Interface + IIDA Converge Action Summit Promotes Eco-Design

Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared on Metropolis magazine’s website as part of a content partnership. 

Interface and the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) are collaborating on an endeavor to support emerging designers in their quest to elevate environmental sustainability in the built environment. The Interface + IIDA Converge Action Summit launched as an in-person event in 2019 as an effort to educate rising stars in the design industry who are passionate about sustainability and healthy interiors and to empower them to take action. Over the past year, the Converge Sustainability Council evolved out of the Summit as an opportunity for past attendees to stay connected and share ideas, with the group’s work culminating in the 2023 Summit.

Summit attendees are identified by their local IIDA chapters as designers who would benefit most from participating in the event. “The Converge Summit is designed to educate attendees on a variety of sustainability topics that influence specifications, including embodied carbon, material health and circularity. Plus, they learn about tools like the Embodied Carbon Calculator in Construction (EC3) and hear from designers who have succeeded in integrating sustainability into their work,” explains Joey Shea, mission activation manager at Interface and a Converge Council member. “They are the future of design, and we want them to feel inspired to start making changes within their own organizations.”

One of the sessions at the 2022 Converge Summit

Shea explains that the concept for the Converge Summit and subsequent Council emerged in response to IIDA and Interface hearing that “designers who are early in their career really want to make a difference in the industry and incorporate their passions into their work—and many of these passions relate to sustainability and the health of people and the planet.” He continues, “Because these ‘emerging designers’ are just starting out, they were feeling like they couldn’t instigate change within the industry. IIDA and our team realized that we had an opportunity to empower these designers by educating them about the ways they could make a difference and how they could take steps to be a sustainability leader at their firms. That led us to create the Converge Summit.”

Cheryl S. Durst, IIDA executive vice president and CEO, says that the Converge Council is a logical extension of the program “from an event to a real community of emerging leaders in sustainability.” The current Council consists of eight members who are Summit alumni and three mentors who work throughout the A&D industry. She notes, “The Council combines learning resources from Interface and other experts with IIDA-created mentoring opportunities, with the goal of fostering knowledge sharing about sustainable practices in an accessible way, creating impact far beyond the original group.”

A tactile exercise as part of the 2022 Converge Summit

Durst mentions that many designers learn about sustainability on the job, but she urges, “By extending the Converge Action Summit into a true community of emerging design leaders, we are working to expand and extend knowledge sharing on this vital topic.” She explains, “The Council brings information and tools to designers, where they are: in IIDA chapters and local design communities around the world. In many cases, designers are looking for entry points to sustainability—we believe this program is one step in providing that.”

And it seems like the Converge Summit and Council are having the desired effect. Participants are learning valuable lessons in how to apply and advance environmental sustainability principles; IIDA is promoting industry partnership, education, and member engagement; and, likewise, Interface gains satisfaction from fostering industry collaboration, mentorship for young designers, and environmental sustainability goals.

One Converge Council member attests to the value of the program. “When it comes to the topic of sustainability in design, it’s a complicated subject that goes beyond certifications or specifying the right material. As professionals, we would love to have all the talking points to capture these complexities, but there’s not enough time in the day to learn,” says Alvin Oei, senior manager retail creative at Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. “Because we work closely with Interface in our Converge meetings, we’ve been able to identify the need to really shift the conversation to embodied carbon and how to empower other designers with that knowledge.”

This year’s Converge Summit builds on past experiences and knowledge gleaned from Council meetings throughout the year. This approach helps IIDA and Interface develop education and resources to guide discussions and helps attendees plan for how they can implement strategies within their own firms and further the future of sustainable design.

To learn more about the Converge Action Summit and the Converge Sustainability Council, click here.

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