We’ve all heard of green design as another term for sustainable design. Sustainable design seeks to meet the design requirements of a project while minimizing the environmental impact, while improving human health and wellbeing. Sustainability is a component of both the IDFX and IDPX Exams.
Although a simple term, sustainable design sure covers a lot of ground. Here’s a look at a few sustainable components designers can use to reduce a project’s overall environmental impact.What's the difference between a truly sustainable design vs. just greenwashing?Click To Tweet
Specifying materials is a large component of interior design projects. Being mindful of the material’s source and the life cycle is paramount in sustainable design.
Renewable materials are considered sustainable if they come from a source that can renew itself in a reasonably short period of time, usually about 10 years or less.
Bamboo flooring is a terrific example of a renewable material. Not only is it a strong and durable material, it grows incredibly fast. (Some species grow about three feet in 24 hours!)
Some other renewable materials include:
- linoleum flooring
- straw board
- cotton batt insulation
- engineered paper stone countertops
Keep in mind while a material may be renewable, other factors may actually have a negative effect on the environment.
Transportation required for manufacturing or delivery of the product to the marketplace can offset any environmental savings, so it’s best to source materials close to the project site.
Several organizations that rate the sustainability of buildings and materials. Each offers designers detailed information about sustainable issues. Here are a few:
- LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
- GBI (Green Building Initiative)
- BIFMA (Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association)
- FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)
- MBDC Cradle to Cradle (C2C)
- Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
Most of the energy conservation methods in a building are already determined by the architecture and design of the mechanical system. Unfortunately, this usually happens before an interior designer is likely to become involved in the project. However, there are some areas where an interior designer can help reduce a project’s energy consumption:
A few ways an interior designer can save electricity is by specifying:
- occupancy sensors and automatic lighting in occasionally used spaces
- non-emergency lighting on timers
- daylight-responsive controls for spaces within 15 feet of natural lighting
- energy-efficient equipment
- highly reflective finishes
Much energy consumption comes from heating and cooling. Here’s a few ways interior designers can work together with specialized trades to reduce mechanical system energy use:
- Don’t specify components with CFC-based refrigerants
- Use displacement ventilation in new construction
- Specify personal temperature control by zone and flexible underfloor wiring, when possible
Building commissioning is a procedure where a building’s mechanicals (eg. HVAC, plumbing, electrical, sprinklers, data, and/or life safety systems) are inspected, tested, run and adjusted. Data collected over time is compared against the original design contract documents to make sure the system is operating as intended.
Commissioning usually happens during the design phase and the tenant’s initial occupancy of the space.
LEED certification has certain commissioning requirements that need to be followed to qualify for LEED credit.
At least 2/3 of the U.S. has experienced or will experience water shortages. Click To Tweet
Interior designers can help with water consumption by specifying low-flow fixtures. For example, low-flow toilets use 1.6 gallons (or less) per flush as opposed to the previous 3.5 gallon norm.
Indoor air quality
Poor air quality affects the wellbeing of the building’s users and can be a serious health situation. Poor air quality has 4 causes:
Contaminants from indoor sources – these can include tobacco smoke, formaldehyde and VOC’s from building materials and finishes.
Contaminants from outdoor sources – introduced when venting or windows are poorly located near parking garages, for example.
Biological contaminants – such as mold, mildew, bacteria, mites, pollen and animal dander.
Poor ventilation – inadequate supply of fresh air, so pollutants don’t get diluted or flushed out
There are 3 symptoms of poor indoor air quality. Here’s the distinguishing features of each.
- Sick building syndrome – Occupant’s health symptoms can’t be traced to a particular source, but they disappear after the occupants leave the building.
- Building related illness – Occupant’s health symptoms can be linked to a particular building contaminant, but the symptoms don’t improve after leaving the building (example: Legionnaires’ disease).
- Multiple chemical sensitivity – A condition brought on by exposure to chemical contaminants. Sufferers may experience long-term sensitivity that returns every time they’re exposed to the chemical.