Expert’s Voice: Creating responsible spaces that have sustainability at their core

by | 31 Jul 2022 | Opinions, People

Imagery courtesy of H2R Design.

Husain Roomi, co-founder of H2R Design, advocates using local suppliers for hotel interiors, with green considerations a necessity for all designs.

Roomi writes: When we sit down with a client at the start of any project and talk through their vision for their space, it always puts a smile on my face when the word ‘sustainable’ comes up. Recently, I’ve been smiling a lot. No longer a nice-to-have, sustainability is, quite rightly, the future of ours and many other industries, and as interior designers, we have the responsibility to design spaces that are not only visually stunning but also have conserving the future of the planet at their very core.

Using sustainable materials

In any project, it’s important that we select materials that offer low environmental impact, waste, and energy consumption. Fortunately, we have more choices than people might think. Using organic materials such as reclaimed or FSC wood, natural stones, bamboo, cork, or recycled glass or aluminium are more sustainable than the alternatives.

Recently, we have used ‘wood-wool’ for a custom acoustic ceiling which performs exceptionally well for acoustics and is bio-degradable, reconstituted stone flooring that utilises mixed marble scraps, recycled glass chips, and cement and non-toxic paint. For us, it’s also important to think about the shelf life of a material, ensuring that anything we do choose for our designs is durable for the business needs of the space, and won’t need replacing anytime soon.

Working with and selecting the right suppliers

Over the past few years, I think commercial interior designers and manufacturers have made great strides in working together to meet sustainability goals. By carefully selecting suppliers whose green practices are aligned with both ourselves and our clients, we can play a big part in shaping the industry. 

At times, this might even mean challenging it. Whilst a product might be classed as eco-friendly, it’s important to understand what this really means. By asking questions such as, ‘are the materials responsibly and ethically sourced?’, ‘do they have sustainability certifications such as LEED or the Rainforest Alliance?’, ‘are they renewable?’, and ‘are they non-toxic?’, we can really understand the impact that the material has had on the environment. Using locally sourced suppliers which save on product airmiles should always be a priority.

Focusing on energy saving

Another way that we can reduce our client’s overall carbon footprint is by working with them to improve their building’s energy efficiency. Lighting usually accounts for between 25-40% of energy consumption in a typical building, and so by maximising natural light sources, using lightly-coloured surfaces and smooth surfaces that reflect light, and thinking of things such as the orientation of the building in regard to sunlight, we can reduce the need for lights to be on all day.  And of course, natural light is always the best light to help spaces shine. 

Repurposing furniture

As we all battle the ‘throw away culture’ of using materials once and then throwing them away, it is important that we as interior designers lead the way in showing what can be done when things are upcycled. Requiring lots of creativity, I know the team at H2R Design loves the challenge of turning something destined for the skip, into a centrepiece with a story.

Take one of our latest projects, Slider Code, a popular burger restaurant in Saudi Arabia, where we took outdoor furniture and signage that was used from their previous pop-up store and re-used and adapted it to fit the current design.

Welcoming the outdoors in

Not just something that benefits sustainability, connecting humans with nature also improves their well-being. For example, it has been proven that using certified wood where the grain is visible, is not only better for the environment but also results in lowering stress levels.

And it’s something that a lot of our clients are conscious of, especially in the urban setting of Dubai. At Nette, the dining sanctuary within the city’s Matcha Club for example, we paid close attention to every element, bringing greenery and natural materials in to enhance the overall feel of nature and tranquillity. 

Elsewhere in the UAE at the five star Vida Umm Al Quwain, we used coastal patterns and accents of blues and beiges with touches of warm wood and hints of greenery to represent the sea, sand, and natural surroundings.

With a lot of our designs appealing to guests who prefer, and are willing to pay more, to do business with eco-friendly spaces, it’s helping these businesses attract millennial environmentally conscious travellers.

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