Apr 26th 2022

6 Tips to Talk Sustainability with Your Clients

Kirei



Your clients are demanding sustainable spaces more than ever before. Educating them on what that actually means for a project can be a challenge. By integrating sustainability into a project plan, you build a brighter future for those experiencing the space as you reduce the impact on the Earth.

We recently explored this topic with four talented designers as we celebrated our 20th anniversary, our latest launch (the Air Baffle collection), and Earth Month with a conversation about eco-friendly practices. The panelists discussed how they approach, educate, and lead their clients to reach more sustainable project plans. Moderated by award-winning designer Michael DiTullo, panelists Paris Alizadeh (NELSON Worldwide), Jessica Crouch (M Moser Associates), Lizzie Gerock (Gresham Smith), and Stacy Holm (Roehr Schmitt) sounded off on the importance of sustainability and how to change the game with earth-friendly strategies.





Throughout the conversation, the designers gave thoughtful insight and advice for delivering sustainable spaces for clients while showing them the importance of reducing the impact on the Earth as you build a brighter future. Check out our top 6 takeaways from the event, below:





1. EDUCATE CLIENTS EARLY - YOU BRING THE ECO-EXPERTISE

Clients look to you for expertise. As you discuss design goals and how to attain them, you can guide them through greener options, offering them the knowledge and opportunity to incorporate sustainable goals they have not even thought of. By cluing clients in on the benefits of eco-friendly design and bringing them along throughout the process, you will deliver an elevated, values-driven final project for all.


I've also had clients where, you know, we come in with a baffle, and we say, "Look at the recycled content in this product and do you know the story behind it?" They really are clueless until we have that conversation, and then they have this newfound appreciation for all of the materials that we're installing within their space. So I think just bringing them along in that journey and making sure to share as we go is really significant for our whole industry.
- Lizzie Gerock





2. SEEN OR UNSEEN, SUSTAINABILITY CREATES A HEALTHIER EXPERIENCE

As Covid has impacted what defines a healthy workspace, designers are now looking to air quality and HVAC systems for sustainability, especially when working toward WELL certifications (focused more on occupant well-being). While some sustainability goes unseen, like the air quality and energy efficiency, you can bring visual impact of sustainability to a project with the addition of biophilia or recycled materials like PET felt.



As much as I would love to see sustainability all around me, it's not always like that. I think sustainability comes through energy efficiency in the space, how the product was sourced, and just designing with longevity in mind. So I think it's not always visual, but the more visual it is it kind of makes you feel more integrated with your environment. 
- Paris Alizadeh


I think some clients take plants to an extreme thinking ‘oh sustainability is plants’ when it's really so much more holistic than that.
- Jessica Crouch






3. TRUST PRODUCTS THAT CHOOSE TRANSPARENCY

Give certainty to your clients with sustainability that comes certified - from EPDs to Declare labels to LEED credits and more. By opting for products that go the extra mile to guarantee they are made with the Earth in mind, you don’t have to second guess your sustainable choices.



If the product has an EPD, an Environmental Product Declaration, that's really a golden ticket. I know that they've evaluated the life cycle, and there are a lot of components embedded within that I'm able to just check a lot of boxes of things that I'm looking for. So when I see that a manufacturer has taken the time and money to review those things, make that public, and be transparent, I do give preference to those products.
- Lizzie Gerock



Knowing the carbon footprint of the production process kind of helps me. Knowing where it's coming from, how much energy was used to create it, and deliver it. I think that's another component I think about.
- Paris Alizadeh






4. DESIGNING FOR CERTIFICATIONS DOWN THE ROAD CAN OPEN CLIENTS MINDS

Sustainable design practices are vital for the future of the industry and our planet, but it doesn’t always fall first in line when it comes to client’s priorities and budgets. By leading with your values and presenting options for sustainable certifications, the door can be left open for the client to walk through and take that next step.




In our case, all of our specifications are written as a baseline to meet LEED certification for silver, so that's just a starting point that our clients aren't even necessarily aware of. Then also just talking about the right thing to do. So if you've got an opportunity, and it might have a little bit longer lead time or a little bit higher cost, just present that as an option to say ‘let's do the right thing.’
- Stacy Holm



A lot of clients really value [sustainability], but they don't always want to pay for the actual certification. So a lot of my projects are asked to design to WELL standards, but they don't decide if they want that official certification maintenance plaque until later in the game.
- Jessica Crouch



I have had clients who said, you know, "We just want to meet the minimum LEED certification," and they've ended up with [LEED] Gold which is amazing!
- Lizzie Gerock






5. INSPIRE CLIENTS WITH YOUR OWN VALUES

Bringing sustainability to the table can be a bottom up effort. No matter what your role in the design process, you can introduce sustainable materials to your libraries and point clients in the direction to do right by the planet.




Frequently it's the design team that's bringing the sustainability topic to the table. [...] I think as designers we have our own certain motivation for, reasons that we embed sustainability into our projects ourselves. We just continue to elevate what we're delivering to our clients and just weave that in even when it's not requested.
- Lizzie Gerock






6. BE WISE ABOUT WASTE: BUILD FOR LONGEVITY AND A TIMELESS FEEL

Sustainability is not a passing trend, but passing trends are not very sustainable at all. Finding products and styles with a timeless feel allow for longer use and adaptability for new occupants when clients outgrow their space.




We did a huge 300,000 square foot headquarters for someone, they outgrew it in two years. [...] We hope that this space is ready for someone else but know they're going to come in and change things to tailor it to their own brand. So as a designer, how can you intentionally pick things that you know are not just going to go in a waste or landfill and also things that are durable.
- Jessica Crouch



With the younger generation, to avoid what I call fast fashion with interior design and materials so [...] what I'm trying to do with my younger staff is to educate them on there can be trends and they will stay around for a certain amount of time - and in some cases they're going to be appropriate, but can we do it in a way that maybe isn't a full refresh. There will be elements that are timeless that are durable that are well made that are meant to be in that space that could be updated in other ways.
- Stacy Holm



I always like to tell clients that novelty fades but beauty lasts. Again, going to that project that Stacy showed from 2008, I would never have guessed. I would have thought that was from two years ago. So I think when we focus on these, we focus not on fashion but instead on style. Style is timeless, and it can lead to longer lasting structures.
- Michael DiTullo






Sustainability in design is way more than a passing trend. It is a timeless approach that will continue to drive innovation in design forward. Whether you are thinking about the well-being of occupants in the space or the impact of products used on the environment, by leading with a sustainable focus you will guide your clients to a brighter future.

Thank you again to our panelists, their thoughtful work, and their wonderful firms for sharing them with us.

View the full webinar below for additional insights:




Step Up to Sustainable Design

Find products that start the conversation about sustainability with your clients. Explore our latest and most sustainable product yet, the Air Baffle with Nike Grind.