We've all heard of green design as another term for sustainable design. Sustainable design seeks to meet the design requirements while minimizing the environmental impact while improving human health and well-being. Sustainability is a component of both the IDFX and IDPX Exams.
Although a simple term, green design 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.
Specifying materials is a significant component of interior design projects. However, 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 replenish reasonably quickly, usually about ten years or less.
Bamboo flooring is a terrific example of renewable material. Not only is it a durable and robust material, but it also grows incredibly fast. (Some species grow about three feet in 24 hours!)
Some other renewable materials include:
- linoleum flooring
- cotton batt insulation
- engineered paper stone countertops
While one material may be renewable, other factors may harm the environment.
Transportation required for manufacturing or delivering the product to the marketplace can offset any environmental savings, so it's best to source materials close to the project site.
Several organizations 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 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 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 the following:
- occupancy sensors and automatic lighting in occasionally used spaces
- non-emergency lighting on timers
- daylight-responsive controls for rooms within 15 feet of natural lighting
- energy-efficient equipment
- highly reflective finishes
Much energy consumption comes from heating and cooling. Here are 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 (e.g., HVAC, plumbing, electrical, sprinklers, data, and life safety systems) are inspected, tested, run, and adjusted. Data collected over time is compared against the original design contract documents to ensure the system operates as intended.
Commissioning usually happens during the design phase and the tenant's initial occupancy of the space.
LEED certification has specific commissioning requirements that must be followed to qualify for LEED credit.
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.
Poor air quality affects the well-being of the building's users and can contribute to serious health situations. Poor air quality has four causes:
Contaminants from indoor sources can include tobacco smoke, formaldehyde, and VOCs from building materials and finishes.
Contaminants from outdoor sources are introduced when venting or windows are poorly located near parking garages.
Biological contaminants include 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 three symptoms of poor indoor air quality. Here are the distinguishing features of each.
- Sick building syndrome – Occupants' health symptoms can't be traced to a particular source but disappear after the occupants leave the building.
- Building-related illness – The occupant's health symptoms can be linked to a particular building contaminant, but the symptoms don't improve after leaving the building (for example, Legionnaires' disease).
- Multiple chemical sensitivity – A condition brought on by exposure to chemical contaminants. Sufferers may experience long-term sensitivity that returns when exposed to the chemical.