The Role of Interior Design in Sustainability and Green Building

Think Interior
7 min readJan 22, 2023

Sustainability and green building practices have become increasingly important in architecture and design. This article will explore how interior design can contribute to sustainability and green building, including using energy-efficient systems and sustainable materials and promoting healthy living. We will also discuss the importance of considering the entire lifecycle of a building, from design to construction to end-of-life, to create genuinely sustainable spaces.

You can learn about sustainability and green building in an interior design diploma program. Many interior design programs now incorporate sustainability and green building principles into their curriculum, as these issues are becoming increasingly important in the industry.

Use of Sustainable Materials

Using sustainable materials is another important aspect of interior design in promoting sustainability and green building practices. Sustainable materials are those that are environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and have a minimal impact on the environment. By specifying products made from sustainable materials, interior designers can help reduce the waste generated by a building and promote environmental sustainability.

For example, is using bamboo a fast-growing, renewable resource used as a sustainable alternative to hardwood flooring and furniture. Other examples of sustainable materials include:

  • Recycled materials, such as recycled glass and plastic, make countertops, flooring, and other building materials.
  • Low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and adhesives emit fewer harmful chemicals into the air and promote healthier indoor air quality.
  • Cork, linoleum, and wool are natural and renewable materials used for flooring and other applications.

Green Building Practices

Incorporating smart building technology is an important aspect of interior design in promoting sustainability and green building practices. Smart building technology refers to a wide range of electronic systems and devices that can optimize energy usage, improve building performance, and enhance occupants’ overall comfort and productivity.

Building Management System (BMS)

A Building Management System (BMS) is an essential feature of smart building technology. BMS can help to integrate and manage all the building systems such as lighting, HVAC, security and access control, energy management, and many more to optimize energy usage and improve building performance.

Green Roof and Wall Systems

Implementing green roof and wall systems is an important aspect of interior design in promoting sustainability and improving insulation. Green roofs and walls are systems used to cover buildings with vegetation, providing many benefits to the building and the environment.

Green Walls

Green walls are similar to green roofs, but they are used to cover walls instead of ceilings. They improve insulation, improve air quality, reduce the heat island effect and promote biodiversity by providing a habitat for plants and animals.

Implementation of Green Roof and Wall Systems

Integrating green elements, such as indoor plants and living walls, is an important aspect of interior design in promoting sustainability and well-being. Plants have been proven to impact mental and physical health positively and can be used to create a more comfortable and relaxing indoor environment.

Improving Indoor Air Quality

Incorporating green cleaning practices is an important aspect of interior design in promoting sustainability and improving indoor air quality. Green cleaning refers to the use of cleaning methods and products that are environmentally friendly and have a low impact on indoor air quality.

Sustainable Flooring Options

Using sustainable flooring options, such as bamboo or cork, is an important aspect of interior design in promoting sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of a building. Sustainable flooring options are made from renewable, biodegradable materials and have a low environmental impact.

Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo flooring, for example, is a sustainable option because it is a rapidly renewable resource and can be grown and harvested in as little as three to five years. Additionally, bamboo is durable and used in place of traditional hardwood flooring.

Cork Flooring

Cork flooring is another sustainable option; it is made from the bark of the cork oak tree and harvested without harming the tree. Cork is also a natural insulator and can help to reduce energy consumption and costs.

Linoleum Flooring

Linoleum flooring is also a sustainable option made from natural raw materials such as linseed oil, wood flour, cork powder, and pigments. It is a biodegradable and renewable resource and is naturally antimicrobial and hypoallergenic.

Biophilic Design

Using biophilic design elements, such as natural textures and forms, is an important aspect of interior design in promoting sustainability and well-being by creating a connection to nature. Biophilic design is an approach to architecture and interior design that incorporates elements of nature into the built environment, such as natural light, greenery, and natural materials.

Designing Recyclable Spaces

Designing spaces to encourage recycling and waste reduction is an important aspect of interior design in promoting sustainability. By creating spaces that make it easy for occupants to recycle and reduce waste, interior designers can help to reduce the environmental impact of a building.

Recycling and Composting Areas

One way to encourage recycling and waste reduction in interior design is by incorporating dedicated recycling and composting areas. These areas make it easy for occupants to separate recyclable and compostable materials from other waste. Additionally, clear signage and labeling can help occupants understand what materials can be recycled or composted.

Using Durable, Long-Lasting Materials

Another way to encourage recycling and waste reduction in interior design is by using durable, long-lasting materials that can quickly improve rather than be thrown away. For example, furniture made of solid wood or metal can be improved, while furniture made of cheap particleboard or plastic is more likely to end up in a landfill.

Reducing The Carbon Footprint

Using renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, is an important aspect of interior design in promoting sustainability and reducing the carbon footprint of a building. Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, are naturally replenished, in contrast to non-renewable sources, such as fossil fuels.

Incorporate Renewable Energy Sources

One way to incorporate renewable energy sources into interior design is through solar panels. Solar panels on the roof or walls of a building generate electricity from the sun’s energy. This electricity can power lights, appliances, and other building systems, reducing the need for electricity from non-renewable sources.

Another way to incorporate renewable energy sources into interior design is through wind turbines. Small-scale wind turbines are installed on the roof or walls of a building to generate electricity from the wind.

Incorporation of Natural Light and Ventilation

Incorporating natural light and ventilation into interior design reduces the need for artificial lighting and heating and promotes sustainability. By designing spaces that take advantage of natural light and ventilation, interior designers can reduce the need for artificial lighting and heating, which can help to lower energy consumption and cost,

Natural Light

One way to incorporate natural light into interior design is by using skylights, which allow natural light to enter a space from above. Another way is through large windows, which allow natural light to enter a space from the sides.

Ventilation

Ventilation is also an important aspect of interior design. By designing spaces that allow for natural ventilation, interior designers can reduce the need for artificial heating and cooling systems.

Incorporating Water-Saving Features

Incorporating water-saving features, such as low-flow faucets and toilets, is an important aspect of interior design in promoting sustainability and conserving water. Water scarcity is a major global concern, and by specifying products that use less water, interior designers can help to reduce the overall water consumption of a building.

Low-Flow Faucets

Low-flow faucets, for example, use less water per minute than traditional faucets and can help to reduce water consumption in bathrooms and kitchens. Similarly, low-flow toilets use less water per flush than standard toilets and can help to reduce water consumption in bathrooms.

Water-Efficient Showerheads and Aerators

Another water-saving feature that can be incorporated into interior design is water-efficient showerheads and aerators. These devices can help to reduce the amount of water used in showers and sinks without compromising performance.

Methods to Reduce Waste and Improve Energy Efficiency

The use of modular and prefabricated construction methods is an important aspect of interior design in promoting sustainability and green building practices. These methods involve constructing building components, such as walls and roof sections, off-site in a controlled factory environment and then assembled on-site.

Modular

Modular construction can reduce waste by allowing more efficient use of materials and minimizing the amount of scrap generated during construction. Additionally, constructing building components in a controlled factory environment can improve the quality and accuracy of the finished product and reduce the need for on-site rework.

Prefabrication

Prefabrication also allows for better control over the construction process, which can lead to improved energy efficiency. For example, by manufacturing building components in a controlled factory environment, it is possible to use higher-grade insulation and more energy-efficient systems, which can help to improve the thermal performance of a building.

Indoor Plants

Indoor plants can help to improve air quality by absorbing pollutants, and they also help to add moisture to the air, which can be beneficial to people with dry skin or respiratory problems. They can also help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

Living Walls

Living walls are a specific green element created by attaching plants to a vertical surface, usually made of a frame, substrate, and watering system. These walls can create a more natural and relaxing indoor environment. They can also improve air quality by absorbing pollutants and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.

Conclusion

In conclusion, interior design is crucial in promoting sustainability and green building practices. By incorporating sustainable materials, energy-efficient systems, and smart building technology, interior designers can help to reduce the environmental impact of a building and create spaces that are more sustainable and responsible. Other aspects such as green roof and wall systems, water-saving features, biophilic design, use of locally-sourced materials, green cleaning practices, and sustainable flooring options are all important aspects of interior design that contribute to the overall sustainability of a building. By implementing these strategies, interior designers can help create healthier spaces for people and the environment and contribute to a more sustainable future.

If you want to add sustainability to your designs, you must be certified. A diploma program in cad courses for interior design will likely cover topics such as energy-efficient design, sustainable materials and products, and strategies for reducing the environmental impact of a building. The program may also include hands-on learning opportunities, such as design projects focusing on sustainable design principles and visits to green buildings.

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