SUSTAINABLE DESIGN- AN UNDENIABLE CHOICE

 Sustainable interior design has been applied in numerous ways to our lives and is considered to be a reply to our day and age: the age of Information and Ecology. Our need for a sustainable environment is much more of an obligation than a desire, in professional interior design practice. ‘Form follows environment’ - a term addressed by Richard Hyde - is a simplification of this concept. Understood as a relationship between individuals and their current natural environment, its degree of impact depends on the selections of materials, furnishing, and lighting.

    Green interior design practice requires addressing several primary issues. First, to decide which are the most reliable and useful sources of knowledge base taking into account the amassment of information available. Second, to engage the clients and users by providing an accurate understanding of the benefits which, in turn, make for more confident in the decision-making process. Third, to find a way to assist and encourage the manufacturers and builders to apply and deliver environmental architecture.  As an interior designer, sustainability in design primarily focuses on the specifications of furnishing, fixtures, equipment, and lighting.

    One of the criteria for specifying sustainable materials is the aspects of function. A carpet installed in a commercial building must be more durable than the one used in a residential space due to its high traffic. Considering all of the possible contexts and maximizing the potential and longevity of the material is of great importance. Additionally, the methods of material production should come into consideration. The energy used in this process is called embodied energy. Each different material has an unusual amount of embodied energy. The manufacturing of natural materials such as wood and stone requires less energy than plastic, concrete or steel. The gas emission throughout the use of the material and its future recycling potential should be considered not only for the sake of the environment but also to ensure a high level of indoor air quality for occupants. Typical examples of sustainable materials are cork, straw, wool or bamboo. Rapidly renewable materials are known to be less energy-intensive to produce. For instance, bark from the cork oak tree can be harvested every nine years. Ultimately reducing the use and depletion of finite raw materials and long-cycle renewable material. Cork is also being used in acoustic and thermal insulation for its sound-proofing quality and is a flexible building material that is less affected by impact and friction.

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Interior design by: Sarah Barnard  -  Photo by: Brad Nicol

An Ocean Avenue penthouse with a bird's eye view of Santa Monica's coastline dressed with eco-friendly furnishings, natural textiles, and organic rugs provide a perfect Zen retreat.

  Sustainability also can be demonstrated through lighting choices. The use of lighting plays a significant part in the total consumption of electric energy. This choice requires not only clients but also interior designers to consider the possibilities of other alternatives to maximize the light coming into the building without increasing the energy consumption. Providing more light can be achieved either by taking advantage of the natural light source through bringing light into a building interior and distributing it in a way that provides better illumination and considering pleasing, light-friendly interior objects and surfaces as well as flexible light controls; or using products that assure more energy saving than traditional ones.

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Interior design by: Sarah Barnard  -  Photo by: Brad Nicol

Taking advantage of a natural light source by bringing light into a building interior and distributing it in a way that provides better illumination

Modern technology allows the installation of the light piping system or laser cut panels to carry daylight to the deep interior space of a building, even to the basements. Such advanced techniques like the piping system can provide 25 - 50% (Kadir, A., Ismail, L.H. & Kasim, N) of the workplace illuminance in commercial or office building and overall reduce energy consumption. These light tubes act as a light transport guiding the light into the room, increasing the efficiency without producing extreme warmth. This phenomenon occurs because the design of the tube integrates highly reflective internal surfaces, like aluminum sheeting with a reflectance of about 95 - 99% (Kadir, A., Ismail, L.H. & Kasim, N).

    Last but equally important, the furnishing choices have a significant impact on the environment and occupant’s health. Manufacturers can control the emission of volatile organic compounds by limiting the use of solvents in paints, stains, and glues. However, it is also the designers’ role to help their clients be more environmentally conscious with the furniture they choose. Purchasing the FSC certified or reclaimed wood helps to prevent the deforestation of tropical rainforests. Another example is in the choices of mattresses. The concern about what is in a mattress is essential. Not only because you spend a third of your life in bed but also because any product made with synthetic materials carries potential health risks. Because such items like mattresses, furniture cushions, pillows, carpet pad, and clothing, all contain a certain level, if not mainly, of petroleum-based foam, which is known to affect the nervous and immune system and cause illnesses. Therefore, lessening the dependence on petroleum is a commendable attempt. Manufacturers are experimenting with vegetable oils like soybean and latex foam producers are replacing some or all of the synthetic content for natural latex. The easiest way to be a responsible shopper is to choose a mattress that can function for an extended period.

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Interior design by: Sarah Barnard  -  Photo by: Brad Nicol

A master bedroom outfitted with eco-friendly finishes in leather, rattan, maple, and wool.

Overall, the main objective of choosing and using sustainable products, either under the role of customer or interior designer, is not only to improve the quality of life of the occupants but also to maximize positive impacts on environmental, economic and social systems over the life cycle of a building. These all start from the awareness of the surrounding environment and the availability of eco-friendly choices.

By Quynh Le Truc  

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

References

Ayalp, N. Environmental Sustainability in Interior Design Elements. Retrieved from http://www.wseas.us/e-library/conferences/2012/Kos/WEGECM/WEGECM-23.pdf

Kadir, A., Ismail, L.H. & Kasim, N. Optimization of daylighting system by using light pipe system in a building. Retrieved from http://eprints.uthm.edu.my/7281/1/13._OPTIMIZATION_OF_DAYLIGHTING_SYSTEM_BY_USING_LIGHT_PIPE_SYSTEM_IN_A_BUILDING.pdf

Rainforest alliance (2012). Cork oak. Retrieved from http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/species/cork-oak

Varela, M.C. Cork and the cork oak system. FAO. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/x1880e/x1880e08.htm

Quynh Le Truc is a dynamic designer who has experience in branding and incorporating ideas into tangible objects to strengthen the identity of a brand. Her practice encompasses interior design, media design including editorial layout, photography, website and application interface to illustration. She loves travelling and studying within diverse cultures and countries. She is also an active member of the KOTO project to help street children and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam.