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Unpacking Sustainability

Good Environmental Choice Australia unpacks what ‘Sustainable’ actually means.

Unpacking Sustainability


May 14th, 2015

When a building is described as being ‘sustainable’, this probably refers to its reduced impact on the environment. But sustainable materials go much further than improving energy efficiency and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Truly sustainable materials have a reduced impact on human health and should incorporate social responsibility, too.

The Melton Library has some great examples of products that are sustainable from a combined environmental, health and social perspective. The carpets from Shaw Contract Group release fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can contribute to poor indoor air quality and trigger symptoms such as allergies, respiratory irritation and headaches. Considering it’s a community space attracting people of all ages, from young children to senior citizens, a healthier indoor environment is a must.

The social and ethical impacts of materials production are also important – have the workers who made the furniture been paid a fair wage and given safe working conditions? Is the manufacturer complying with all relevant environmental legislation and generally engaging in lawful conduct? Items such as the GECA certified ‘U.R. Table’ from Thinking Works by Thinking Ergonomix or furniture from Jardan meet these requirements as well as having solid environmental and health credentials. It’s this all-encompassing, holistic view of what ‘sustainable’ really means that can help building designers create better spaces for all.



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