How can we make our projects more sustainable?

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Written by Made by Landmark - 12 Apr 2024

Sustainability is of great importance in today’s world, especially in construction and landscaping.  Architects, contractors, and clients alike are striving to create projects that are more sustainable, but what does that actually mean, and what practical steps can we take to increase it?

Firstly, let’s look at the definition of the word ‘sustainability’ so that we understand it. The United Nations defined it in 1987 as: 

“Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

At Landmark, we look at sustainability from two aspects—environmental and financial—and, in their own way, they are equally important. Let’s look at these in more detail:

Environmental sustainability

This really measures the impact of each product and, thus, the overall project on the environment. While it looks at the source and next destination of the material, sustainability is much broader in its application.

For example, is the product even needed in the first place? In our commitment to ‘less is more’, we consider eco-friendly options such as bat-friendly lighting to reduce our environmental footprint. This can save on excavation, manufacture, transport, installation, and disposal costs.  

What does the client want in terms of sustainability? Many of our commercial outdoor furniture items can be crafted from a variety of sustainably sourced timbers. For example, Accoya is a New Zealand-grown radiata pine that is shipped to Arnhem in the Netherlands and then to the UK. It is FSC-certified and guaranteed above ground for 50 years and below for 25 years, while also being more dimensionally stable than oak. However, it’s travelled a long way to get here and some clients will prefer UK or West European oak for that reason, even though it won’t last as long.

Sustainability has to be looked at as a journey. New materials and processes are coming on stream and what we recommend next year may be different to this year.

Financial sustainability

This is about whether the client can afford to not only buy the project but also maintain it and replace any parts.  We’ve often been given drawings by contractors and asked to quote, but on examination, the product has either been impossible to manufacture or too expensive for the client, resulting in delays and disappointments.  

The financial implications, especially when considering outdoor mapping and directional signage, need to be thought through in the wider context of the scheme. Will it be susceptible to vandalism and if so, should some budget be allocated to replacements? Will the scheme need to be extended or modified over time as the destination evolves?  

If schemes are coming out over-budget, clients can sometimes obtain additional funding from local businesses that have an interest in the location, sometimes offering an area for advertising in return. Alternatively, projects can be spread out over two or more budgetary periods.

Ways to increase sustainability

  1. Less is more.  The fewer products are used, the greater the impact of each one.  Wayfinding and furniture can easily be added over time once the initial scheme has been trialled and feedback obtained.  Are there alternatives to wayfinding, such as sightlines with planting to draw people through the site?  

Buy multiple products from a single supplier if possible to reduce transport and installation costs.  Even if a product isn’t shown on a supplier’s website, they’ll often be able to make something broadly similar.

  1. We choose materials carefully, and we divide them into three core groups:

Metal: Aluminium is lightweight, corrosion-resistant and easily recyclable, so it’s the most commonly used metal in wayfinding.  Steel is more commonly used for furniture owing to its strength and requires a surface coating such as power coating or galvanising to protect from corrosion. Alternatively, an alloy such as stainless steel or Corten view Cuningar case study can be used to avoid the need for additional coating.

Plastic: recycled plastic view Bramall Hall case study is very durable, non-fade, non-toxic and can be recycled at end of life.  This material has an exceptionally long life and with an occasional wash-, the products will look as good as new.  However, it can soften in sunshine so longer sections may need to be supported or strengthened with a steel core. 

Timber, such as that used in our picnic benches and wooden signage, is considered carbon-negative owing to its carbon storage capabilities (approximately 50% of the weight of dry timber is carbon), so it is an excellent option. Remember to manage client expectations for the weathering and seek advice on the most suitable species for your application. 

Oak and chestnut are popular in the UK, with tropical hardwoods such as Iroko, view Wealden case study and Cumaru being used on furniture. Reclaimed timbers in the View Eastbrookend case study can work very well because of their larger sizes; however, quantity and quality are variable and subject to availability. Modified softwoods such as Accoya view Pollok case study are popular too. 

 

Contact us to learn more.

Written by Made by Landmark - 12 Apr 2024

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