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Going Green with Sustainable Building & Interior Design Practices

16 April 2014

Green Building and Design PracticesSustainable design is in. It’s being practiced throughout residential and commercial building design. It’s being talked about at interior design schools across the country. So what’s all the buzz about?

What's Important in Sustainable Design

The goal of sustainable design is to mitigate negative impact on the environment of residential and commercial development—and to reduce the effects of such development on those who will live and work there. In fact, current regulations require new federal facilities to be constructed following rigorous environmental design standards. It is likely that more regulations governing the construction and interior design of residential and commercial structures will emerge as the need for a truly sustainable future becomes ever more urgent.

Several aspects of environmental design must be considered when executing sustainable design projects, including:

• Alternative energy components
• Natural, functional landscaping and gardening
• Passive solar heating
• Residential resources and materials
• Environmentally compatible building practices
• Responsible waste management

Existing Pilot Programs & Sustainable Materials

New York City recently initiated a pilot program where municipal organic waste from city restaurants and residents will be collected and converted in to methane gas which will be used, in turn, to provide power to Manhattan facilities—thus offsetting reliance on carbon-based fuels. City officials involved with this project, such as Ron Gonen, NYC’s deputy Commissioner for Recycling and Sustainability (1), foresee many important advantages:

• Reduction of odors from organic materials at waste management facilities
• Reduction in the population of potentially disease-carrying vermin
• A 20% reduction in landfill waste
• A savings of $100 million in taxpayer money per year

As this and similar programs (like one already underway in San Francisco) take root, those involved with residential design, interior design, environmental design, etc. can expect demand for creative, innovative ways of reconfiguring existing structures or executing entirely new developments. This will likely involve the use of sustainable building materials, including some of the items listed below (2):

Wool Bricks—Developed in Spain and Scotland, these innovative bricks are non toxic, sustainable, and locally sourceable. They are even as much as 37% stronger than standard bricks.

Solar Tiles—These roofing tiles are entirely integrated with the building structure thus enabling them to provide protection from the elements while also providing solar electricity to serve the electricity needs of the building occupants.

Paper Insulation—This sustainable design material boasts fire-retardant and insect resistant characteristics. The components are simply recycled paper and cardboard and chemicals such as boric acid, borax, and calcium carbonate to provide safety from fire. These chemicals are not associated in any way with deleterious health issues.

Continuing the Conversation

Interior design school students or professionals with relevant roles in this area may wish to incorporate their expertise in various Earth Day celebrations held in municipalities across the U.S. Such events provide valuable opportunities for those who live in affected communities to learn about what sustainable design elements are available to them. These conversations can also provide designers with insight into current market trends and conditions that will impact their projects moving forward.

Interested in building your knowledge and skills in interior design? Schools such as The Art Institute offer online and ground campus programs that can prepare you for careers in interior design and more.

Read More

(1) Composting On The Way Up In New York City High-Rises
(2) 5 Sustainable Building Materials that Could Transform Construction

Inside The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, Part 3

21 May 2013

Ashley Kulesa, HGTV Audition

This is our final look at the 2013 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show. In our first two posts, we talked with faculty member Sherri Mangin, and today, we hear from student Ashley Kulesa (AK) in the Associate of Science in Kitchen & Bath Design program!

Related Posts: Student Named Top Young Industry Professional | Inside the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, Part 1| Inside the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, Part 2

What was your favorite part of attending KBIS?
AK: I’d say being able to collaborate with people in the industry who are the same age as me. Most of the time you are dealing with people 20 or 30 years older than you, and somehow working with your peers--people your age--can be a richer experience. You take more from it.

I was also able to go to one seminar with David Bromstad (winner of HGTV Design Star and host and designer of HGTV Color Splash). That was really interesting.

What was the most important thing you got out of the experience?
AK: In a lot of ways, the show is a networking platform. You meet many different people, designers, and vendors, and really every connection you make is so valuable for you personally and professionally. The other thing is that by being exposed to new trends and new products before anyone has seen them, you gain a lot of good inspiration.

What was it like to meet a faculty member in person?
It was surreal actually. I met Sherri and I also met my instructor Dawn Viola. It was a really great experience being able to put a face with the person’s name and voice. Since I didn’t have any of my family members there with me, it was neat to have my instructors there rooting me on and cheering for me.

You were interviewed by HGTV – tell me about that.
This is the first time they’ve held open auditions at KBIS – they were looking for a host or a tv personality for HGTV or DIY Network. Of course the line was really long and I had to work up the courage; it was nerve-wracking. You had two to three minutes to answer questions in front of the lights and cameras and to hopefully make a lasting impression. It was scary, but I would have regretted not doing it. Regardless of the outcome, it was a cool experience.

What else would you like to share about the experience?
If you ever have the chance to go for any reason, wear comfortable shoes—it’s important! The space was huge and visually overwhelming, so three days was not enough to see half of it. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was crazy!

I’d also say that for any student, affiliations with professional organizations are huge. NKBA (National Kitchen & Bath Association) focused a lot this year on learning and furthering education. They really want students to be involved, and through the 30 under 30 group, they also wanted to promote the many benefits of membership in their organization.

Inside the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show: Part 1

9 May 2013

Sherri and Ashley

From April 19-21, 2013, faculty member Sherri Mangin attended the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in New Orleans with student Ashley Kulesa.

Ashley, a student in the Kitchen & Bath Design Associate of Science degree program at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division, was named to the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s (NKBA) 30 under 30 list and attended KBIS with all expenses paid!

(Read our first post about Ashley Kulesa’s 30 under 30 recognition.)

Sherri (referred to as SM below) is the Program Director for our Residential Planning and Kitchen & Bath Design programs. Today, she’s giving us an inside look at her KBIS 2013 experience in part one of a three-part series!

What talks did you attend as part of KBIS?
SM: I attended the presentation of the NKBA 30 Under 30 on Friday morning and I attended the presentations given by this group on Sunday. I wasn’t registered to attend any of the other sessions, but I wish I had done that since there were many topics that would have benefited my students! Next year, if I get to attend, I will do things differently!

What was your favorite part of attending KBIS?
SM: My favorite part of this experience was spending time with my student and celebrating the well-deserved recognition she received for NKBA’s 30 Under 30! I had never met Ashley in person since she is an online student living in Florida, and I live in Colorado.

Having the time to meet with Ashley was fabulous! It is just such a rare treat to be able to spend time with a student in real time. I did get a chance to speak to some of the other 30 Under 30 honorees as well, and they really are impressive individuals with ambition, drive, discipline and follow-through.

The next thing I absolutely loved was exploring all of the Kitchen and Bath vendor booths and gathering valuable information and resources for the Kitchen & Bath, Residential Planning and Interior Design students. This is where the newest and most innovative products are revealed, and it was very exciting to see it all first hand. By sharing these products in the Interior Design Help Forum, in the classroom and through workshops, I am able to put every student on the cutting edge of the industry.

So, had you taught Ashley before?
SM: Yes, I taught Ashley in her first internship class and will have the pleasure of teaching her again soon as she begins her second internship course. Ashley proved herself to be exceptional from the first day with her positive attitude, thorough responses to the assignments and 100% professionalism.

Ashley isn’t one to settle for the minimum an assignment asks for and seeks out additional information. In short, she is an amazing student and allowed herself to be taken to the next level in her education which is an educator’s dream!

What was the most important thing you got out of the experience?
SM: I have the best job in the world! Seriously! One of my students is recognized for being amazing, and I got to go to a fabulous city and watch it all unfold! Then I get to go back home and work to bring all of this awesome experience to my faculty and my students.

--Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with Sherri Mangin and Part 3, an interview with Ashley Kulesa!

Academic Counselor Recounts a Rewarding Internship Experience

11 August 2011

By Matt Hinkle
Senior Academic Counselor for The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division

As an Academic Counselor for the Interior Design, Residential Planning and Kitchen & Bath Design programs, Matt Hinkle is especially knowledgeable because of his experience in the field. Matt has two Master's Degrees from The Ohio State University in Architecture and City and Regional Planning.

Below, Matt writes of his experience as an intern with a construction management firm.

While I was in college, I worked at three different internships. One project I recall fondly was when I interned for a construction management firm. We were at a worksite where a new assisted living and skilled nursing facility was being constructed. The construction management firm was coordinating the construction efforts, overseeing all of the subcontractors. We frequently were the go-betweens when subcontractors had questions or issues for the Architect, Interior Designer, and Engineer of the project.

The specific project had to do with a proposed revision to the project’s lighting design scheme. The Architect and Interior Designer wanted to switch from the original plan of all incandescent lighting to compact florescent lighting. The project owners and construction manager were wary of agreeing to the change because compact florescent (CFL) bulbs were not very commonly used at that time. They also were not sure how to figure out how the changes in fixture counts and bulbs would impact the amount of light in the spaces.

At this point in my academic life, I had taken lighting class, and they asked me if I could do an analysis of the proposed change and make a recommendation to them. They were used to thinking about lighting in terms of how many watts of power each room was going to have, so I had to approach this project discussing a few things: will people be able to see just as well in the spaces and will this cost more or cost less?

Since this was a project for assisted living and skilled nursing, it was important that enough light was provided for people to see. As people age, their eyes are less efficient and it takes more light to see well, so the goal was to have lots of bright spaces. Having learned in my lighting class that lumens are the unit of light measured in bulb output, I added up the lumen values for each bulb in each fixture in each space. I could then show that the new lighting plan with CFL bulbs actually had more lumens in the spaces so the rooms would be actually a little bit brighter with the new plan.

The next part was to analyze the costs involved. The bulbs and the fixtures used in the new plan cost more than in the old plan. Would the lifetime operating cost difference offset the initial costs? I spoke with the project owners about how they wanted me to evaluate this, and they said that if there would be lower lifetime operating costs they would be happy. So I calculated how the changes in the bulbs impacted the total costs. The new lighting plan used fewer bulbs, which meant less staff time would be consumed with changing bulbs out. Also, the average life expectancy of the CFL was much longer. The project owners told me their average maintenance worker earned about $10 an hour and that getting a call to change a bulb would take that person about 15 minutes to get the ladder, change the bulb and return the ladder. So I was able to show that with longer bulb life and fewer bulbs in the facility, they would save thousands of dollars in maintenance labor with just changing out the bulbs as they died. However, this was just the cost of labor, and it would take years to see these savings. I also realized that the cost difference in the power bill would be a good place to analyze as well. Since CFL bulbs use less than ¼ of the watts that incandescent bulbs use, I was able to calculate how many fewer kilowatts the facility would need. I contacted the local power company to get their rates and so I could determine the exact savings on the power bill the owners would expect between the old and new lighting plans.

I showed that that the savings on their power bill and maintenance labor in just the first year was more than the cost increase of the more expensive fixtures and bulbs needed for the new CFL lighting plan. I recommended they approve the new plan. Because of my educational background with lighting design, I was able to complete a thorough review of the project changes and the impacts to the bottom line. My recommendation resulted in approval of the lighting redesign which was very exciting for me. This was a moment when I really felt that I made a tangible impact on the project.

This was a really exciting part of my internship experience that started as a standard calculation project but ended with seeing my impact on the final project. This is an example of when sometimes the most tedious assignments end up being really helpful in the job field. I hope everyone can experience the kind of excitement related to seeing their ideas impacting a project. It really got me more excited about the design field and reinforced the importance of my education.