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Sustainable Terms to Know in Environmental Design

By April 22, 2021January 18th, 2023No Comments

Sharing some of the most important sustainable terms in  design and architecture.

In recent years, sustainability in architecture and design has become exceedingly important, popularizing new focus areas such as environmental design. By definition, environmental design is the process of utilizing environmental elements and parameters when devising concepts, plans, and designs for manmade structures such as buildings, homes, and even communities. It seeks to create spaces that will enhance the natural, social, cultural and physical environment of particular areas.

The recent rise in environmental and sustainable design is due in part to factors such as advances in technology, increased education on eco-friendly practices, and media trends—further explained in our article Environmental Design vs. Interior Design.

The Ring Cowork in Clearwater. Sustainable environmental design by Clear ph Design.

A broader understanding of eco-lingo

Understanding the common (and not-so-common) sustainable terms helps us better comprehend environmental design and its practices. From simpler terms like carbon to more ambiguous concepts such as “greenwashing,” knowing these kinds of words and phrases can help us have a broader understanding what sustainability in architecture and design is—eventually inspiring the adoption of more eco-conscious solutions.

In celebration of Earth Day (today and everyday), we are highlighting some of the most important sustainable terms to know in environmental design, according to Architectural Digest’s AD Dictionary.

Rendering vs reality. Inside The Ring, an eco-friendly cowork environment located in Clearwater, Florida.


Let’s start at the beginning. The word sustainable is understood as everything that includes processes to preserve and protect the planet’s natural resources. Sustainable can also refer to the conditions and integrity in which a community is developed, not only seeking the conservation of natural resources, but of the lives that inhabit that environment.


The first sustainable term to know is biocrete, which refers to a concrete alternative composed of high carbon and water emissions. The material is made up of natural fibers such as hemp and rammed earth, making it a safer and much more environmentally friendly building substance.

Built-in Carbon

Another common phrase used in environmental design is incorporated or built-in carbon, a new measure that architects and designers may know as EC3. Its purpose is to measure and reduce the carbon emissions generate from the construction of projects. It helps to identify better alternatives and techniques to reduce the world’s carbon footprint.

Ecological Certifications

Environmental Certification is one of the most used terms in architecture, since it refers to a parameter or authentication to ensure that a project or construction site is environmentally conscious. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely known green building rating system in the industry, but other notable certifications inlcude Passive House, Living Building Challenge, Energy Star, and WELL.

Architecture and design have a great responsibility in preserving the environment. Getty Images.

Biophilic Design

Biophilic design refers to products or structures that mimic and reflect nature, something that is heavily implemented in environmental design. These practices have been proven to elicit warm responses from people, placating to the need and desire to balance the indoors with outdoor elements.

Circular Economy

Another important sustainable term is circular economy, which refers to an alternative to the elimination of resources that are reaching limits and the erosion of the environment. Circular economy is a system designed for the use of resources, where the priority is to reduce production to the bare minimum and to reuse the elements that cannot be returned to the environment.

Renewable Energy

One of the more common eco-friendly phrases, renewable energy refers to the tendency to switch energy sources from oil and gas to solar, wind, and hydroelectric energy. This trend has been incorporated into architecture and design to reduce carbon emissions in the environment.


Greenwashing refers to the communication strategy of many companies—including fossil fuel companies and product manufactures—to spread environmental messages and policies to polish and promote positive reputations and images. Unfortunately, this concept is often part of the company’s discourse and not adapted into their everyday practices.

Environmental design board created for The Ring Cowork.

What sustainability in design means to us

As a design firm with a growing focus on environmental design, Clear ph has spent more than a decade solidifying one overall objective: creative stronger connections between brands and the environments in which they live and thrive.

Utilizing multiple touch points including but not limited to architectural renderings, moodboards, and environmental design allows us to strategically cultivate experiences that define your brand to the world. Our unique strength lies in our ability to extend a brand from print and technology into the built environment. 

Clear ph Design’s continued collaboration with award-winning architects, builders, developers, and wayfinding professionals has allowed us to develop rooted design principles to create dynamic spaces that are as beautiful as they are sustainable.

We invite you to learn more about environmental design and encourage you to contact us to start your next project today.