Do sustainable practices in interior design limit the possibilities of attractive design? Does engaging in these practices yield a competitive advantage to the firm? This research document will seek to explain the typical challenges or barriers to sustainable design encountered by interior designers and explain what designers can do to address these for the benefit of society, the client and their practice. The report will address the three types of challenges relevant to each of the categories of the triple bottom line: social, environmental and economic (as established by LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – the American standard for rating green buildings). In addition to these challenges and opportunities to sustainable design, a case study will be reviewed for the purpose of demonstrating how designers have embraced the challenges and gained recognition for doing so. The report will conclude with an evaluation of the competitive advantage of a design firm that embraces the challenges discussed as opposed to those firms that choose to operate under conventional practices.
Origins of a Sustainable Mentality
To fully understand the concept of sustainability it is crucial to understand its meaning. The term can be defined as “the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Green Building Education Services, 2009).
It is important to understand that the concept of green or sustainable design did not just arise the past century as a result of concern for the environment due to global warming, thinning of the ozone, or diminishing natural resources. The truth is that from the very beginnings of time, men designed with nature in mind (p.20, Stitt, 1999). For his survival, it was crucial for a man to understand his surroundings and adapt to them. According to Stitt, such connection and responsiveness to the environment is evident through the study of our primitive religions, arts, economies and languages. However, it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that men stopped considering the environment in their decisions. Now we are facing a world which is rapidly being deprived of its natural resources and we need to find a way to retrieve what we lost. And by this, I mean not just our resources, but our approach to the environment, our response to adaptation and ultimately our response to design (p.20, Stiff, 1999)
Role of Designers & Their Commitment to the Client
Interior designers are here to create spaces that meet their clients demand thorough a process that involves research, intelligent thinking and creative solutions. They attempt to fulfill the client’s needs with the most appropriate solution and at the same time consider elements such a public health, safety and welfare. Now, if designers claim to do these last three aspects, then we wouldn’t be behaving honestly to our profession if we didn’t make it a requirement upon ourselves to inform the clients of the range of options they have available in regards to true health, safety and welfare. By thinking sustainably, not only would the designer be considering the effects that design has on the environment, but also the effects that design has on its users. One important aspect of green design is that it looks at indoor environmental quality. This simply means the designer will focus on increasing the productivity, satisfaction, and health of its occupants. When people unfamiliar to the field of design think of sustainable design, they might make sole associations to recyclable products or alternative forms of energy. Therefore, it’s the role of the designer to inform the client of the different aspects of green design and how it can be beneficial to his/her well-being.