03 April 2009

Design Friday, Post II

File this under: Road to hell, good intentions, paved with.

As you know, President Hopenchange thinks going "green" is one of the pillars of our recovery.

Okey-dokey. Well, here's a little real-world "green" lesson. Not third party, but first hand.

This morning I had a meeting with a frustrated client, a carpet subcontractor and carpet rep, to discuss the replacement of all of the carpet tiles in a building we recently renovated. The building was occupied by the owner last summer, and almost immediately after they moved in they noticed the carpet tiles were coming up in numerous places. Mostly they were, popping up at the edges, as if they were swelling.

Note that the carpet tiles were new a "green" product line, made from recycled material with a non-PVC backing. It was rated as dimensionally stable.

Our interior designer investigated the issue, as did the contractor, sub-contractor, and manufacturer. None of the typical causes were found, and none of the remedial fixes worked. It kept happening in more and more places, and the client was getting more and more pissed off. Who can blame them? They just paid a million-plus dollars for a renovation that now had tape all over the floor holding the carpet together.

The culprit, it turns out, is the non-PVC "green" carpet backing. Under certain conditions it seems to swell. The carpet manufacturer said that this has happened in a number of "green" product installations (but, by no means all), and to their credit the manufacturer agreed to replace - at their expense - all 8,000 square feet of the carpet tiles with ones that have the earlier, dimensionally stable and non-green PVC backing.

So, what did this attempt at "going green" save? Um, nothing. With respect to the environment, any carbon saved will now be voided because more product will have to be manufactured and more fuel expended to get it here. And the new product will be non-"green." My client didn't save anything, either. In fact, they will have to pay for the hours - unproductive and unbillable hours - dealing with this problem. And they will have to expend even more dealing with the disruption the replacement will cause. It didn't save our office either, as we have had to deal with this essentially without pay. And it certainly didn't save the carpet manufacturer. They will pay for providing and installing the replacement carpet tiles.

But most of all, the biggest loss here is the very notion of "sustainability" or "going green" or whatever you want to call it. This has made our office think again about including "green" products in our designs simply because they are "sustainable.". Are we giving our clients the best professional advice about "going green" if we do not consider things like this?

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