By Elisabeth McGowan When choosing flooring products for their projects, architects, designers and specifiers should take into account the interconnectedness between planetary health and human health and the importance of a holistic, systems-wide approach toward regeneration. That was the gist of a recent sustainability webinar hosted by Mohawk Group.
The webinar, titled “Deep Connections: Planet + People,” delved into timely topics such as the impact of biodiversity loss, climate change and human health. The hour-long session touched on the connection between our ecosystems, climate, built environments and community. Citing examples of tools specifically in the building industry, the webinar examined how these tools and considerations are being used to help specifiers as well as all parties throughout the channel make informed decisions and develop strategies for long-term positive impact.
A recurring theme of the webinar was regeneration, a concept that moderator Ramie Vagal, senior manager of sustainability for Mohawk Group, said “calls for us to redesign and construct.” Regeneration, she noted, is a specific approach to reinventing how builders, architects, manufacturers, designers and industry members should align their businesses. “We, as an industry, need to define a common language that helps us make sense of these material issues,” she stated, citing research showing 93% of global consumers want to see sustainability efforts in the companies they buy from.
Central to the global sustainability effort, Vagal noted, is the AIA Materials Pledge—a commitment embraced by the American Institute of Architects that establishes a formality for industry professionals to evaluate products.
The pledge supports the following key metrics:
Involves the evaluation of emissions and material ingredients, as well as the health and safety of the welfare of a building’s occupants and workers. The purpose of this pledge is one’s professional obligation of human safety. It’s necessary to initiate market transformation for the design and manufacturing of products.
Focuses on reducing carbon emissions (i.e., turning buildings into carbon sources), life-cycle assessments and carbon neutrality. Designers are expected to adapt to the policies and practices that impose an improved sense of transparency of carbon emissions and product manufacturing.
Social health and equity
Includes supply chain transparency, securing human rights and equitable design—meaning how to design something that is equally and more easily accessible to all. This category also focuses on the social well-being of workers and others in the communities in which the manufacturer operates. In some cases, Vagal observed, many aren’t fully aware of the labor issues for the products they oversee.
Focuses on the restoration of natural resources, biodiversity and raw materials and sourcing supply chain. The production process is known to have harmful environmental impacts such as water pollution and habitat destruction. The manufacturer, as part of this pledge, is thus held accountable for this.
Focuses on end-of-life solutions, such as reusing existing buildings. The pledge is intended to change the overall attitude toward building design in order to prioritize the reusage and inclusion of current buildings. This requires manufacturers to reuse existing buildings and express strategies to do so.