Don’t Forget About Sustainable Design

Photo by Kim Schouten from Unsplash

When it comes to sustainability and restaurants there is a lot of progress in reducing food waste, environmentally conscious menus, eliminating single use plastics, switching to responsible sourcing and supporting social initiatives. An area of sustainability that is often overlooked and forgotten during planning is the design of the restaurant; the aesthetics of a space as well as the furniture and appliances. Delicious food and excellent service will always be the most important elements of a successful restaurant but dining out has now become an experience and the atmosphere as well as the ambiance of a restaurant is extremely important. How a restaurant’s space is designed speaks volumes; it reflects their brand image, carries different messages and can add overall value to the organization.

During the design and construction process, decisions are often driven and limited by budgets. The initial investment in sustainability is definitely a barrier but its proven to pay off over time and the benefits gained as well as the costs saved makes it a worthwhile investment. Tim Horton’s LEED certified location in Hamilton, Ontario opened in 2013 and cut energy costs by 23% saving them thousands of dollars in operating costs. If restaurants have not started out sustainably, there is a wide range of sustainable design practices that can be adopted. From lighting choices, flooring, refurbished furniture, utilizing solar panels, responsibly sourced materials and textiles as well as energy efficient equipment to minimal waste water systems sustainability can be incorporated in every area. Even something as simple as switching tablecloths to a responsibly sourced linen makes a huge difference. Overtime the constant use of furniture will wear down tables and chairs but thinking of ways to reuse or re-upholster them to give it a second life can divert it from going to landfills.

Restaurant design can be limited by the building itself but buildings account for 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a certification and green building rating system that is used throughout the world. Its focus is on more resource efficient, healthy and resilient buildings within areas of design, construction and operation. In recent years large chains such as McDonalds, Chipotle, Subway and more are investing in LEED certified buildings around the world but when looking for LEED certified or sustainably designed restaurants, not many come to mind and that needs to be changed. Cactus Club Cafe‘s English Bay location in Vancouver is the first and one of the few LEED Gold Certified restaurants in Canada. Designed by Acton Ostry Architects Inc., the restaurant uses a high efficiency air-source variable refrigerant flow system for heating and cooling making them more energy efficient than the average building. Their floor to ceiling windows were designed to allow natural light in saving on energy costs as well. Rainwater is collected to be used for irrigation and their rooftop also doubles as an area for their herb garden.

We all have a part to play in making restaurants more sustainably designed; as consumers we can hold restaurants accountable to their actions and demand change. As restaurateurs and clients for interior designers or contractors, we need to be leaders in this crucial business practice and choose the sustainable choice. As interior designers we should be striving to create more sustainable spaces while pushing manufacturers to develop better products making more sustainable options available. Awareness of the ‘green’ design movement has begun but we need to further it with more action within the foodservice industry; its more than just a passing trend.

Written by Elaine Li

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