The current “hierarchy of materials” design method for interiors and exteriors dictates that the path toward the entrance, boardroom, courtroom, or dining room be incrementally adorned with rarer and increasingly expensive (read non-sustainable) materials. There certainly are situations that can justify more expensive materials usage for practical or durability concerns, but there are almost always less expensive and more sustainable options available, or creative combinations of these.
We need to change the dialog about material application to bring economic and environmental sustainability considerations in line with social sustainability.
Common in current architectural design is a tendency to create “sacrificial” areas of a building that are used a majority of the time by those who have the highest stake in the success of that environment for spaces that are meant to impress visitors, clients, or management which are occupied far less of the time. In fact, in many cases, expensive materials represent a failure of design to accomplish a proper setting for an intended use and thus are not sustainable as their depth of purpose becomes as transient as paint color or drapery.
But rather than being high-and-mighty, this strategy represents just a practical method of material application Which treats all spaces with purpose and respect because people spend their limited lives in them.