A not-as-talked-about dimension to designing and building green is the education piece.
In the shopping-center world, there is a growing responsibility to not only create sustainable shopping, dining and lifestyle experiences, but also educate visitors on why and how these sustainable elements are important to them. Columbus, Ohio-based M+A Architects helped implement a number of these green educational tools with retail developers to teach shopping-center visitors the benefits of sustainable living, including:
- Recycling programs: Interactive advertisement boards notify guests of the quantity of materials recycled (or diverted from landfill) over a set timeline.
- Water usage: Placards above the waterless urinals and dual flush toilets inform users of the numbers of gallons of water saved each year by using these types of urinals and toilets.
- Solar education: Interactive screens display in real time the amount of solar energy being generated to offset the pull from the electric grid.
- Low-emissions parking: Placards on parallel parking spaces explain that spaces are reserved for low-emissions vehicles only.
- Landscaping: Some developers incorporate signage that educates visitors about locally grown drought-resistant plants that help save water.
- Lighting: Signage accompanying holiday lighting explains how LED lighting saves power and offers stats on the amount of power that lights have saved.
“Sustainable education elements don’t have to be expensive or overly complicated,” said M+A Architects director of business development Matt Canterbury, LEED AP. “It’s simple, important touches that call out a small change or add another dimension to the project that really show people how easy it is to be conscious of the environment and conserve resources.”