As interior designers, it is our job to see the big picture when it comes to your renovation, new build or decor project. But even more than just having the vision of the end look, we need to look beyond this to understand the environmental impacts made from our decisions and selections. Each design choice has an environmental impact and we have the responsibility to have those impacts made for the better.
In order to create sustainable designs, we need to focus on quality products, timeless designs and the impact that each choice will have on the end user and our environment. Below are the sustainability best practices that we focus on here at our firm, in order to create beautiful, sustainable designs for our clients.
HEATING AND LIGHTING
Heating and lighting are important factors interior designers have influence over. Since most of the building’s heat escapes through windows, it’s important that clients and contractors install windows of high quality that provide good insulation. Window coverings, such as curtains and drapes keep both cold air and the sun’s heat outside. They also enable homeowners to control the building’s temperature in a more energy efficient way by opening and shutting blinds and curtains as needed.
Did you know….Carpets are also excellent thermal insulators; according to estimations, a carpet retains as much as 10 % of a room’s heat.
Organic materials like wood, wool, and natural stone are favorites of AMR designers and while they seem the obvious choice, we should not forget that natural resources still need to be treated responsibly. It is important to consider renewable materials (such as fast-growing bamboo), that are extracted in an environmentally responsible way. Natural products are easier to dispose of at the end of life than plastic or man made materials. There are certifications and labels that give information about the products’ origin and help you identify eco-friendly products.
For example, an FSC label on wood products ensures that the wood used in the product was harvested sustainably.
Fortunately, the design industry and our clients are becoming increasingly aware of the need for sustainable thinking and there is a growing interest in sustainable trends, such as recycling, upcycling and repurposing. Instead of discarding ‘’old-fashioned’’ objects while they are still functional, we can (and should) come up with creative ways to give them a new life.
We design for longevity not only for the end user to get the most out of their investment, but also to save products and materials from hitting the landfill too soon. We urge clients to steer away from overly trendy designs that they will be bored of in a matter of years, or that will show their age quickly. Whether clients stay in their home long term, or sell it to someone new, we want to ensure that the materials and products we selected are used for the long haul. The best way to achieve timelessness is to choose quality over quantity, timeless over trendy, and simplicity/functionality over embellishments.
Throughout the years, however, we understand that people and tastes grow and change, and we prefer our surrounding spaces to grow with us and reflect those changes. It is important for us to consider the flexibility of spaces. Designing flexible spaces is one of the keys to longevity. When you can easily replace or adapt individual elements of a room, there is no need to demolish and renovate it in its entirety.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air pollution is one of the five biggest environmental threats to public health. As a society in general, we are spending more time indoors than ever before. Indoor air pollution is the result of products and materials with high levels of toxic emissions. Furniture and materials that have been treated with harmful chemicals release dangerous toxins in the air (called VOCs). We always prefer materials with low emissions of VOC (volatile organic compounds) and other air pollutants. These types of products and materials are now readily available and should always be chosen over standard materials that do not take VOCs into consideration.
Did you know….Plants act as natural air filters, and —somewhat shockingly — so do carpets. Carpets improve air quality by trapping the dust particles from the air and holding them until vacuumed.
We are grateful that many clients are now seeing the impacts of choosing quality products over less expensive and less sustainable options. Many homeowners now see the benefit of sustainable materials , vintage pieces and even recovering upholstery instead of throwing it away. We no longer need to convince our clients of the benefits of eco-friendly, sustainable design choices. It is imperative that we as designers are coaching our clients, and the industry as a whole, on how we can make positive impacts to our world simply by making choices that will help, not hurt, our planet and the environment.
Leave it better than you found it.” –Bruce A. Nordstrom