Implementing responsible materials selection principles through fit-out design can deliver multiple benefits:
Protecting occupant health by selecting materials that do not contain and emit harmful pollutants such as VOCs.
Reducing maintenance and replacement intervals by adopting a whole lifecycle approach to costing.
Reducing carbon emissions by factoring embodied carbon into procurement decisions.
Reducing waste and the extraction of virgin materials by specifying reused and recycled materials.
Showcasing and communicating corporate values to stakeholders through the responsible sourcing of materials.
Reducing negative environmental and social impacts by factoring such considerations into procurement decisions.
There may be opportunities to make use of materials that already exist within the space from the previous fit-out that can be used rather than stripping out completely and starting from scratch. This can help reduce costs, whilst also minimising environmental impacts associated with raw material extraction, manufacture and supply chain.
The first step in identifying material requirements should be to undertake an audit of the existing fit-out and identifying opportunities for re-use and refurbishment.
The specification of materials should be based on whole life of the produce over the term of the lease, rather than just concentrating on initial purchasing costs. This should include the benefits of extended refurbishment or replacement intervals, lower operational costs, reduced maintenance requirements, as well as, disposal costs and impacts. Principles that should be considered include:
Designing for enhanced durability
Selecting suitably resilient and robust materials factor for every day use and weather conditions can reduce lifecycle costs for cleaning, maintenance, repairs and premature replacement. Best practice principles include:
Designing for flexibility
Selecting standard products or systems that can be easily demounted, reconfigured or re-used allows for a much more flexible use of space and help to reduce future refurbishment or refresh costs whilst maximising the design life the fit-out. It can also minimise disruption when there are changes in operational requirements.
Designing for end of life disposal
Reducing negative ‘end of life’ impacts associated with disposal of materials is key in maximising resource efficiency within the fit-out process. Best practice principles include:
Any material or product lifecycle assessment should also include the environmental impacts associated with the resource extraction, transportation, manufacturing and fabrication of a product manufacture. A responsible procurement approach should prioritise options that have the lower environmental impacts.
Environmental aspects to consider include:
The use of material certification standards can help guide and support decision making and specification by providing an independent assessments and assurances of products’ environmental impacts.
Such schemes include:
Substances used in the manufacturing of materials and surface finishes can impact on indoor air quality, which in turn can affect the health and wellbeing of occupants. Sick building syndrome is officially recognised as an illness by the World Health Organisation and includes a wide range of symptoms which can be linked to internal finishes and fittings.
Best practice principles:
Occupiers can go beyond the selection of products themselves and influence the overall activities of their supply chains wider business activities from a social and environmental aspect.
Best practice principles for consideration include:
Preferring locally sourced products and suppliers that help support the local economy and minimise travel which can subsequently reduce transport emissions and costs. An occupier may want to set a target/ requirement to their design team and contract relating to the amount of materials or labour that must be sourced locally.
The agreed principles above should be formulated into a plan, including any minimum requirements, aspirations and targets, for all procurement decisions to be reviewed against. Not all design principles will necessarily be applicable or feasible for each material choice but the design team should continually be challenged with developing an optimised specification.
The use of product material and supplier certification standards can help guide and support decision making and specification by providing an independent assessments and assurances of products’ environmental impacts.
Such schemes include:
The materials strategy at Landsec's HQ was designed in line with the company's sustainability commitments. This included procuring 99.97% of materials from sustainable sources, as defined by BREEAM e.g. 79% recycled aluminium, 44% recycled carpet tiles and FSC Project Certification. It also required achieving an 11.5% reduction in embodied carbon versus the initial designs through smart materials use e.g. such as reusing existing furniture where possible, specifying frameless glazing and omitting the suspended ceiling.
On leaving their previous headquarters at 5 Strand the office was not stripped out by the incoming occupier. All furniture was reused in situ, except for old IT equipment which was donated to Green Machine, a social enterprise who sell computers to people on low income at an affordable price. Many items of furniture were also kept and taken to the new space where they were included in the furniture design scheme.
In recognition of the project’s efforts on diverting valuable resources to community groups the project was awarded a CCS Gold Award in the Considerate Constructors Scheme National Project Site Awards 2017.
GVA took a lifecycle approach to materials, in their London HQ fit-out.
At Huckletree's shared workspace in Clerkenwell, Grigoriou Interiors used timber finishes with no VOC’s to ensure healthier internal environment and designed the workspace to allow the timber to be reused or returned safely to the biosphere at end-of life. Find out more here.
At M&G Real Estate's speculative development The Grid in Glasgow, indoor air contaminants will also be minimised as far as possible through specification of paints, furnishings and fittings with low VOCs that have been certified via third party schemes/standards (Source: Wellness Matters, BCO).
Carpet tile manufacturer Interface has used product design to reduce site waste. It has created a ‘Random Design’ carpet tile that allows the tiles to be laid in any direction. This reduces waste from cutting tiles as well as making installation quicker and easier.
Hammerson’s fit-out at King’s Place, Project Arthur (SKA Gold), implemented the following initiatives with regards to material re-use in order ot reduce construction waste: