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Demountable Architectural Walls…“Green” and they’ll save you “Green”!

By Roger Stempky

The decisions to purchase products, concepts or solutions that are sustainable have always been tied to its impact on initial cost or the return on investment.  Actually, it has had more to do with the first cost but minimally on a short term return on investment.  This is due in part to human nature in today’s disposable world; holding on to very narrow views of short term employment or business models, but perhaps has more to do with our confidence in technology bringing these products and concepts out “cheaper and better”.  None of us want to pay the leading edge costs for maybe inferior products.

These short term views coupled with the short-term memory that we have, will put at risk the great progress we have made in the development of sustainable “green” solutions and the push for it.  As a business owner, it is understandable to hear customers comment that while it is good to hold or to work hard to employ sustainable building or facilities management concepts, the first focus must be on is it affordability.  This mantra has quickly replaced the most recent views of “let’s be green at just about any cost”, with this serious downturn in our economy.

I believe that if it was a good business decision during the good times, then it should be good during the tough times.  Business decisions should be made considering all aspects; social, economic, environmental, et al.  We cannot simply let people believe that a decision for demountable architectural walls was all about “being green”.  Unfortunately, this view may have crept in due to more sizzle and marketing than on substance or reality.  Too many products brag about their “cradle-to-cradle” design due to the products materiality, and nothing to do with performance, reuse, and the realities of recycling.  A few key questions that should be asked are as follows.

  1. Tell me how the product can be changed during use?(Be certain to include realistic and often simple changes that are done.)
  2. How easy is it to change to address human factors such as sound, natural light, ergonomics, etc.?
  3. How will change or reuse impact my costs?
  4. What are my costs for the product to return to the “cradle”?(This is a very important question; labor too often makes this prohibitive!)
  5. Are the materials recyclable and at what costs?

All participants, including manufacturers, sales consultants, designers, architects, engineers and facilities managers, must play an important role in ensuring the progress that has been made in the push to create green buildings to live, learn, and work.  It is time to remove the rhetoric and ratchet up our knowledge and provide the justification that business decision makers need to support a net positive impact on the triple bottom line of economic, environmental and the employees.  We should move beyond “green for green sake” to “green to save green!”  When we accomplish this the momentum will become greater as it will allow our industry to work with the financial decision makers as opposed to against them.  Learn more at www.southwestsolutions.com/wall