Stylish yet Sustainable: The Role of Interior Designers in Environmentally Conscious Design

By March 29, 20182018

Education design

Interior design decisions can no longer be made based on aesthetics and functionality alone. Designers have a responsibility to create indoor environments that are resource and energy efficient and contribute positively to the sustainability of the building. Creating a sustainable space, whether for home or work, is all about being aware of and making sound environmentally-conscious choices.

Since designers are the people who specify the interior components of a space they must have a broad understanding of sustainable interior design issues with the aim of lowering, as much as possible, the environmental impact of a building.

There are a number of ways this can be approached. The first is material selection. Choosing products that can be used again or materials that are made up, either wholly or partly, of recycled properties are probably one of the first go-to options. Materials that are quickly renewable, such as bamboo, straw, cork and natural linoleum products, or are extracted in an environmentally responsible way are a good choice.

Secondly, designers should consider the entire life cost of the product – its durability, maintenance requirements and embodied energy. Construction materials such as concrete, steel and plastics are higher in embodied energy than natural items such as stone and timber for example and so are a better choice where possible. Of course using higher embodied energy materials can sometimes be justified if it helps reduce energy costs of the building through better efficiency.

And finally, while indoor air quality is not something that designers tend to think about often, the importance of ensuring a healthy indoor environment is becoming increasingly important. Designers should choose products with a low or no volatile organic compounds (VOC) content and always opt for water based finishes wherever possible.

It is essential that product designers and manufacturers continue to develop environmentally responsible products and broaden their ranges to allow interior designers to make sustainable choices every time. Ongoing research and development is also key to ensure designers stay abreast of the latest design options and continue to move towards a low carbon future.

By Lynn Chourbagi Almouzaiek, Interior Designer