PART II: SUSTAINABLE INTERIOR DESIGN – PASSIVE HOUSE – ECO-FRIENDLY BUILDING PRODUCTS AND MATERIALS
BY Marybeth Welty
In part one of our sustainable interior design (SID) series we talked in short on sustainable design, sustainable architecture, and sustainable interior design, and the differences between the three. I enticed you to return, promising we’d go further in depth on sustainable interior design, it’s main components, how it’s different from conventional design, and how it perfectly compliments the Passive House strategy.
For those of you who have returned, thanks for coming back. For those who are new:
We know that sustainable interior design cares about a building’s energy and water usage, its materials and finishes, its furniture and cabinetry, and its appliances, electronics, and fixtures. A SID building will have a dramatic reduction in waste not only during construction and renovation but sustainable interior designers help the end user reduce their waste with strategic design features that suit that unique project. A sustainable interior will incorporate as much of the outside culture and landscape into the interior as possible. It will plan long term for the client, to give them a socially and economically conscious space. And ultimately, we know that it creates a healthy indoor environment for its occupants.
To sum that up, our 7 main components of sustainable interior design are:
- Energy efficiency
- Water efficiency
- Utilizing, preserving, and incorporating local land and culture
- Sourcing low-impact materials, fixtures, finishes, furniture, cabinetry, appliances and electronics (utilizing recycled, salvaged, local materials as often as possible)
- Healthy Indoor Environment
- Waste Reduction (both during construction and during occupancy)
- Economically and Socially Conscious
You might notice most of these categories look very similar to the LEED rating system, and you are correct. As LEED has recognized, these categories sum up the most important areas to consider when planning a sustainable space for the end user. However, where LEED focuses more on the building systems (mechanical, plumbing), the structural, and the construction side of the project. Sustainable interior design goes farther into the design of the interior environment and applies the LEED principals to the design for the end user and their lifestyle.
Right on, so how is this different from Convention Interior Design?
Conventional design is basic; it is boilerplate; it is the bare minimum you must do to be granted a building permit. That’s not to say that conventional design can’t be beautiful or inspiring. It has been for the history of architecture! However at this point in time, in 2017, building technology has progressed significantly and far beyond that which conventional design still uses. And, unfortunately our building codes and building standards are also still very behind in terms of building approach and technology.
How could a sustainable interior affect us?
In North America, we spend almost 90% of our time indoors(1). We eat, sleep, play, and work indoors. Because of this fact alone, It is extremely important that our interiors are healthy, functional, and safe places for ourselves, our partners, our employees + colleagues, our families, our children, and our pets. For example, there is no coincidence to the increase in productivity and reduction of sick days taken by employees who work in healthier office environments. Children have fewer respiratory trouble and fewer allergies when their schools and homes have optimal air quality.
But it’s so much more than air quality.
While indoor air quality is an incredibly important reason to care about the quality of our interior spaces, there are many other factors that are also very important to consider when planning a sustainable interior.
Sustainable interior design is a harmony between the earth and the aesthetic. It is a balance; a process by which we create a beautiful, modern, and functional space while minimizing our impact on the environment.
From the placement of the rooms and the flow of the space, to the colour palette, finishes and millwork; from the local culture/geography, to physically incorporating parts of the landscape into the interior. The seven main factors can be interpreted in countless, creative ways.
Which brings me to the importance of the designer…
A Sustainable Interior Designer specializes in personalizing space. They are able to analyze a space for its functionality, accessibility, and the lifestyle of the space’s end-users and applies these principles of design with sustainability to the goal of creating a comfortable, long-lasting, dynamic, adaptable, healthy, and aesthetically pleasing interior environment. The designer works directly with the client to understand their wants, their needs, their style, and their preferences. The end result is a functional, accessible, and stylized space designed specifically for low maintenance, minimal operating costs, and for the client’s goals/lifestyle so will last for generations.
Passive House and Sustainable Interior Design
Sustainable interior design is a perfect complement to the Passive House approach. Passive House’s main motivation is and has always been energy efficiency. Though the beauty in Passive House’s energy efficient design is that passive buildings also have extremely high air quality, excellent thermal comfort, extremely low amount of waste (especially during construction since most passive buildings are pre-fabbed), and they are very economically sound and built for long term.
In our next blog posts, we will go into further detail on each of these categories as they pertain to sustainable interiors and specifically, how they piggyback perfectly with Passive House Design.