Sustainable interior design
Sustainability is a widely discussed topic in today’s times. It is a concept which resonates with everyone, regardless of their age or profession. However, for architects, designers and builders, the aspect of sustainability is even more important as we are responsible for creating spaces which last for a long time on our planet and have major environmental repercussions. Paola Sassi in his book, ‘Strategies of Sustainable Architecture’ quotes “Sustainability is not an academic pursuit or even a professional activity: it is a way of life affecting everything an individual does.” Interior design is no different. The creation of indoor living and working spaces for humans should have the green aspect ingrained in it’s core to make spaces habitable, aesthetic and also planet friendly. Let’s go over some factors in sustainable interior design.
Designers influence the way people live. Reducing the amount of energy consumed in a household or workplace depends largely on the planning and design of the space. Interior designers have the responsibility of designing low energy usage spaces by means of planning strategies. Door and windows when appropriately placed can have a huge impact on the passive cooling or heating required in a room. This means lower use of air conditioners or heaters. Similarly, natural light and ventilation can lower the use of artificial lights, fans and exhausts. Proper insulation design, carpets, sealed windows can also reduce use of heating systems.
LOW EMBODIED ENERGY
Buildings are one of the leading causes of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, not just in their own life cycle, but also from the production and logistics of the materials being used to build them. Hence, it is imperative for designers to know the qualities, environmental impacts and sustainability factor of materials used in construction. It is also equally important to plan the management of a project so that negative ecological impact can be prevented. Switching from concrete (which has very high embedded energy) to bricks or wood can be a start. Re-using materials from older sites or upcycling waste materials into new beautiful spaces is also the way forward.
Waste management and garbage assessment is a critical topic for sustainable design. Interior designers should focus on making spaces more timeless instead of following trends blindly which come and go. With the world changing so quickly, people feel the need to keep changing their spaces which is a good thing. Fresh environments and renewed spaces are a must. However, it is up to the designers how they deal with old furniture, fabrics and materials. It is also the designer’s quality if they can re-use old items in new ways and find proper methods to discard old non usable items. Using second hand furniture and antiques is one of the ways to approach sustainable interior design. Re-purposing existing furniture or fixtures by painting them, treating them or just moving them around also needs to be the designer’s forte. Another way of reducing waste production in interiors is to chose materials which can be easily recycled or re-used. This circular economy approach makes it possible for waste to become raw material for new products. This loop minimizes the impact on our planet, saves you money and gradually eliminates waste.
Designing cheap and designing smart need not be two different things. The timelessness factor is not needed only in the aesthetic but also in the underlying quality of the space. Materials which are strong and durable, last longer and can be maintained are often good investments, for the client and the planet. Longer life of false ceiling, furniture, fixtures, flooring and services means lower demolition and renovation cycles. This in turn reduces the environmental impact as well as waste. It also saves the client a lot of hassle and money. Choosing materials which have a good shelf life and can take wear and tear over the years, especially when it comes to civil work is highly highly advised. Going for fancier looking cheap tiles instead of the classic ones is always risky as they are more prone to damage and outgrown faster. Designing free flowing spaces which have multiple scopes of interpretation is always a good idea, as the space doesn’t have to be completely torn down and redone. Movable and flexible furniture, modular carpets, open planning etc. are some of the ways to let the client take charge of his own space, thus making their life more sustainable.
Using local materials and technology is good for the space, the earth, the context, the client and the architect. Local building techniques and building materials result in contextual green architecture, retain the identity of the city and are best equipped for passive climate control. Using locally sourced items for interiors like doors, flooring and ceiling materials, furniture etc. gives you an added advantage of reduced cost, available skilled labor (from that region itself, as they are already experts in that field) and no logistical hassle, which means the project timeline goes smoothly. So, think vernacular.
We often make the mistake of categorizing buildings as modern, classic, vernacular and sustainable. It is my firm belief that sustainability shouldn’t be an altogether different theme in a building, but a recurring principal in every built form. Even modern buildings should be sustainable, so should the classic, vernacular, contemporary, eclectic etc. Using solar panels, rainwater harvesting technique, planting more trees and indoor plants, automatic lights and taps are other ways to approach sustainable interior design. However, I don’t want to make a separate subhead for these, as I feel like these are just normal design rules which cannot be overlooked or treated as distinctive measures. These need to become the norm rather than a trend. Sustainability isn’t a topic we can ignore and move on if we want this planet to last. The time to act is now and in every way that we can.
Author: Jamila Sidhpurwala
Jamila is one part artist, two parts foodie, and all parts traveler. She is a patron of good art and design and loves to immerse herself in books and music. Simplicity and minimalism is her motto as an architect. A writing enthusiast, she surrounds herself with all things creative. She actively shuns all “ists” and “isms” and firmly believes in a “no – label” world! She isn’t afraid to take risks, speak her mind, push forward and challenge preconceptions. She is currently pursuing Masters in Architecture at the University of Liechtenstein.