Carpet design

How the design scene is embracing Net Zero initiatives • Hotel Designs

Before you start, all design buzzwords need content to have a meaningful impact. So what exactly is Net Zero and how are we designing in the age of net zero? It’s a nuanced topic and, like most things, often subjective, but, quite simply, everything we do generates carbon. For a design brand to reach Net Zero, it must reach a balance point between what it uses and what it puts back. To do this, we first need to measure the amount of carbon a company/project releases into the atmosphere. We then need to reduce those emissions wherever possible. And finally, the crucial part of the process is then to offset the reduced emissions by doing things, like planting trees, that absorb the carbon. If done with precision, a net zero balance is achieved and the design is therefore more ethical – but clearly the starting point for measuring a carbon footprint is not only the key, but also the domain the most open to interpretation – there is no perfect science!

To challenge both itself and the industry, the interior design firm Perkins and Will produced a report Net zero now. Hospitality. This document is a Zero Carbon Interiors commitment to its growing portfolio of hospitality projects and is led by the studio’s Director of Hospitality and regular hotel designs Contributor Neil Andrew, who has designed projects for top international hotel brands like Marriott, Hilton and IHG, he has also created pop-up bars for brands like Heineken and designed a pavilion for New York University.

“We have an obligation to incorporate sustainability into our design process, not only for the good of the planet, but also to educate others,” Andrew said. “That doesn’t mean we have to compromise on aesthetics. In fact, by applying this logic to creativity, we can produce our best work. »

coastal bedroom designed using net zero principles and sustainable materials

Image credit: Perkins&Will

The document is a detailed discussion that not only examines the principles of zero carbon design, but also describes practical ways to implement these goals at all levels in the hospitality design industry. It’s about collaboration and concern, imagination and implementation, and in many ways it’s a call to arms for designers in the hospitality industry as the company invites designers to “join us on our journey to Net Zero, now.”

Unveiling its ambition, the company boldly pledges that: “By 2030, all of our projects will be zero embodied carbon, as demonstrated by a lifetime carbon assessment.” The report goes on to say: “The desire to discover new places is deeply rooted in human nature, but with the alarming acceleration of climate change, we must ask ourselves about the impact of travel on the environment. The hospitality industry urgently needs to adopt a Net Zero, or net positive, approach. Eco-conscious tourists are already looking for eco-friendly holidays, but as we collectively become more aware of the critical importance of sustainability, all future travelers are going to possess a better knowledge of their carbon footprint and expect carbon neutral hotels as standard.

Although there is no hard and fast rule, hotels currently undergo light renovations approximately every five to seven years. This regular cycle of change means that we as an industry need to look at how items can be reused or recycled and avoid throwing them into landfill. When renovating a hospitality space that has not been designed with full material lifecycle and FF&E in mind, it becomes more difficult to reuse elements. At the same time, as designers, we need to consider the constitution of man-made materials, whether they are natural or sustainably sourced, and the ultimate distance they are transported in order to reduce the carbon footprint of the project.

sustainable materials for net zero interior design

Image credit: Perkins&Will

After launching the Net Zero Now for Interiors Pledge in October 2020, Perkins&Will has now set goals for hospitality projects that align with the Interiors Pledge. Concretely, the commitments are as follows. The studio is committed to:

  • In Q3 2021, it will initiate a consultation process with our key contractors, subcontractors and supplier partners to ensure its supply chain meets our zero emissions goals.
  • By September 2022, half of its projects will be designed to be 100% circular. By 2025, all of its projects will be designed to be 100% circular.
  • By 2030, all of its projects will be zero embodied carbon, as demonstrated by a lifetime carbon assessment. »

These bold statements are inspiring, but we need to consider what practical steps can be taken to set the hospitality industry on this path. The report goes on to list some of the ideas and approaches designers can use to begin this journey. “[Perkins&Will] will advise customers to adopt our zero-emissions approach and inform them of the environmental benefits. We will reduce the number of necessary renovations. We will design building adaptability and repurpose existing buildings when possible, rather than building new ones. Additionally, we will ask customers to appoint consultants who also adhere to zero emissions practices. Imperative to this initiative, we will work with material suppliers on our “now the database” that meet our sustainability requirements and follow circular design principles and consider dismantling and modularity in our design so that buildings can act as material banks. And finally, we will minimize finishing and source locally when possible.

Moodboard of sustainable materials towards a net zero interior

Image credit: Perkins&Will

“Perkins & Will will make it clear throughout this report that this is – or should be – an industry engagement rather than an individual engagement.”

The life cycle or durability of a product is an area that is often overlooked – it’s not just the material and the design process that needs to be considered, but what happens after that – materials can they be reused or reused once the initial process life is over? Not only what materials are used, but how they are used and fixed in place. Operational carbon (the reduction of energy and water used in the operation of a building, the supply of food and beverages and OS&E items) is also essential. “It is our responsibility to challenge our customers, hotel brands and partner consultants to do better in this area,” the report said. “We will be consulting with hotel brands to review their brand standards with respect to core building performance.”

Perkins&Will will make it clear throughout this report that this is – or should be – an industry commitment rather than an individual commitment, and have added to their list of commitments the promise of a Database now of approved suppliers to share with other designers. This database will list suppliers who have provided environmental credentials that meet the goals and ambitions of Net Zero. The Now database will be an open source platform for environmentally friendly products.

conscious use of materials is necessary when working towards net zero design

Image credit: Perkins&Will

“For real change to happen, we need an institutional focus on improving the whole construction industry,” Andrew says in the report. “We need small changes and big changes, from those making big new development plans to those installing the carpet tiles.”

The report then discusses the “four Rs” – resell, reuse, recycle and recover – and how to implement them in a practical way. “With the average renovation time for a hotel property currently being between three and five years, it is clear that designers need to find ways to increase this number, with the obvious solution being the use of durable, high quality finishes. “, adds Andrew. “Embracing a new project with shiny new ideas and equally shiny new furniture may be a designer’s dream, but renovation and refurbishment are now becoming key to the design process.

After reading the report, it is clear that there is no simple design roadmap for a Net Zero journey, interior designers, architectural firms and brands need to consider and cover all the contingencies in order to prepare for surprises along the way. Fundamentally, Perkins&Will is not prescriptive nor does it offer definitive answers in this new document. Instead, it set out a clear starting point with practical solutions from design to operational choices that can be implemented at all stages of the hospitality design journey, in every corner of the world. industry arena.

Main image credit: Perkins&Will