Green Interior Design has been around since the green movement got off the ground in the 1980s. Since people became aware of global warming, deforestation, pollution and dwindling supplies of natural resources some have been concerned to find ways to tread more lightly in the World. It was not until 1998 when the US Green Building Council formed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) that green interior design was formulated into 5 key metrics.
These 5 key metrics are: energy efficiency, water conservation, reduction of carbon emissions, improvement of indoor air quality and better stewardship of resources and their environmental impact. These are the 5 pillars of green interior design.
Energy efficiency is vital because most of our energy is generated by burning fossil fuels. This process emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere causing climate change and it is also unsustainable. Coal, gas and oil are not sustainable resources. The more scarce they become the more companies like BP are willing to take shocking risks to extract fossil fuel reserves.
Although 70% of the planet is covered with water only 1% is fresh water. And of that 1% only a small fraction is easily accessible by people. Water demand will soon outstrip water supply because of population and economic growth. There are many ways in which green interior design can reduce the amount of water a home or office uses. Very little of the water used at home and in the office goes on drinking or cooking. According the the EPA nearly 60% of home indoor water consumption in America goes on faucets, toilets and showers.
Reducing carbon emissions can be achieved by being energy efficient. It can also be achieved by looking at the carbon through put of every household item and service. Being able to evaluate carbon costs for things allows us to choose products and services that reduce carbon emissions. For example, buying locally reduces transportation costs (less carbon emitted by cars, trucks etc burning petrol or diesel). Also buying upcycled goods saves on the heavy carbon costs of buying new products or products made from downcycled materials.
The fourth pillar of green interior design is improving indoor air quality. The biggest culprits in this regard are VOCs or volatile organic compounds that off-gas easily and cause respiratory problems, cancer and other serious medical problems. VOCs are found in furniture glue, flooring adhesives, carpet backing, paint, paint thinner, copier ink and a host of other home and office products. Another challenge for indoor health is the reduction of dust mite excrement and fungal spores that trigger allergic rhinitis and asthma attacks. Choosing VOC free and allergen free items for the home and office is a key part of a green interior designer’s remit.
Finally, there is husbanding natural resources. Green interior design seeks to substitute such precious materials as hardwood from the home and replace it with sustainable alternatives. Sustainable flooring, for example, such as cork flooring, coconut flooring, strand woven bamboo flooring and reclaimed hardwood flooring are all great ways to prevent the use of newly cut hardwood for flooring purposes. For furniture, bamboo, rattan and water hyacinth are all renewable resources that make excellent tables, chairs, cabinets etc. Green interior designers also pay particular attention to environmental certification such as that given out by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council).
It is hoped that this brief introduction to green interior design has given you a clearer idea about the importance of this relatively new field of design and it is hoped that if you are considering doing any interior design in the future you will do more than pay lip service to the 5 pillars of green interior design.
Author: US Environmental Protection Agency
Page Title: http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/pubs/indoor.html