Dispatch from Greenbuild: Design-mandated sustainability

Bathroom fixture manufacturer Toto has released energy-efficient new toilets, and announced a partnership with wind turbine maker Wing Power Energy.
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Greenbuild is letting show-goers test-drive a number of new energy-efficient cars, including Volkswagen's clean-diesel model.
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Nissan's new Leaf electric car is also part of the Greenbuild test drive.
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David Oakey designs carpet tiles for Interface, including the Urban Retreat line (right).

On day two of the 11th annual Greenbuild, designers spoke about the importance of challenging assumptions about sustainability as well as demanding greener building products and materials from suppliers and manufacturers.

David Oakey, who designs carpet tiles for Interface, debunked the idea that green always means all-natural, in his round table discussion of how sustainability, affordability and beauty can co-exist. “Many people still think that to be sustainable, you have to use natural materials. But we have outgrown that capacity.” Oakey talked about how synthetic materials – like the recycled nylon used in Interface’s product – can be based on nature, and can provide a far more sustainable alternative than attempting to produce wool in the volumes we currently need to meet the demands of commercial carpeting.

In the same talk, Melissa Mizell of Gensler reiterated a concept echoed across the show floor: manufacturers are not the only ones dictating the pace of the green market anymore. As the sustainable design industry becomes more and more complex, designers, architects and other green-building advocates are not waiting around for new materials and products to become available. They are demanding them. “If you’re looking at wood, and the pretty one doesn’t come in FSC wood, then you bring the pretty one to the manufacturer and ask for it in FSC.” It’s a simple idea, but it could be a game-changer, encouraging a more active, innovative industry.

Another way to spur innovation in green design is to combine various areas of expertise. At its booth, washroom fixture manufacturer Toto announced a partnership with wind turbine manufacturer Wing Power Energy. The former makes the proprietary Hydrotect antimicrobial coating, which will be applied to WPE’s latest urban-friendly turbine to not only clean its blades, but also the air surrounding them.

Finally, one of the most consumer-friendly examples of green’s changing face is parked right outside the show: Greenbuild’s Ride and Drive program allows show-goers to test-drive a broad range of energy-efficient cars from a variety of manufacturers and price points – everything from Volkswagen’s clean-diesel line and Nissan’s electric Leaf to the Fisker Karma, an ultra-luxe hybrid sports car that garnered a crowd of admiring show-goers every minute.

Stay tuned for a round-up of Greenbuild’s best products and technologies.

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