Dear Manufacturers: Sustainability Counts

Manufacturers must ask themselves, “What is our sustainability message?” More important, “What are we sharing with the design community about our manufacturing practices? Do designers know about the great things we are doing that we take for granted as everyday best practices?”

First-hand Experience

I recently had the unique opportunity to visit with Porcelanosa in Spain. After meeting David Carmona and Tomas Palomar, both of Porcelanosa, at Design Connections for Healthcare earlier in 2016, I thought of the company as a quality and well-designed tile and solid-surface manufacturer—but it is much more. Not only are its product offerings unique and diverse, fulfilling many needs within the healthcare marketplace, but it also has a sustainability story that is little known.

While touring the tile manufacturing plant, I saw everything that was not accepted for final product throughout the process is gathered and recycled at various points—close to a zero-waste threshold. All of the water is recycled and reused for manufacturing. The employees use bicycles to cover the distance within and around the campus of buildings, and there is a chef who provides local favorites and organic options.

The inventory systems are all automated, and the electricity for the roller system starts and stops by using sensors based upon the movement of the pallets. Overall, it is an incredibly rich sustainability story paired with innovative solutions.

Telling the Sustainability Story

Manufacturers should take note of what they are not sharing about their sustainable stories that support innovative product development. These ideas that lend themselves to Lean principles and efficient manufacturing are key points in sharing their sustainable stories with the design community. Product certifications and declarations are only a piece of the sustainability story.

From seeing all different types of manufacturing facilities including furniture, textiles, resilient flooring, and PVC polymer plants, there are incredible, untold sustainable stories that should be shared with the design community. Typically, carpet manufacturers are the best at telling their sustainability stories. They were the first to have a multiple-attribute certification program (NSF/ANSI 140) and Interface was the leader in promoting sustainability and the positive impact on performance and the environment—through the legacy leadership of Ray Anderson.
All manufacturers have a story, and they should start sharing those accomplishments.

Jane Rohde is the founding principal of JSR Associates, Inc., located in Ellicott City, Md. She champions a global cultural shift toward de-institutionalizing senior living and healthcare facilities through person-centered principles, research and advocacy, and design of the built environment. Clientele includes non-profit and for-profit developers, government agencies, senior living and healthcare providers, and design firms. Rohde speaks internationally on senior living, aging, healthcare, evidence-based design, and sustainability. For more information or comments, please contact Rohde at

Student Profile

In her ongoing work in healthcare design, Jane Rohde is keeping an eye on students whose work and studies are making an impact in the field. Read on to learn more about this month’s featured student designer.

Kimia Erfani

MS/MA Design Program in Environmental Psychology at the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University;
M. Arch from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015

Project Description

Erfani’s education in healthcare architecture at the University of Illinois, followed by an architectural internship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, sparked her interest in designing for human health and well-being. At Cornell University, she is continuing her scholarly interests in environmental design research that addresses a myriad of physical and psychological needs of individuals, and leads to the creation of more responsive environments. Currently, she is engaged in post-occupancy evaluation of Fountain House in New York, N.Y., that follows Clubhouse International’s non-medical and community-based practice in treatment of mental health. She also holds Evidence-based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC).