Green Interior Design is a lesser known branch of design that is soon to become very important. Unlike interior design, green interior design is concerned with matters far more important than creating 'stylish', 'contemporary', 'functional', 'minimal', 'traditional' or 'ethnic' living spaces for people. Green interior design is also about pleasing the customer and pandering to the customers' notions of style and beauty, but its primary concern is to be environmentally friendly.
The leading authority on green interior design is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program set up by the US Green Building Council. The program is an evolving effort that attempts to address 5 key areas: reduction of CO2 emissions, conservation of water, improving indoor air quality, saving energy and husbanding natural resources. Green interior design is about saving money, protecting the environment and protecting people's health. These three goals aren't always mutually compatible but it is the goal of the green interior designer to address these key areas and three salient objectives rather than being completely at the mercy of the whims of fashion.
This article will make a short review of green interior design covering the 5 points mentioned above.
For those not living 'off the grid' or purchasing electricity generated from alternative energy sources the use of electricity equates to the emission of green house gases produced by power plants burning fossil fuels. The best way to reduce CO2 emissions is to reduce electricity use in a building. A LEED certified designer will look at ways to achieve this goal by considering insulation, installing a programmable thermostat, planting trees next to east facing windows and buying Energy Star rated appliances to name but a few strategies. This area of concern overlaps with the stricture to save energy. Reducing heating bills in the winter and cooling bills in the summer has the added bonus of reducing carbon emissions.
The developed world wastes water and green interior design seeks to stop this wastage through installing such things as low-flow aerator faucets and shower heads with lower gallons per minute flow rates of water.
A big part of being green is finding materials, furniture and flooring that is free of dangerous chemicals such as volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). VOCs such as formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and methylene-chloride are present in many household products such as paint, paint thinner, carpet backing, wall coverings, cleaning products, copier ink and adhesives. The glue used for many pieces of furniture contains VOCs as does the glue used for flooring. The green interior designer suggests alternatives such as antique furniture and flooring installed and made with VOC free adhesive. Materials are also important renewable resources such as bamboo, rattan, water hyacinth, cork and coconut are preferred to hardwood that takes a long time to grow. Recycled glass counters and reclaimed hardwood flooring and furniture is also obviously a good way to use natural resources in an environmentally friendly fashion. Also organic cotton soft furnishings and sheets are better than synthetic materials made from petroleum derivatives.
As you can see from this brief description, green interior design is holistic. It tries to look at the big picture, to see how a house can be more efficient, save money, be healthier for the inhabitants and make as small a carbon footprint as possible. Many of these areas over-lap. Sustainability, recycling, renewable resources, organic, non-toxic, energy efficiency - these are all key ideas that positively impact on the economy, on people's health and on the health of the environment. Once these criteria are met, then the matter of being 'stylish' can be addressed.