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How To Incorporate Sustainability Into Interior Design & Architecture

Written by: Monserrat Menendez, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Monserrat Menendez

In recent decades, there has been a growing emphasis on integrating environmentally responsible practices into various fields, with a particular focus on building and interior design.

Image of Greening of city buildings by Kira Yan.

The principles of sustainable design

As an interior designer your choices have far-reaching consequences, impacting not only your immediate clients but also future generations. In this guide, we will explore the numerous ways you can infuse sustainability into your design and architectural projects.


To comprehend the influence of sustainability on interior design, it's essential to first define sustainability itself. Sustainability is a cornerstone of environmental ethics and is structured around three key principles: profit, people, and the planet. This framework is often referred to as the "Triple Bottom Line," a concept coined by John Elkington. Here's a breakdown of these principles:


Profit

Sustainability isn't solely about environmental concerns; it also encompasses economic sustainability. Businesses must generate profits to thrive, seeking to maximize earnings while minimizing costs.


People

In addition to profits, businesses also impact individuals. They must create value for their employees, customers, and the community, fostering a balanced approach to benefit all stakeholders.


Planet

The third principle emphasizes the necessity of protecting the environment from unchecked capitalism. The Industrial Revolution brought about significant environmental changes, including widespread pollution and climate change due to fossil fuel consumption.


It's important to note that sustainability transcends political ideologies and is a set of practices that can benefit both people and the planet while ensuring profitability. These principles are not mutually exclusive; they can coexist harmoniously. Many consumers today prioritize environmentally responsible choices and are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services.


Incorporating sustainability

Now, let's explore how you can contribute to a sustainable future from an interior design perspective:

  • Focus on Energy Efficiency: According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 65% of global greenhouse gas emissions result from the combustion of fossil fuels. This directly contributes to climate change. Consider the energy appliances used in your designs, such as lighting and heating/cooling systems. Opt for energy-efficient products and explore ways to reduce energy dependence, like using window coverings and insulation.

  • Use Sustainable Materials: Utilize materials that can be produced without harming the natural environment. This includes sourcing legally harvested timber and incorporating rapidly renewable materials like bamboo, cork, and straw bale. Bamboo is an excellent renewable material that releases more oxygen than trees and absorbs carbon dioxide.

  • Research Your Materials: Verify that the materials you use are truly eco-friendly and recyclable, ensuring they come from environmentally responsible processes.

  • Recycle and Reclaim: Choose recyclable or reusable products that can have a second life beyond their initial use. Educate your clients about the potential for these products to benefit others or select items that can be responsibly recycled.

  • Choose Local When Possible: Minimize transportation-related pollution by sourcing items as locally as possible, aligning with your client's location.

  • Source Materials that Lower Carbon Emissions: Consider the carbon footprint of your materials. Identify products that are carbon neutral or even carbon negative. Carbon-neutral materials may include timber, aluminum, and steel, while carbon-negative materials can include bioplastics, bricks, concrete, and innovative materials made from air pollution.


Incorporate biophilic design

Image of Singapore Changi Airport one of the largest transportation hubs in Asia by Kiran Pix.
  • Embrace biophilic design: Which integrates natural elements into your projects. This includes living walls, rooftop terraces, and indoor solariums. Biophilic design is built on six key principles that emphasize environmental elements, natural shapes and forms, natural patterns, light and space, place-based relationships, and evolved human-nature connections.

  • Use Life Cycle Assessment: Prior to implementing your design, conduct a life cycle assessment (LCA) of the materials you plan to use. LCA evaluates the environmental impact of a product throughout its entire life cycle, from raw materials to disposal.

  • Embrace the Circular Economy: Adopt the circular economy model, which aims to reduce waste and pollution. The circular economy focuses on the three Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle, all while relying on renewable energy sources. It encourages products made from high-quality, non-toxic materials with long lifespans suitable for recycling.

In conclusion

Sustainability is not merely a trend; it's a collection of wise business decisions that benefit your organization, clients, and the environment. Sustainability considers how people interact with their environment and factors in the financial cost for both organizations and consumers. Practices that are not financially sustainable will not endure. In our collective effort to foster a sustainable future, creativity and responsible resource management are key. As you delve deeper into sustainability and low-carbon design, here's a starter pack of resources to further expand your knowledge in this field.


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Monserrat Menendez Brainz Magazine
 

Monserrat Menendez, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Drawing on years of professional expertise in interior design, Ms. Menendez presently excels as the founder and president of Senom Design. Through Senom, she aims to make projects not only beautiful, but sustainable, healthy, and approachable. Similarly, she specializes in turnkey rentals and property staging, custom product design, pre-construction, and more working with Iconic Modern Home in the Hamptons, New York City and Connecticut.

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