Climate Change – It is real. We have caused it. We can fix it.

Together, building and construction is responsible for 39% of total global emissions. This is the damage we are doing as stakeholders in the built environment. What as an industry do we need to do to reduce this impact?  

As proud partners of the Design Show 2023 and global leaders in commercial flooring, Interface is committed to sharing its own sustainability journey with all stakeholders within the wider industry. Over the span of more than 50 years, Interface has evolved both its thinking and approach. Originally, the focus was solely on reducing environmental impacts, but that has evolved to include social impacts and new business models.  

Net zero ambitions for the built environment will be achieved not only through use of renewable energy and low carbon materials, but also by adoption of the circular economy model whereby those products and materials are recirculated to retain their embodied energy. 

Implementing a Circular Economy Business Model 

Circular economy is a paradigm shift, changing the economic model to one that’s regenerative. In the past, it has been claimed by many businesses, but it is truly practiced by a few. However, this is changing and we’re seeing a shift in both attitudes and actions. 

“Circular economy doesn’t mean that we take waste from someone else to use as a raw material for our product; circular economy for us is retaining the value of our product throughout its life,” explains Aidan Mullan, Sustainability Manager at Interface. “And, at the end of life, getting that product back is the goal. We can extend its life or dismantle it into its constituent parts for manufacturing new products. That, to us, is a circular economy.” 

In short, the circular economy model focuses on designing out waste, circulating products and materials at their highest value and regenerating nature by recycling.  

For Interface this means “not taking what we cannot put back.” The ultimate goal is to cut the link to petrochemicals and fossil fuels. This means: 

  • Designing long lasting products that can be re-used 
  • Replacing virgin raw materials with high recycled or bio-based content 
  • Having a remanufacturing solution for the product at the end of its useful life 

Whole Life Carbon and Why Does It Matter? 

The science of sustainability can seem complicated. But one fact is simple: the planet is warming at an alarming rate. Reducing humanity’s carbon footprint is the most essential step we can take to live within the means of our planet. 

The industry’s focus on reducing built environment carbon impacts has largely been the building’s operational carbon. This is the term used to describe the emissions of carbon dioxide during the in-use phase of a building. This includes the emissions associated with heating, hot water, cooling, ventilation, lighting systems and lifts. 

We now have to turn our focus to whole life carbon for the structures we build. 

​In some ways it’s like approaching an iceberg, operational carbon is the iceberg above the water, it has been clearly visible for a long time. However, upfront carbon is the rest of the iceberg hidden under the water not visible to most of the built environment.  

It’s been a blind spot for the industry, but that is changing… and design and architectural roles have a key part to play. 

Designing with Climate in Mind 

The IPCC issued their sixth assessment report stating that global warming is happening at an accelerated rate and that there is an urgent need for action. The decisions we make now to address global warming will have consequences for thousands of years. This represents not only a huge challenge to the industry, but also an opportunity – as reductions made by the built environment have the potential to contribute significantly to tackling global warming and promoting a green and inclusive recovery.  

When designing projects:  

  • Think about re-purposing or refurbishment before building 
  • Use a less is more approach and build only to meet the needs of the community or city 
  • Design with circularity and reuse materials 
  • Specify low carbon materials and products using Environmental Product Declarations as your guide
  • Build efficiently by minimising design loads and maximising material utilisation
  • Go electric – cut the link to fossil fuels as an energy source 

Source: WBCSD Net Zero Buildings, Where do We stand? World Business Council for Sustainable Development 

Urgency & Radical Collaboration

It’s not up to a government now and it’s not up to just one company. Everybody must be accountable for how they procure materials and how they design projects – the decisions we make now about the materials we use in the buildings have a lasting impact for thousands of years. 

2030 is the target for emissions reduction, not 2050. With so many sustainability assessment and carbon measurement tools out there, the message from climate experts is that we need to select one and start working on it NOW.  

A key pillar of the Interface Climate Take Back plan is the belief that we need new models of low-carbon, inclusive and collaborative business, that deliver value for everyone. Leading the industrial re-revolution by championing radical collaboration & collective will, Interface’s goal is to transform industry to build a climate fit for life. 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Can Flooring Define The Boundaries Of A Space?

April 3, 2015

With limited space and lead time, the flooring of the Monash University project proved that carpet tile can indeed define the prescribed functions of a space. Undertaken within an astonishingly tight deadline of two weeks, the Monash University Australian Law Faculty, Clayton Campus project by Dasch Associates in Melbourne, was incredibly successful. This humble little…

Are Green Buildings Biophilic? Why the Answer Matters, Particularly in Asia

February 5, 2016

The idea of ‘Green’ in Asia is dominated by certification tools. There are now some 14 national variants – not unlike LEED in the US – each offering tiered ratings at the building scale, some at the urban scale. The rating is determined by an aggregated score, the result of compliance with requirements that focus…