Building a Sustainable Future

Rick Ridgeway

This is a guest blog post from Rick Ridgeway, Vice President of Public Engagement at Patagonia, Inc. On April 6, Interface’s Erin Meezan participated in an ISSP webinar with Rick Ridgeway, of Patagonia, and John Tran, of Unilever.

As a follow-up to this webinar, we wanted to answer some questions we could not get to in the short time frame. One follows below, answered by Ridgeway.

What is Patagonia’s outlook towards sustainable buildings?
One of our corporate bylaws (and benefit purposes) is ‘conduct operations with no unnecessary harm.’ A large part of this corporate mandate applies to our own operations, so we take our own footprint and ‘cleaning up our own act first’ very seriously. We always try to minimize the impacts of our buildings to the greatest extent possible. For example, for retail stores we use repurposed materials from local sources as much as possible for store build-outs; at our Ventura campus we have solar panels and bioswales; and at our Reno distribution center we have a unique ‘air flush’ system that pumps cool air in at night to naturally regulate the temperature of the building.

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Solar panels installed at the Patagonia headquarters. Photography courtesy of Patagonia. Credit: Tim Davis.

But, we also know what we are constrained at times, since we don’t own many of our locations, but rather are long-term tenants. So, we don’t have full control over the building systems or characteristics in many places. We try to approach each of our locations individually in context and see what we can do that is most feasible and impactful. We recently adopted a set of ‘Sustainable Building Principles’ that is largely based off of the International Living Futures Institute’s ‘Living Building Challenges’ criteria for sustainable buildings. These are principles that guide our building design and operations and integrated into our facilities, retail, and operations teams to implement.

For more information on Patagonia’s sustainable buildings, please visit: www.patagonia.com/resource-use.html

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Better Habitats for Humans – Part 1

David Gerson

The Living Future unConference in Seattle celebrated its 11th anniversary this May. The enthusiasm for creating buildings and interiors that support positive, healthy and equitable environments for all was palpable.

The kick off to three days of learning, sharing and festivities was the 2nd annual Biophilic Design Summit. The goal for this year’s program was to provide a day of learning and interactive experiences that took attendees beyond the more familiar aspects of biophilic design and explore lesser practiced patterns, such as non-rhythmic sensory stimulation.

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Members of the Biophilic Design Advisory board who helped to shape and facilitate the event. From left to right: Richard Placenti, Sonja Bochart, Vivian Loftness, Amanda Sturgeon, Julia Africa, Bill Browning, David Gerson, Nicole Isle and Judi Heerwagen (Not pictured: Edna Catumbela and Denise DeLuca)

The day began with the renowned author, speaker and practitioner of biophilic design, Judi Heerwagen of the US General Services Administration. Her presentation centered on how we could create better “Habitats for Humans.” She challenged us to consider our built spaces from an evolutionary psychology and biology perspective and incorporate the aspects of our ancient habitats that made us feel safe and connected to our tribe. In short, a green wall or windows alone cannot create a “habitat.” It must be holistic and integrated.

She also provided striking examples of modern habitats that are drastically different. Some incorporated our innate needs as living beings and others discounted them in favor of convenient, yet draining environments.

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Although Judi showed numerous examples of good human habitat design, she focused in on six key points:

  • Focus on indoor geography – prospect, refuge, pathways
  • Create an indoor atmosphere with daylight, sky and operable windows
  • Provide sensory change and variability
  • Support social engagement
  • Use natural patterns
  • Enable ongoing connection to nature

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Buildings can do more than simply house people. They can create habitats that fulfill our needs to connect with the earth, nature and each other.

For more information on the effects of biophilic design in the workplace, check out the Human Spaces research report.

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Shifting the Game

Nadine Gudz

“Are you really a carpet company?” asked the City of Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat. “I am just so inspired by what you are doing and that is an unexpected outcome of being here this afternoon.”

That’s just one of the comments I heard during an event that Interface and the David Suzuki Foundation convened in Toronto with an esteemed group of leaders from across many business sectors, including commercial real estate, energy, tech, banking, building and construction.

Our goal was to facilitate a dialogue with these leaders to spark new thinking and challenge one another to raise our ambition levels to address climate change. As we embark on our Climate Take Back mission, we’re eager to partner with other thought-leading, reputable, influential organizations to advance our thinking on carbon.

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Long time champion of the environment and world-renowned geneticist, Dr. David Suzuki opened with reflections on some of the first science-based research and early predictions he had seen on global warming in the 1970s and 80s. He lamented the slow, detrimental pace to address the largest issue facing humanity while atmospheric carbon continues to reach unprecedented levels. He reinforced how governments don’t tend to be the pioneers of change and that the business community has an opportunity to leverage its influence and innovate.

“We need to shift the game!” Dr. Suzuki exclaimed during his opening speech. He pointed to Ray Anderson as an example of a unique visionary who fundamentally understood the interconnectedness of life on Earth and redesigned his business accordingly. Sustainability just makes good business sense on a finite planet. Dr. Suzuki talked about Ray’s original vision for climbing Mount Sustainability to zero footprint and the relevance it still holds today for the business community.

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I found it quite meaningful to have the opportunity to reflect on the evolution of our journey with a thoughtful, iconic ambassador of the environment like Dr. Suzuki. He has been a long-time supporter of Interface. At the age of 81, Dr. Suzuki remains one of the world’s strongest, most passionate and insightful champions of sustainability.

Members of the audience asked for his perspective on the current political climate and how this will impact needed advancements. Dr. Suzuki said he refuses to lose hope and referred to US President Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord as a gift to the rest of the world. The galvanizing of efforts around the world, including governments and business leaders stepping up to form new alliances and coalitions tells a very hopeful story.

Following Dr. Suzuki’s opening, Toronto’s Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat passionately reinforced how citybuilding is key to a healthy climate future. Addressing tensions between needs and wants is part of the challenge. She stressed the importance of learning to live “smaller,” drawing lessons from New York City where residents are among city dwellers living with the smallest environmental footprints in North America.

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I then had the honour of joining a panel discussion with Jennifer Keesmaat and Lisa Bate, green building guru and principal with B+H Architects, to share perspectives from industry and the building community. How do we go beyond zero carbon? Believing it’s possible is the first step. The group acknowledged that this can be hard when dominant media messaging is doom and gloom and explored the need to reframe the conversation. We have an opportunity to create the future that we want, but we start by asking what that looks like. Creating a climate fit for life needs more than the energy transition. It’s time to broaden our understanding of the carbon opportunity and shift it from a liability to a resource.

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In addition to sharing our Climate Take Back plan and Proof Positive prototype tile, the panel shared other examples of solutions underway, including Canadian innovations like Carbon Cure. Carbon Cure technology recycles waste carbon dioxide into greener, more affordable concrete products.

My biggest takeaway? Dr. Suzuki echoed what climate leaders said in our recent survey to climate leaders: business as usual is a barrier to creating a climate fit for life. The solutions exist and they are starting to shift the game, cultivating a new wave of climate optimism. Game on!

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Interface Celebrates +Positive spaces with Great People and Great Design

Savannah Weeks
HiP Award

David and Cindi Oakey celebrate the HiP Award win for Human Connections.

Interface brought home three HiP awards at NeoCon 2017 and continues to garner recognition for its successful sustainability leadership and manufacturing practices

Human Connections, David Oakey’s latest global collection for Interface, highlights the beauty of the outdoors through its unique interpretation of nature’s role in communities. The collection won for Interior Design’s HiP Award for Best Workplace flooring, a highly competitive award category.

Our talented designer (and expert parallel parker) Gretchen Wagner won Interior Design’s esteemed HiP Rising Star Award, and San Francisco-based superstar Account Executive Brandon Maddox took HiP Seller.

While creating beautifully designed products remains a critical function for Interface, we also maintain a commitment to the earth and creating a climate fit for life. We recently garnered accolades for leadership in sustainability and recycling, being named CARE’s Recycler of the Year for 2016. Our Net-Works program, which in partnership with the Zoological Society of London, empowers people in coastal communities in the developing world to collect and sell discarded nylon fishing nets, won Business Partnership of the Year from the U.K.’s National Recycling Awards.

In fact, Interface was recently recognized as a global sustainability leader for the 20th consecutive year in GlobeScan and SustainAbility’s annual Sustainability Leaders Survey. Earning third place this year, Interface is the only company to appear on the list each year since the study began in 1997, and held a place in the top four since 1998.

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Additionally, Jarami Bond, Manager of Sustainability, was recognized as a young leader by sustainability industry publication Greenbiz. Named one of 30 leaders under 30, Jarami was applauded for his commitment to Interface’s sustainability mission as well as his community involvement in Atlanta and college mentorship.

We thank and congratulate our employees for their well-deserved recognition. It’s their passion, talent and dedication that help us continue to create beautiful, sustainable and positive spaces.

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Biophilic Design – A Pathway to WELL Certification

David Gerson

I had the pleasure to visit ASID’s new HQ, the first space to receive both the WELL Platinum and LEED Platinum certifications. Becoming the first space to receive both the WELL Platinum and LEED Platinum certifications makes it truly one of a kind. ASID and Perkins+Will partnered to create an exceptional space that speaks to who they are and what they value. They wanted to be on the cutting edge of modern workspace design, but also create a space that was restorative to their people with minimal negative impact to the environment.

From the moment you walk in and are greeted by the virtual assistant at the front door, you know you are walking into the future. The new ASID National Headquarters was built as a living lab dedicated to creating a premier workspace for its employees, but also to study the effects of some of the key elements of that space that address human health and well-being.

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Evidence-based design strategies were applied to create a space that is pleasing to the human eye, but also scientifically proven to address a wide range of issues, from cardiovascular health to sustainable agriculture.

One of the requirements for achieving WELL certification for building interiors is the incorporation of biophilic design. The WELL Building Standard aspires to “create an interior environment that nurtures the human-nature connection.”

WELL’s Biophilia Precondition (#88) deals with “Nature Incorporation.” The first major infusion of biophilic design is present even before you enter the glass front doors. The striking Net Effect carpet has a color and pattern that resembles the ocean. Beyond the aesthetics, the carpet is also created with 100 percent recycled nylon, which is partially made from fishing nets recovered from environmentally-sensitive coastal communities in Asia and Africa through the Net-Works program.

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The vegetated plant ledge, which extends throughout the space, simply and efficiently brings greenery through almost every workspace in the office. The ledge provides the same benefits as a green wall, but is much easier to maintain. From the front conference room to the meeting space in the back corner, plants brighten employees’ day, while also cleaning the air they breathe.

ASID HQ

ASID HQ

Some other notable biophilic elements used in this space include a magnified pattern of dragonfly wings on the interior glass to provide some visual privacy, a unique design detail and a subtle biomorphic pattern to the space. Abstract water patterns on the conference room walls also provide beauty, vibrant colors and a connection to nature.

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I am thrilled to see ASID leading their constituency to embrace WELL, LEED and the rising movement towards evidence-based design strategies.

Biophilia is inherent to us as human beings, and biophilic design provides a framework for us to build exceptional spaces enabling us to thrive and do our best possible work.

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