Sustainable interior design is concerned with the present health of people and the planet and also with the future health of the world and its inhabitants. The two are inextricably bound: only by ensuring the health of the environment at the moment can we hope to ensure a good quality of life for future generations.
People in the developed world spend most of their lives indoors. It is thus an important area to consider when sustainability is attempted. We must design our homes and offices in such a way as to minimize our footprints.
One of the most important footprints is the carbon footprint. Climate change is caused by excessive carbon emissions. The challenge for the sustainable designer is to make buildings that require carbon minimum emissions to build and to run. Things to consider are transport of materials, the processing of materials and the method of powering a building. Taking materials locally, using recycled and upcycled materials as well as utilizing renewable materials all helps to reduce the carbon footprint of a building.
Two important ways of making buildings more energy efficient are to use alternative energy and to improve insulation. Using PV panels on the roof and harnessing wind energy are two ways of creating carbon free electricity that can help to make a building more energy efficient. The other side of the coin is to design buildings that need less electrical input. This can be done partly by improving insulation.
Another key area for sustainable design is water conservation. Earth is the blue planet but fresh water makes up only 1% of the total water on the planet. Many parts of the world are already water stressed. Ideas like grey water recycling and rainwater harvesting are fundamental to creating a sustainable building.
Finally, green interior designers must make interiors that are healthy places for people to live. Dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other toxic chemicals have to be avoided in the making and running of a building.
It is a tall order to achieve all of these things; but already many of the technologies are available to help make sustainable interiors. It is just a matter of bringing these ideas into the mainstream and improving environmental auditing. With luck and planning the future might still be bright for our children’s children.