Many designers, architects doubt manufacturer claims on sustainability: Study

Survey shows they see environmental goals as important, but worry about getting products

October 04, 2011

More than 80 percent of architects and designers say they are concerned with how products are manufactured with regard to sustainability, according to new research released by IMRE.

The research showed that the number of sustainable projects performed by architects and interior designers is projected to rise in the next year, and that sustainable products are often associated with higher cost.

These are some of the results released from the survey in which 812 architects and designers responded to an online survey fielded between September 19 and 23, 2011. The survey was spearheaded by

IMRE, a full-service marketing agency specializing in the Home & Building industry, in conjunction with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

While most architects and interior designers pay careful attention to manufacturers' sustainability claims, both are similarly skeptical when asked if they are confident that products referred to as "sustainable" actually are.

  • 40 percent of architects and 34 percent of interior designers are uncertain if products claiming to be sustainable are actually sustainable.
  • Almost 22 percent of architects and 11 percent of interior designers are somewhat or not at all confident that products are actually sustainable.
  • Only 2 percent of architects and 3 percent of interior designers are "completely confident" in manufacturers' claims that products are actually sustainable.

Use of sustainable products on rise

Despite trepidation about the validity of manufacturers' sustainability claims, the sustainability project pipeline for architects and designers is projected to grow. Seventy percent of architects and 49 percent of interior designers surveyed used sustainable products in their projects

very often or always in the past year, and more than half of respondents from each group expect their number of designated

sustainable projects will increase in the coming year.

The primary reason architects and interior designers use sustainable products is because they want to, not because they need to.

  • Nearly 60 percent of architects and 56 percent of interior designers identified their own sense of environmental responsibility as the key driver for specifying sustainable products.
  • Only 19 percent of architects and 20 percent of interior designers specify sustainable products when they are required to, either by project scope or client request.
  • Government and industry incentives are the key driver for only 0.5 percent of architects and 1 percent of interior designers.

Sustainability associated with higher cost

Not surprisingly, cost was a factor in respondents¹ perceptions about the use of sustainable products, and is perhaps the reason why less than half of interior design clients and one-fifth of architect clients rarely or never request them.

  • Nearly 90 percent of architects and 82 percent of interior designers said their clients think that sustainable products cost more.
  • More than half of the professionals from both industries surveyed agreed that sustainable products are more expensive.

Additionally, research showed that only one-quarter of both architects and interior designers believe their clients understand what the term "sustainability" means.

 

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