Sustainable design is also known as environmental design, environmentally sustainable design, ecodesign and environmentally conscious design. It is underpinned by a philosophy of designing products, buildings and services that comply with principles of social, economic and ecological sustainability. Green interior design is very much part of the wider movement of sustainable design. Green interior design shares the same ethos and the same goals as sustainable design. These goals are sometimes summed up by the ‘triple bottom line’ which is a formula that prioritizes “People, Planet and Profit”. The health of people, the eco-system and the profits that can be made from increased energy, resource and water efficiency are the three ways of measuring the success of a sustainable design project.
Being sustainable is all about being able to continue a process indefinitely without any overall loss of assets or resources. This is the goal that all sustainable design strives towards. The notion of sustainability can be applied to the microcosm as well as the macrocosm.
Here is a list of several components that are fundamental to achieving sustainability:
- Using low impact materials that are non-toxic, sustainably produced or recycled with a minimum input of energy.
- Improving energy efficiency in building and manufacturing processes.
- Assessing the carbon footprints of both individual manufactured products and buildings
- Turning to nature for sustainable models, often called biomimicry.
- Service substitution: this is the process of removing private ownership of certain items and replacing them with services that are more efficient and less polluting, such as car sharing.
- Using renewable resources and preferably renewable resources that are sourced locally
- Dealing with waste through biodegradation.
- Watershed assessment: measuring supplies of water in an area and also measuring the total amount of surface precipitation in an area and using this figure to set sustainable limits for human and animal habitation.
- Sustainable architecture that focuses on using alternative sources of energy, harvesting rainwater, on-site waste management and using green roofs.
Sustainable architecture is very much the twin cousin of green interior design. A holistic approach to building structures for all purposes must draw on the wealth of information and techniques both sustainable architecture and green interior design has to offer.
One ground breaking project was completed by the architect Rolf Disch. Disch set himself the goal of making housing that is carbon emission free, CO2 neutral and that actually gives something back to the environment. His solar settlement was built between 2000 and 2005 in the town of Frieburg in Germany. It is a community of 59 houses all with photovoltaic cells on the roofs. The solar energy these cells generate means that not only do residents never have to buy electricity but also they make a profit. Each house in the Solar Settlement makes over €4,000 in energy surplus supplies which are sold to the national grid.
It is people like Rolf Disch that governments should be supporting if official pronouncements about caring for the environment are to be considered as anything more than hot air. And it is for green interior design to contribute to the sustainable design revolution in general to make carbon free, pollution free and energy positive products, buildings and services that can rectify the damage caused by the last 50 years of unbridled economic expansion.