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As our planet’s wellbeing becomes increasingly dependent on our actions, sustainable architecture is imperative.

20 February 2023 • 3 min read

Photo by Evgeniy Sholokh on Unsplash

Saving the world is all about action. At Found Order, we are making a poster series to remind us and our clients – of how we can start right now. Design can save the world if we let it – but there is nothing passive about it. In the Found Order design studio manifesto, and in our poster series, we identify five key pillars that put sustainability and human nature at the core of each project. In this article, I’ll share with you these pillars, and how to consider them when designing your own space.


Whole materials are just like whole foods. We know that whole foods are the best for our bodies and minds. So, if whole foods are organic veg, nuts and greens, then the equivalent for whole materials is sustainably sourced English oak, handmade clay bricks, natural slate tiles and natural linen and wool upholstery. Why English oak? Because sustainably sourced timber that comes from British turf has far less distance to travel, which saves an abundance in carbon emissions, while also minimising the energy needed in its extraction and disposal. When designing or redesigning a space, choose these materials and the reasons for their sustainability in mind. Each whole material also has its positive impact on us as users; a report by British Columbia and FP, established that wood is also a restorative biophilic material that reduces stress, increases creativity and improves attention and focus when present.


At the end of the day, we are just animals. But we spend most of our time in human-made spaces, built with human-made materials that don’t occur in the world naturally and have been designed in a way that cut us off from our own nature. So why would we overlook our own natural instincts? Instead, we should connect to these instincts and spend more time creating spaces and buildings that allow us an environment for private reflection and semi-public community belonging such as lush courtyards, outside-inside green spaces and carving physical spaces for mindful rituals such as meditation, yoga and community activities. A study by Mathew White from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter found that those who spent two hours a week in green spaces were significantly more likely to report better health and well-being than those who didn’t.

But if we’re not an architect or planner, how can we achieve this connection to our natural instincts in our own lives? We can still achieve so much in our own interior design. For example, a green and sunny window nook where you can have a mindful moment with a morning matcha, or an extendable natural wood table for your family Friday night dinners. Adding these elements to your space can give place to relax and connect with your natural environment and our human nature.


We already know this to be true for the fashion industry, with ethical production and upcycling clothes being at the forefront of most consumers’ minds. It’s the same principle for buildings, materials, and furniture. We should be repairing the building stock we already have, making it fit for purpose. We can convert unused buildings into homes and office space, reclaim timber flooring, and salvage furniture. Instead of purchasing a new piece of furniture or hero piece for your home or business, visit your local architectural salvage yard or buy vintage from a local furniture dealer. Not only does this reduce emissions of the embodied carbon of manufacturing the product, it also repurposes already existing items into something that has a new function. There’s always an opportunity to adapt, extend, borrow, gift or thrift in each project.


This is the fun part. How can you make the space you live in your own, an extension of yourself, or repurpose a space to feel more connected to it? Full joy in architecture and interiors is important because without an emotional connection to our buildings and spaces, we don’t use them. They become empty, labelled a failure, and demolished, wasting construction resources and creating pollution across the source chain for the new build that takes its place. The more fun and joyful the better.


Good quality design and construction will last serval lifetimes. A question we should ask ourselves is, how can we be mindful of designing our spaces for longevity without compromising the world we live in now and the world we hope to preserve for the future? Our buildings must use robust, quality materials that are designed in such way that will last many generations. But more than this, they must have been designed with a strategy of how they can be demounted and extracted for future projects at the end of their life cycle. The cyclical materiality of design is critical for retaining innovation and reimagining the usability of our spaces. This unlocks the chance to make an everlasting impact for future generations. Sustainable design is much, much easier than you think. We just need to try harder, together, and discover the opportunities.

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