Why Environmentally Sustainable Materials Should Be Used and Kept in Mind

In today's world if someone hears the words "global warming", what comes to mind? Polar bears dying because of ice melting in the arctic, crazy weather patterns that get extremely hot at times, then below zero at others, droughts on the west coast and gas prices rising to over five dollars per gallon. The list goes on and on. Every day, humans make a choice. They make a choice whether or not to throw their water bottle in the trash and grab a new one, or to fill up the plastic one they bought at Target years ago. They decide if they are going to shut off the light when they leave the room, or leave it on because they will be right back. They wake up and brush their teeth deciding to leave the tap running while they brush, or turn it off until they need it again. Little acts like this can save our planet. The same goes with the use of environmentally sustainable materials and processes when it comes to designing. As a student striving to become an interior designer, the use of materials such as solar panels for electricity, using energy efficient light bulbs, finding furniture made out of post recycled products that make it easy for clients to live green without having to make an effort. As a future interior designer I hope to use environmentally sustainable materials to minimize non-renewable energy consumption, conserve water, enhance indoor environmental quality as well as optimize site potential.

According to the National Institute of Building Sciences, on an annual basis, buildings in the United States consume 39% of America's energy and 68% of our electricity. They also state that the vast majority of this energy is being produced from non-renewable fossil fuel resources. This can be reduced with the help of implementing green living throughout the design process. Placing windows facing the sun during business hours will reduce the amount of lighting needed to be on during the day. Passive solar heating and even lighting can be used as well. Installing solar panels on roofs of buildings will give virtually “free” energy to what building is in need. It costs money to buy the panels, and have them installed, but in the future it will not only save money, it will save the environment. 

These panels may not be ideal for every business or household so there are other alternatives as well such as energy efficient light bulbs. Energy Star is a company that focuses on the making energy into green energy. They state on their website that their certified light bulbs use about 70% to 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. They also last 10 to 25 times longer and saves 30 to 80 dollars in electricity costs over its prolonged lifetime. These light bulbs are an extremely great alternative for the consumer and the environment.

Some people may think water usage does not come into play when designing a home. That is completely misguided. Water usage in the United States has become more of an issue than meets the eye. Underground water-cooling can be something used to help water usage. Installing faucets that reduce water pressure so less water is used, yet cleanliness is still being achieved, is another way to reduce water usage. Filtered water systems on sinks can reduce the use of plastic water bottles being discarded and more reusable cups and water bottles being put to use. Rainwater being collected has been implemented into some buildings in the United States, then filtered into water for homes can save the environment. Rainwater collectors do not have to be visible in a design and do not effect the way a design functions or looks.

The Bullitt Center located in Seattle, Washington, is an example of a building that is the definition of green living. The building achieves everything that can be implemented into every day living, in every design process. The building takes the warmth from the earth to heat the building, called hydronic heat. It uses a system called waterworks to harvest rainwater. Something that may seem odd, or unappealing is the fact that they use composting toilets. They do not use water in the toilets; instead it is a foam flush that pushes waste down and then turns the waste into compost. Not only do the architects involved in the Bullitt Center design in a way that creates green living, they encourage an active design by placing the building with not much parking to arrive at. Most people have to bike or walk to reach the building. It encourages an active lifestyle as well as saving gas while not using a car.

Utilizing a sustainable design philosophy encourages decisions at each phase of the design process. It will reduce negative impacts on no only the environment but also the health of the occupants without compromising the design. Using environmentally sustainable materials that come from the environment, not a facility where multiple chemicals are used and can be harmful. Buying materials and furniture from showrooms and companies that believe in sustainable design, and our earth, will help promote the idea of living green. Green living mixed with interior design is an integrated and holistic approach that encourages compromise and even trade offs with environmentally sustainable materials.

Sustainable building and materials impacts all phases of a building's life cycle, including design, construction, operation and decommissioning. Buildings and houses use resources, generate waste and emit potentially harmful atmospheric emissions. Every person that helps build a building, or remodel a home faces a challenge to renovate. This turns into an even larger challenge if environmentally sustainable materials and concepts are used. By optimizing the site potential, it opens up doors and can reduce operation costs and can increase building resiliency.

As the future of design I hope to implement all of these ideals while remodeling homes, or designing buildings. The future of not only our environment, but the future of humanity is in need of more attention drawn on living green in all areas, buy putting environmentally sustainable materials into designing can solve so much of this problem. By installing solar panels and using the sun minimizes the non-renewable energy consumption. Conserving water by implementing it into the design makes it easy for homeowners to constantly help the environment as well as their wallet. Using the environment indoors will increase the quality of air as well as the health of the people in the space. And lastly, making sure to use the site in the best way possible can make our world greener. While a client may not like the idea of green living because it does not seem as high tech as todays world, they will not notice the difference if they were not told. Environmentally sustainable materials should be used and always kept in thought during the design process as long as it is in budget, regardless of what the client's wishes are.

Sources

  1. Jones, Louise. Environmentally Responsible Design: Green and Sustainable Design for Interior Designers. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008. Print.
  2. "Light Bulbs | Products." Light Bulbs | Products. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Aug. 2015
  3. "Optimize Energy Use." Optimize Energy Use. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2015. https://www.wbdg.org
  4. "Principles of Sustainable Design." Principles of Sustainable Design. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 July 2015. http://www.nbm.org.
  5. "The Greenest Commercial Building in the World." Bullitt Center Home Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 July 2015. http://www.bullittcenter.org "Sustainable Design."
  6. Sustainable Design. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 July 2015. http://www.gsa.gov.