As global sustainability and environmental awareness grows, its reach has gone far beyond home recycling bins and reusable water bottles. In fact, sustainability has been a key issue in sign fabrication for a few years.
And beyond the environmental benefits of using sustainably sourced materials, the practice boasts economic benefits, too, as saving materials or the power required to make signs reduces resource use and cost. The practice, however, does take some considerable planning and forethought as the effectiveness of various methods and technology are often revisited.
Yet despite some of the inherent challenges, some sign customers want sustainable products – whether to satisfy personal convictions or meet LEED certification requirements, which ‘ … is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building, community, and home project types, LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings.’
According to LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, ‘buildings have a substantial impact on the health and wellbeing of people and the planet. Buildings use resources, generate waste and are costly to maintain and operate. Green building is the practice of designing, constructing and operating buildings to maximize occupant health and productivity, use fewer resources, reduce waste and negative environmental impacts, and decrease life cycle costs.’
Below are four of the most important sustainability strategies for architectural signage and elements.
Low-voltage RGB LED signage lighting can provide color-changing accents with the benefit of a white or warm-white light source. Additionally, LED signs are powered by 12 volts DC while neon, for comparison, is powered by 4,000 to 15,000 volt AC.
Consider the case for Gator Ford. By installing the LED replacement system by retrofitting the old, non-energy efficient fluorescent bulbs with a high-end LED product, Gator Ford saved 10% a month in energy costs with a return on investment of fewer than two years.
Fox 13’s SkyTower Radar also benefited from illuminated signage as it proved cost-effective – in addition to energy-efficient – as LED channel letters proved a more efficient light source that could significantly reduce electricity costs.
Digital Printing & Inks
Flatbed printing uses UV inks which are cured into a solid film once exposed to wavelengths of UV light that tightly adheres directly onto a substrate. Additionally, flatbed printing provides the ability to print on multiple substrates that don’t need pre-preparation for size or shape beyond the parameters of the overall size of the bed.
Environmentally, flatbed digital printing is more sustainable as it produces fewer waste cartridges and less indoor air pollution and since no printing plates or silkscreens need to be produced, flatbed printing allows shorter runs of signs to be produced more economically, too.
Energy-efficient flatbed printing provides the ability to incorporate more environmentally friendly products since the printers can print on virtually any material and requires fewer cartridges. Additionally, the inks used often contain fewer harmful chemicals and its light source is entirely ozone-free.
According to the Sign Research Foundation, this process can be applied to dimensional surfaces and a variety of rigid and semi-rigid materials, including metal, aluminum, wood, and plastic. Further, rapid advances in ink and printers have improved their durability, paving the way for potential outdoor use, and new machines can combine and automate a number of printing and cutting tasks, including the use of specialty aluminum, faux wood finishes, and composite woods.
And with flatbed printing adding another technology innovation, sign manufacturers can now print on multiple substrates that did not need pre-preparation for size or shape beyond the parameters of the overall size of the bed.
Reclaiming & Recycling
According to Sign of the Times, sign manufacturers can also use reclaimed waste materials from one job for use on another in an effort to be sustainable. Manufacturers can regrind plastic waste to return it to the production process or use elements that allow signs to be more easily changed and broken down into parts, thereby offering an efficient and simplified recycling process.
There’s even a sustainable choice when it comes to installation as computerized systems control – subsequently and limit – the fuel consumption of bucket or crane trucks, especially when a truck is idling to reduce the carbon footprint, enhance engine life and reduce engine maintenance by automatically eliminating unnecessary idle time.
Sustainability In Practice: A Case Study
Consider the case for Volaris Apartment Homes in Starkey Ranch in Odessa, Florida.
The community set up many green initiatives, including the use of softer indirect lighting for the halo-lit style letters, Cali Bamboo composite decking which is a 100% recycled material giving the look of the wood finish, and the custom faux Cor-Ten steel painted finish which tie into the green initiatives of the Starkey Ranch setting.
At Creative Sign Designs, we’re proud to incorporate sustainable sign equipment, materials, and products that benefit our clients’ bottom lines and – arguably more importantly – the long-term health and vitality of our environment.
Contact us to make your next sign project sustainable today.