Once upon a time, sustainability was defined solely by our impact on the Earth’s environment. Today, our understanding of sustainability has broadened and deepened to match the breadth and complexity of issues that affect our planet and quality of life.

Including issues such as human health and social equity under the umbrella of sustainability is a double-edged sword for design professionals. Practitioners better understand the power they have to affect change in life and health of the environment, communities, and people. They are also challenged by much more complex design requirements for their projects.

DesignIntelligence recently asked design professionals what key developments and trends are most important to the practice of sustainable design. Their answers reflect the wider scope of issues and activities now under the umbrella of sustainability.

In addition to design for health, sustainability education, resilient design, and materials transparency, respondents to the DesignIntelligence survey also cited energy efficiency, climate change, integrated design processes and practice, and lifecycle assessment as key issues in the contemporary practice of sustainable design.

More thoughts on sustainable design from DesignIntelligence survey respondents

“Energy reduction. This is critical. It may not be a ‘new’ issue, but it must remain part of the conversation.” – Chris Wingate, MSR

“Codes are catching up/surpassing certification requirements in some areas.” – Julie Edwards, OZ Architecture

For more on sustainable practice in architecture and design firms, you can order a copy of the Leadership and Sustainable Design Survey 2015 issue of DesignIntelligence here.