Sustainability is influencing the interior design of modern buildings. And, with more environmentally friendly buildings being planned, interior designers are thinking 'green', and seizing opportunities in Hong Kong and the mainland. 'I will not say sustainable design is a trend in our architectural and interior design regimes. It is the core value and also our future,' said Terry Fan, director of Hassell, a multidisciplinary architectural design firm. Hassell runs projects ranging from master planning and interior design to landscape architecture, and has 11 offices in Australia and China, including Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing and Chongqing. At Hassell, sustainable design is not a trend, it is a corporate culture. 'It is an across-the-board design concept of our business,' Mr Fan said. 'In our Sydney head office, we have a sustainable future unit which was set up by one of our principals. All our offices are sharing their experience and expertise, and are applying sustainable design in different disciplines such as architecture, interior and landscape and urban planning.' Seventy per cent of its design projects are related to the hospitality industry on the mainland, and the company has worked closely with the mainland's leading hotel operators, such as Jin Jiang International Hotels (Group) Company, and international hotel groups on various projects including the Radisson Hotel in Shanghai. 'Sustainability in hotel design involves master planning, energy efficiency and the kind of building materials used. 'It is more than just architecture,' said David Tsui, the company's principal for hospitality design, adding that interior designers involved in hotel projects needed to work closely with hotel operators to understand their needs. The Australia-based architectural design company adopted the 'Green Star' building rating system long ago as a guideline for designing and evaluating not only hotels, but also commercial buildings and corporate offices. 'We design buildings with hotels or corporate headquarters integrated into them,' said Matthew Blain, principal for commercial and corporate interior design at Hassell. He said interior designers needed to look at floor-space planning and consider natural light when designing 'green' projects for hotels and corporate offices. 'We also have to consider water efficiency and look at equipment fitted into the building, such as dishwashers and heaters that rely on water, and then we take it down to the level of looking at the furniture and fixtures, and where they are best sourced from, be it recyclable or ready-made products, and even the distance where they are transported from.' Mr Fan said property developers on the mainland had attached increasing importance to environmentally friendly features when developing their projects in recent years. 'International developers in China are very environmentally conscious now. 'They see themselves as lead developers in China and want to set good standards for other local developers,' Mr Fan said. For example, the company is now working with Shui On Land to design three office buildings in Yangpu district, Shanghai, and has been asked to develop these properties as carbon-zero buildings to meet the highest level of certification under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a building rating system developed by the US Green Building Council to provide standards for environmentally sustainable construction. 'It is one of the projects high on their environmental agenda that they would like us to follow,' he said. 'We feel lucky we have had the opportunity to work with these developers in China who care about the environment.' With growing global concerns about carbon emissions and a strong demand for sustainable buildings, more national rating and evaluation systems are expected to emerge. With a strong foundation in environmentally friendly standards and practices in building and interior design, Hassell is working to become a carbon-zero company across its offices worldwide. Although Mr Fan said he saw a recent slowdown in Hassell projects on the mainland due to cash flow problems encountered by developers as a result of the global financial crisis, he said there was always a need for experienced designers for its mainland projects. 'It is important for designers to work on good projects so that they can grow professionally. With Hassell's size and worldwide network, we can offer opportunities to people who want to work on good projects, and this is one of our attractions,' Mr Fan said. Mr Tsui said: 'We make a conscious effort to promote internal transfers, encourage overseas postings and implement staff exchanges for experience sharing among staff.' 'We move people around for their expertise and for their own benefit, and also provide professional development opportunities for designers such as study tours and site visits, for example in cities [around the world] and in different cities in China where we have projects going on.' The firm, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, has 40 staff in its Hong Kong headquarters and more than 200 in its four offices on the mainland. It has more than 1,000 staff worldwide.