Sustainable 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.