space a happier place to be.

Healthy environments make happy employees

Personal health also plays a large part in productivity and creativity – using low VOC materials on surfaces and in furnishings reduces toxins in the indoor atmosphere and contributes to health and wellbeing of employees. Better air circulation can also help with better office productivity.


“The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report suggesting that up to 30% of new and remodeled buildings may have excessive complaints about indoor air quality.”

Walking the Walk

As you work to make your office more environmentally friendly, you may also see employee engagement go up. Employees will be proud to work for a company committed to the environment

Increase sustainability to improve your employee’s health while also positively impacting the health of the planet. One simple way to make your office more sustainable without a costly and time consuming redesign or refit is to change the furniture for durable, adaptable and functional furniture that will stay with your office space as the company evolves.

Avoid petroleum based products and adhesives with high VOCs. A great material to work with when increasing sustainability is bamboo, a wood alternative that can lower your office’s carbon footprint.


Use Acoustic Materials to Keep it Quiet – But not too Quiet

Offices are often incredibly noisy with printers humming, phones ringing, and multiple conversations going at once. Reducing that noise can be instrumental in increasing productivity and morale while decreasing stress.


Consider these noise reducing options:

  • Acoustic ceiling and wall panels: sound absorbing panels are incredibly effective, but not always aesthetically pleasing. Thankfully, there are more modern options on the market today.
  • Dedicated quiet spaces: especially in open offices, it can be beneficial for employees to find a retreat in a smaller, dedicated quiet space. An all glass enclosure can maintain the aesthetics of an open office.
  • Playing ambient noise: background noise played at a consistent volume can mask unwanted noise.
  • Noise reducing flooring: thoughtful flooring choices can also decrease noise in an office. Products such as carpet and vinyl flooring are traditionally quieter, but installing and resilient underlayer with bamboo on top can increase sustainability while also decreasing noise.


Natural Elements Make for Happier Workers

Employees who work in environments with natural elements reported a 13% higher level of well-being and are 8% more productive overall according to a report commissioned by Interface.


Using natural materials, such as reclaimed wood or bamboo, in your decor and having low maintenance plants in the office are simple ways to integrate that insight. Use lighter colors to paint offices so you keep your indoor environments calm without being boring.

Incorporating nature in places like small waterfalls, fish tanks, atriums and outdoor grounds keeping all add up to a positive work environment that benefits workers and your business alike.


Use Privacy Panels for More Focused Work Spaces

Utilizing privacy panels in your office can increase productivity by giving employees privacy and decreasing noise levels in the office.


A major benefit of modular panels lies in their flexibility. As employee needs change, teams are formed, or new projects are started the panels can be moved as needed. Lastly, some panels are designed with aesthetics in mind, such as open shelving and white boards.


Accent through Natural Light to Increase Productivity

68% of employees are unhappy about the lighting in their office, according to a study conducted by the American Society of Interior Design.screenshot-2016-10-17-11-53-21

Maximizing existing natural light is a fairly simple way to improve employee satisfaction while also increasing office sustainability (by decreasing the need for artificial lighting). But the benefits of natural lighting in an office go far beyond just putting employees in a better mood.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that participants with windows in their offices got 46 minutes more sleep per night and even reported exercised more after work than workers with no natural light in their workspaces.


LEED Changes Are Coming – Everything You Need to Know about Materials Credits to keep your project on track

Wondering what you need to know about materials credits in the new version of LEED? Here’s a quick and easy primer on what matters to specifiers:

By now most of us are familiar with LEED, the US Green Building Council’s green building rating system that helps quantify the answer to “how green is my building?”

LEED credits are earned by implementing green strategies that promote water and energy efficiency, sustainable site selection, high indoor environmental quality, and the use of responsible building materials.

Effective October 2016, a new version of LEED credits for materials and resources (MR) will become mandatory.

Read on to see what’s going to change and what you need to do to get your 2016 projects LEED certified.

How LEED rating works right now

Before version 4, the LEED rating system broke up the materials credits into single-attribute categories:

  • recycled content
  • regionally sourced content
  • rapidly renewable materials
  • reused materials
  • sustainably sourced wood

What’s going to change with LEED v4

LEED v4 has shifted away from single-attribute credits towards an increased focus on manufacturer transparency and multi-attribute optimization.

Starting in October, there will be three Building Product Disclosure and Optimization (BPDO) credits, each of which highlights a different impact goal for the responsible sourcing of building products.

What is BPDO credit?

Each BPDO credit has two main parts: Disclosure and Optimization

  1. For building productdisclosure, LEED relies on the use of documentation such as Environmental Product Declarations, Health Product Declarations, and self-reported manufacturer information about content and sourcing.
  2. For building product optimization, the information disclosed by the manufacturer must have quantifiable environmental, economic, and social life-cycle impacts.

A closer look at each of the new BPDO credits

  1. Environmental Product Declarations

Let’s look at the first BPDO credit, Environmental Product Declarations, as an example. In this credit, the impact goal is to minimize the environmental life-cycle impacts of building products.

  • Environmental Product Declarations – Disclosure: The first part of the credit, disclosure, uses an independently verified report called an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) as the main format for manufacturer transparency.
  • Environmental Product Declarations – Optimization: The second part of the credit, optimization, rewards EPDs which demonstrate quantifiable life-cycle impact reductions.
  1. Material Ingredients

Another BPDO credit, Material Ingredients, has an impact goal of minimizing the negative or unknown health impacts of building products.

  • Material Ingredients – Disclosure: To qualify for the first part of the credit, manufacturers must disclose their material ingredients using an approved format such as a Health Product Declaration (HPD) or Cradle to Cradle.
  • Material Ingredients – Optimization: For the second part, they must demonstrate through Cradle to Cradle or GreenScreen that the disclosed materials are not hazardous to human health.
  1. Sourcing of Raw Materials

The remaining BPDO credit, Sourcing of Raw Materials, is likely to be the most familiar to those who have worked with LEED v3. It rewards building products that have been sourced and extracted in a responsible manner.

  • Sourcing of Raw Materials – Disclosure: Products qualify for the first part of the credit by publishing Corporate Sustainability Reports (CSR) that describe the impacts of the product’s supply chain.
  • Sourcing of Raw Materials – Optimization: The second part of the credit is a catch-all for familiar sustainability attributes such as recycled content, reused content, and FSC wood, as well as new standards such as the Sustainable Agriculture Standard and extended producer responsibility strategies such as product take-back programs.

How all the BPDO credits work together

Although each BPDO credit has a different impact target, they all have some elements in common.

For example, each BPDO credit is worth 2 LEED points (i.e. 1 point for disclosure and 1 point for optimization).

The disclosure point is based on the number of qualified products. At least 20 different products from 5 different manufacturers must be used on the project to earn the first point. In this way, LEED rewards projects that utilize a diverse set of sustainable building products, even if not very much of each product is purchased.

The optimization point is based on the cost of qualified products, similar to the calculation methodology used in LEED v3. This option makes it easier for projects to reach the credit threshold if just a few qualified products are used in large amounts.

There are a few important ways this differs from the LEED v3 methodology, though:

Only 30% of the value of compliant building products can come from structure and enclosure materials, making it harder to rely solely on big-ticket items like structural steel.

And, for all three BPDO optimization credits, materials that are regionally sourced (from within 100 miles of the project, down from 500 miles in v3) are worth 200% of their contributing value.

What does this mean for your next LEED v4 Project?

If your project is targeting any of the BPDO credits, don’t wait until construction to start thinking about building materials!

It is important to set your materials and resources goals early, and start tracking building materials during the design process.

Target manufacturers that emphasize transparency, and reach out to preferred companies to ask them which of their products comply with the new LEED v4 requirements. The new requirements may seem daunting, but through thoughtful material selection they are well within reach!