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Designing for lower carbon

“Design is a force for change” (Ellen MacArthur, 2022) [Se1] 

We certainly believe in this as a team and allow it to drive our purpose. In the context of Net Zero and the measurement of an interior fit-out’s embodied carbon, one of our clients recently said that it is relatively easy for a consultant to tell them how bad they are doing but what they need is to know is what to do to get the carbon down! And this is where Design is the answer. The decision-making at the design stage and the design strategies themselves are the most powerful tools for reducing environmental impacts.

Here is what you can do through the Design stages to effectively lower the carbon related to your projects, and products:

  • Incorporate systemic, circular design thinking at the early stages of a project (RIBA Stage 0-2).

Think of your project as an endless loop where materials and products can get back into the system. A great example of circular design is re-using pre-loved furniture. The end of life is not as such when conceived as the beginning of a new loop, a new life cycle. This would naturally lead you to think of the different life cycle stages and start a dialogue with the different teams involved to make the loop possible, thus systemic thinking. 

  • Use Life Cycle Assessment modelling.

Using product based carbon data and creating a project carbon calculation (model), reveals key impacts. This modelling process allows teams to tackle impacts through development during design stages and effectively reducing carbon during and integral with each design iteration. It can be basic elemental modelling, and as details become clear, focused and more incremental. Getting familiar with this type of assessment and data is a necessary skill for designers to acquire for real sustainable outcomes.

  • Use Ecodesign as the tool enabling your environmental targets.

Strategies like design for disassembly, design for waste reduction, design for recyclability, for dematerialisation and for efficient transport… keeping the whole life cycle in mind.

Image: The ecodesign strategy wheel (Brezet and van Hemel, 1997)[Se2] 

  • Knowing your materials and creating sustainable libraries

The selection of low-impact materials at a design development stage is also key for carbon reduction in real terms. At Grigoriou Interiors, we research extensively types of materials during or between projects and deepening our libraries and knowledge. An example is this recent blog post about our own research on the impact of vegan leather vs real leather. You can read about it at this link here.

These are just some of the tools and design thinking that demonstrate the power of design to lower embodied carbon. At Grigoriou Interiors we use these on a daily basis to inform our designs, and make low carbon projects possible. If you would like to find out more about our sustainable interior design and consulting services, please contact us.


 [Se1] https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-design/overview

 [Se2]Eco-design Requirements for Televisions: How Ambitious is the Implementation of the Energy-using Product Directive? – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/1-The-ecodesign-strategy-wheel-Brezet-and-van-Hemel-1997_fig1_340827815 [accessed 25 Nov, 2022]

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