Forward Thinking: Mare Weiss Featured in Retail Environments Magazine

Mare Weiss, IIDA, LEED AP, Senior Associate and senior designer in Bergmeyer’s Retail Practice group, contributed to Retail Environments annual mash-up of reader ideas, “Blue Sky Thinking”, with her thoughts on sustainability in the fast paced world of retail environments.
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Forward Thinking

Anticipate the future when designing for the present. The retail industry has made great strides in embracing sustainability in the past few years—from adopting LEDs to using reclaimed materials to providing reusable shopping bags. In fact, sustainability has been so integrated into retail that many players suggest the movement has peaked and disappeared. What they may not realize is that nobody is talking about sustainability because it’s become business as usual for retail store designers.

Designers haven’t made much progress, however, in getting retailers to be forward-thinking about the space. Retail leases generally run between five and 10 years, and even within that time-frame, the store may be redesigned to keep up with changes in branding and marketing strategies. So how can we ensure that what we’re creating now doesn’t all get hauled to a landfill when the store is redesigned or the retailer moves?

Think holistically about sustainability. It’s not just the energy-efficient LED lighting, the finishes with recycled content, or a LEED plaque on the wall. Consider the future impact of what we’re doing today. Look ahead five or even 10 years and make conscious decisions now that will result in a lower spend on energy, materials, and time later.

Design only what is needed. Do enough to hold a brand’s story, but if it doesn’t serve a purpose other than aesthetics, don’t put it in the design. No more materials—be they handles on drawers that don’t open or fake brick to add texture to a wall—that don’t do anything other than add visual interest to the space.

Embrace the pure in materials and forms and use more of what the raw space offers. This will make our designs more flexible for future change, which helps streamline the next round of renovations without requiring a full (and expensive) gut rehab. Simplifying our designs creates a win-win. Lower construction costs mean decreased expenses, which in turn equals increased profit for retailers, and less waste during construction—and a healthier planet for us all.

Read more about best practices in designing for change for retail environments in the latest issue of Retail Environments here!

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