Interior sustainability is about the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. Sustainable interior design is environmentally conscious with an emphasis on recycled materials. It is home design that reduces negative impacts on the environment, while increasing the health and comfort of its occupants, while focusing on eco friendly design.
Above: Image by Alexander Abero
What is the importance of sustainability?
Sustainability is important because the quality of life, and the diversity of Earth’s ecosystems cannot be maintained without it. Eventually fossil fuels will run out, so this is something that must be addressed. Eco friendly interior design in a home made with green materials can increase energy efficiency and is definitely something interior designers should have in mind.
How do you know if something is sustainable?
When purchasing products, you would naturally prefer to buy from companies that share your values, and when it comes being eco friendly and environmentally responsible, choosing which products to purchase is important. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell if a product is truly eco-friendly at first glance. Plenty of companies appear green with designer packaging when they just want to make more profit.
If you want to ensure that the things you get are made with as little environmental impact as possible, you will have to spend a little extra time. Here are a few simple techniques to keep in mind.
A good place to start is by focusing on the specific claims the company makes about their product. This could be on the packaging itself, or in their advertisements or on the website. For example, it’s easy to claim that a designer rug is “eco friendly” or “non toxic,” but statements like that are so broad they don’t really mean anything. If, however, it is advertised as being made from 100% recycled material, that’s a very specific detail—one that’s much easier to trust.
A reliable way to judge whether a product is eco friendly is to get online and check it out. Currently, the only official green certification scheme available for products made in New Zealand to get is the NZGBC Green Star for office design. This assesses the design based on a range of criteria such as energy, transport and materials used and is a good indicator of the impact a product has on the environment and the efficiency with which it was made.
Why is sustainability important in interior design?
Sustainability plays a huge role in interior design. New construction offers opportunities for interior designers to build eco-friendly designs from scratch, using energy saving designs and recycled building materials. Energy and thermal modelling can be used to make a building more comfortable by improving energy efficiency, while increased indoor air quality can be found by improving passive heating, cooling and ventilation design. Interior designers taking into account the amount of natural light available to internal spaces in the home can reduce the requirement for electrical lighting. This type of research is crucial to the design of a green building.
Above: Amanda Dorset at Home With Life & Leisure Magazine
In interior design projects, it is important for any interior designer to determine an efficient and effective use of space, selecting construction materials that offer low environmental impact, waste and energy consumption. This can improve the health and wellbeing of the built environment, and reduce costs for the clients. One benefit when an interior designer operates a business as a sustainable enterprise that focuses on building materials that are environmentally healthy, is it enables clients to enjoy lower maintenance costs in the long run. Operating a sustainable interior design practice can also enhance the designer’s brand image and reputation.
What is the difference between green design and sustainable design?
It’s easy to understand why some people think that “green design” and “sustainable design” are the same. Both address areas of environmental protection, like water pollution, indoor air quality, and waste management. However, green design focuses on the present, instead of the future as it’s more concerned about near-term impacts.
Green interior design is a subset of sustainable design. It focuses on the use of recycled materials like reclaimed wood furniture, renewable energies like solar lighting and on reduced waste of energy and materials in the home.
Sustainable design can be distinguished from green design because of its long-term approach to environmental protection and its consideration of social economic development. Each stage of the design process is optimized to reduce negative impacts and to improve quality of life without depleting natural resources. When it comes to sustainable interior design, the main intent is not to build a structure, but to build a future. Ideally, a good interior designer should help people envision a better world when designing their home.
What are sustainable design strategies?
Reducing the overall size, weight and number of materials incorporated into a design is a simple way of reducing the impact on the environment. More materials generally result in greater impacts, so it’s important for a designer to use less materials and reduce the overall weight without compromising on quality. A product that is light weight will also have lower travel costs and associated emissions.
Products that can be reconfigured in different ways to adapt to different spaces and interiors have an increased ability to function well. Modularity can increase resale value of furniture and offer multiple options in one material form. Modularity as a sustainable interior design approach implicates the end owner in the design so they can reconfigure the product to fit their interior spaces and their changing life needs.
Longevity is about creating products that are aesthetically timeless, highly durable and will retain their value over time so people can resell them or pass them on. Products that last longer aren’t replaced as frequently and can be repaired or upgraded during their life as long as their style and functionality have durability as well.
What are examples of sustainable design?
Designers are always coming up with ways to help create a sustainable future. On a large scale this can be things like wind turbines or solar powered lighting in commercial spaces. On a smaller scale, eco friendly interior design can incorporate various aspects, from the use of energy efficient, sustainable materials such as furniture made from recycled sources like reclaimed wood, through to non toxic, friendly materials like organic cotton.
Above: Image by Usukhbayar Gankhuyag
Reclaimed wood furniture is a good example of an eco friendly interior. By designing interiors using existing wood instead of purchasing brand new, it reduces the demand for new logging. This has a long lasting impact on the environment as more trees won’t be cut down to make furniture.
Using recycled products and green building techniques is a responsible and energy efficient way to make interiors eco friendly and long lasting.
What are the 4 pillars of sustainability?
The term sustainability is aimed at the preservation of resources, and refers to four distinct areas: human, social, economic and environmental.
Human sustainability encompasses the development of skills and human capacity to support and promote the wellbeing of communities and society.
Social sustainability aims to preserve resources for future generations and to acknowledge how actions impact others. It focuses on maintaining and improving social quality with concepts such as cohesion, reciprocity and the importance of relationships between people.
Economic sustainability is the ability of an economy to support a defined level of economic production indefinitely. If social sustainability focuses on improving social equality, economic sustainability aims to improve the standard of living.
Environmental sustainability aims to improve human wellbeing through the protection of natural resources. Initiatives and programs are defined as environmentally sustainable when they ensure that the needs of the population are met without the risk of compromising the needs of future generations.
What are the 5 R's of sustainability?
These are the key principles that designers can use to help improve the eco friendliness of any home. Recycling should be used as a last resort after attempting to refuse, reduce, reuse, or repurpose. Before disposing of your rubbish, try the following steps:
Refuse. Learning to refuse items can take some practice to get into, but incorporating this step into your home is the most effective way to minimise waste. Do this by refusing to buy wasteful or non-recyclable products.
Reduce. Reduce the use of harmful, wasteful, and non-recyclable products. Always try to use the minimum amount required to avoid unnecessary waste. You can try to focus on reducing single-use plastics, and not buying foods with unnecessary plastic packaging.
Reuse. Single-use plastics have created a "throw-away" culture of using materials once and then throwing them away. In an effort to reduce waste, try to reuse items instead of buying new.
For every item that can't be refused, reduced, or reused, try repurposing it. Interior designers commonly refer to this method as upcycling. Sometimes it requires using some creativity, but when it comes to upcycling interiors, the possibilities are endless.
Last but not least: recycle. Once you've gone through all of the other R's, recycling is the most environmentally friendly waste disposal method. If your home doesn't already, start collecting cardboard, paper products and organics.