Philly Preview: Creating a Healthy World by Design

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Imagine a world where every design decision leads to cleaner water, more renewable energy, healthier people and a more just society. Designers have that power! Join us at the 2021 SEGD Conference in Philadelphia (November 4-6) to learn more from Shawn Hesse of the International Living Future Institute when he speaks about “Creating a Healthy World by Design.” Here is a preview of Shawn’s presentation.

Imagine knowing that the materials and products you specify, as a designer, are made with 100% renewable energy; that the watershed where those products are manufactured is healthier because those products were made there; that the supply chain contains no carcinogens; and that the people who worked to manufacture those products are paid fairly. These ideals are what SEGD conference speaker Shawn Hesse and the International Living Future Institute are striving to ensure.

“There are real-world impacts from the choices that designers make and the materials that we specify,” says Shawn. “The materials that we use, in particular, have significant impact on the world, and there are ways as designers that we can have a positive impact in that process.”

For 15 years, Shawn worked as a licensed architect and sustainability consultant before joining the team at the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), a nonprofit organization which certifies buildings, products and organizations for their positive ecological impact. ILFI’s flagship certification is the Living Building Challenge, launched in 2006, and billed as “the world’s most rigorous green building standard.”

“What distinguishes ILFI is that everything is framed within a context of regenerative design rather than ‘less bad,’” explains Shawn. “So instead of just saying ‘We want to see buildings use less energy and produce less waste,’ we certify buildings which produce more renewable energy and create a healthier watershed (among other positive environmental impacts).”

ILFI’s Living Building Challenge Red List represents the “worst in class” materials, chemicals, and elements known to pose serious risks to human health and the greater ecosystem. These are products prevalent within the building industry, and ILFI is striving to phase-out these materials from production due to their toxic effects on human and environmental health.

And that’s where SEGD designers can play a big role. By specifying materials that meet ILFI’s Red List Free Declare and Living Product Challenge standards (a framework for manufacturers to create healthy products which give back to the environment) designers can specify materials that improve quality of life and help ecosystems thrive.

“I plan to share a couple of examples of success stories and the impact that we're seeing in some other product categories including environmental graphics,” says Shawn about his upcoming SEGD presentation at the conference. “Designers play a huge role and have power when they prioritize those kinds of products. I’m looking forward to being able to connect and have those conversations.”

To learn more about Shawn Hesse’s upcoming talk, “Creating a Healthy World by Design” and the 2021 SEGD Conference in Philadelphia, visit the SEGD website.

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