How Sustainable Design Business Practices Can Increase Your Bottom Line

How Sustainable Design Business Practices Can Increase Your Bottom Line

The design community has always been forward thinking, so it’s no surprise that in the last few decades, it’s helped raise the bar for sustainable building practices. Here’s a look at how two aspects of the green design movement can increase your bottom line while reducing the impact to the environment.

Written by Elizabeth Brownfield

1. Sourcing Sustainable Products

What it Means 

Sourcing wood, textiles, and other materials that are sustainably sourced can be remarkably complex. There are myriad issues that impact the environment to take into consideration, including emission levels and carbon footprints. For instance, it might seem like the greenest choice when selecting furniture is an option made with local wood. But even with the impact of shipping, an alternative from across the world may actually be a better choice if it’s a more sustainable wood, or a product that will last longer.

Thankfully, there are organizations that can guide you to materials made with the least impact to the environment. Namely: the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) requirements, Greenguard Certification programs, and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. Look for these stamps of approval before choosing furniture, fabrics, and building materials.

How it Can Better Your Bottom Line

The reality of using materials that are sustainably sourced is that they do come with a higher cost. So be prepared to talk to your client about the issues that make these materials pricier, like environmental impact, fair wage and work practices, and product durability/longevity.

By educating your clients on why these materials are worth the higher price tag, you’ll be able to attract a high caliber of customer who’s dedicated to the same green building and fair business practices that you are.

2. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accreditation

What it Means

The first thing to know is the difference between LEED accreditation and LEED certification. Buildings can receive LEED certification, while people like interior designers and other design professionals can become LEED accredited.

A LEED credential is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council to indicate a design professional’s proficiency in sustainable construction, design, and operations standards. 200,000 professionals worldwide have been awarded this accreditation. If you want to become accredited as an interior designer, the LEED AP ID+C (interior design and construction) distinction is the certification you want to pursue. 

To qualify, you simply have to be an interior designer and be over 18 years old. You must also pass two exams: the LEED Green Associate exam (which covers basic LEED building practices and ratings systems), as well as the LEED AP ID+C exam (which includes knowledge of green building practices, as well as concepts specific to interior design and construction.) 

You can take the exams together or separately, and the total cost for the combined exam is $400 for USGBC members, $550 for non-members. To maintain your credentials, you’ll need to earn 30 hours of continuing education hours every 2 years, which can be earned through LEED project experience, authorship, education courses, or volunteering. To get started, visit the USGBC’s web site.

How it Can Better Your Bottom Line

As soon as you pass your LEED AP ID+C exam, you can begin promoting yourself as a LEED-accredited professional (AP). Becoming a LEED AP shows both the design community and potential clients your commitment and knowledge of sustainable business practices. 

The credential can help you attract new clients who are interested in sustainable building practices, and will allow you to compete for projects that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to pitch. 

It also makes you an asset to your design firm, and introduces you to a community of like-minded design professionals — all global leaders in green building practices  — who you can connect, network, and partner with for years to come.