Q. We plan to remodel our store. What should we consider to be more sustainable?
A. Green build-outs for small businesses are the hot trend these days. But how do you tell between “greenwashing” and truly sustainable design and building? Here are some things to focus on.
Flexibility: We recommend that our residential clients view their homes as active, living spaces that respond to their changing lifestyles over time. The same is true for retail and commercial spaces. Will you need to expand? Will you need to showcase more products? I recommend fewer fixed elements and more movable fixtures, furnishings and temporary partitions to define the space and keep it malleable.
Ask your architect or designer to work with concepts that are easy to duplicate, so that it is easier and cheaper to expand to other locations. Use materials and furnishings that are interchangeable so you can order in bulk and rely on fewer specialists for installation.
Lighting. Whenever possible, use daylight for ambient light. The more daylight, the more relaxed and natural the space will feel, and the lower your electricity bill will be. Do not clutter storefront display windows with too many decorations or bright lights, which can obscure views of the interior. Well-lit displays at the center and back of the store will draw window shoppers inside.
Materials. Contractors import almost everything needed to build custom homes in Hawaii. Using local materials whenever possible reduces shipping costs and supports local industry. While there aren’t many major building components made in Hawaii, there is a diversity of finished materials such as specialty hardwoods, concrete counters, rock for walls and walkways, etc. If you must bring in building materials, look to renewable sources, such as bamboo or even coconut trees from South Pacific farms.
Durability: Although many think that solid-surface materials such as Corian are not green because they are man-made, they are green in the sense that they can easily be restored to their original luster. Not so with other materials. Analyze traffic patterns and, if needed, choose materials that will hold up to high use. In the long run, quality materials will cost less since they don’t have to be replaced or restored as often.
Reuse: If renovating your existing space or moving, reuse what you can or check Re-Use Hawaii in Kakaako. It’s a great resource for fixtures, doors, lumber and more.
Other tips: I also recommend using low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints whenever possible, and LED lights. Many retail operations believe that only the warm glow of halogen will best show off their merchandise, but each year, I see better and better LED lights. These lights use a fraction of the energy and last much longer.
Most offices and stores need air conditioning, but maximize your A/C with well-placed ceiling fans.
Finally, I recommend plants to psychologically refresh any space.