An interview with Erica Buss, Ankrom Moisan’s Research & Information Services Manager
Q: What efforts are Ankrom Moisan making to provide better information and resources when it comes to sustainability?
A: Ankrom Moisan was an early signatory to the AIA Materials Pledge, which encourages architects and designers to shift the way we evaluate the products and finishes we specify; taking into consideration the materials to improve the health of ourselves and our planet.
Erica curates and maintains a list of resources for our interior designers and architects to easily reference as they are evaluating and looking for the most appropriate product or material for their project. She also coordinates and organizes our vendor presentations and educational sessions; selecting topics around sustainability and healthy materials. The library prioritizes and highlights products to support human health, social equity, climate health, and a circular economy.”
Members of our sustainability reform group are also active members of the Portland Materials Transparency Collaborative (PMTC) and the Healthy Materials Collaborative (HMC). Both provide education, tools, and resources collected by our local A+D Communities. Additionally, this group works toward reformatting our specification template to make healthier and more sustainable choices the default. As part of that exercise, the team has created internal resources for prioritizing and selecting sustainable materials, such as resilient flooring.
Our firm sponsored eight interior designers to complete the Parsons Healthier Materials and Sustainable Buildings Certificate Program. This is a four-course program that allowed the designers to take a deep dive into sustainable material selections and bring enthusiasm and knowledge back to the firm, to their projects and clients. The designers who participated in this course were Jamie Kreger, Clare Goddard, Maddy Gorman, Ruth Bernal, Seaian Wood, Laura Serecin, Kaci Mespelt, Sydney Ellison. Ankrom hopes to have more interior designers complete this course in the future.
Q: Other firms have opted to remove all Redlist products from their library – Is this something that Ankrom Moisan is considering? Why or why not?
A: This is something that Ankrom is exploring as a firm-wide initiative, though we haven’t made the leap yet. The library is a resource to serve the designers and their projects. Steps in this direction that have been implemented were with PVC. We removed vinyl fabrics from the library and created a dedicated section for PVC-fee wallcovering. We also highlighted flooring products that are PVC free and/or provide full disclosure of material content to make it easier for our design staff to specify healthier flooring choices.
Q: How can we as designers do more to incorporate salvaged materials or encourage material reuse rather than replacing them with new ones?
A: Ankrom Moisan has relationships with a handful of salvaged wood brands in the region, as well as a salvaged metal fabricator.
As an interior design group, we collectively understand the importance of building relationships with local salvage companies to incorporate more reused materials into projects rather than buying new ones. We have an ongoing discussion to share experiences or ideas on how we can work with existing conditions and materials creatively to effectively reuse them in projects.
Q: What tools and resources are available to designers to help us educate our clients about the importance of using sustainable products and implementing sustainable practices?
A: Our greatest resource is the designer’s ability to strategically engage with the client and draw out what their values are around sustainability, equity, human health, and then being able to link those values back to your material selection strategy. Does the client have an Environmental, Social and corporate Governance (ESG) framework or vision that you can point to and say, “this is how healthier material selection can support your sustainability goals?” And then prioritize, together with the client, what aspects of sustainability you are going to focus on in your material selection, whether that’s human health, carbon emissions, social equity, DEI, etc. In the end, you work with the client to establish a goal around material selection and then use your material expertise and influence as a designer to execute on that goal. You also need the construction team on board, so they are on the same page when product substitutions are suggested.
Q: Where do you see the future of sustainability in Interior Design and Architecture? Do you see any changes on the horizon when it comes to how our industry approaches sustainability?
A: The conversation around climate change and sustainability is becoming more mainstream both within and outside the industry. Erica attributes this to the influence of Gen Z, who highly values sustainability, high-quality products that last longer, social equity, racial justice, and environmental responsibility. “They live these values in their consumer spending choices, where they chose to work, how they travel, etc. They have a positive influence on brands and manufacturers, pushing for change. They get it, they are listening, and the brands who want to remain relevant and stay in the game are trying to change and make products that match these values with processes and materials that are carbon positive, safe for humans, the environment, and society.”
We are seeing more and more businesses adopt Environmental, Social, and corporate Governance (ESG) mentioned in the previous question. This is a rating system developed by the United Nations that scores a company’s social and environmental factors. This is used to make informed choices around investments and future growth. As more and more companies adopt this the design industry will need to respond to help our clients make choices that align with their values and priorities.