Sustainable Architecture and Interior Design Solutions: Sustainability Is Not a Trend, it’s a Duty
April ends with a smell of spring and with a strengthened global eco-conscientiousness – after a lot of #TakeAction Days like Earth Day. This seemed to us like a perfectly good reason to choose sustainable architecture and interior design solutions as our major inspiration for this month!
Society is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of environmentally responsible architecture and interior design. More and more people seek to incorporate sustainability principles in their projects, in their interiors and architects and Interior designers have a tremendous impact on the sustainability of an environment because they are the ones deciding which materials and products will be used and how ecologically people will be able to interact with their surrounding spaces, ecosystem or communities. The philosophic focus is to ensure that the actions taken today do not have negative consequences for future generations and comply with the principles of social, economic and ecological sustainability.
By following simple sustainable principles, architects and interior designers can reduce the negative environmental impact of our society and definitely help us build a better, more sustainable future.
Always design for energy efficiency
Buildings are today one of the major contributors to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, due to energy consumption and waste. Architects and interior designers can do a lot to reduce the amount of energy needed for heating, lighting, running appliances, etc…, by providing renewable, non-carbon-based energy to the building or space.
Good thermal Insulation and lighting are two crucial factors for a building’s energy efficiency that architects and interior designers have influence over. The orientation of a building and its windows or the size of its rooms are examples of normal architectural strategies to ensure energy efficiency. A well-insulated building will require less heat generating or dissipating power, provided it has the capacity to ventilate and expel polluted indoor air.
Curtains and drapes help to keep cold air and the sun’s heat outside. Nevertheless, window coverings, blinds and shades enable to control the building’s temperature in an energy efficient way by opening and shutting them as needed. Carpets and other décor details can excellent thermal insulators. A simple carpet can retain as much as 10 % of a room’s heat.
To save energy spent on lighting, a lot can be done besides including architectural details like huge glass façades or skylights. Using reflective surfaces and lighter colours in interiors increase the amount of light in a room by bouncing it around, decreasing dependency on artificial lighting.
Solar panels, solar water heaters, Small-scale wind turbines can be added and included to buildings and spaces to help to generate electricity and heat in a more cost-effective and eco-friendly way. Installing home or office automation and so-called ‘’green gadgets’’ make it possible to control heating, lighting and other systems remotely, helping residents and occupants use the building’s energy even more efficiently.
Use materials with low environmental impact
When we have sustainability in mind it´s imperative to choose materials and products with the lowest environmental impact.
Concerning sustainable architecture or interior design, the best choice is always to use smart materials that can be found at the building site itself or in its surroundings. It gives more character to the project and saves energy that would be needed to produce new materials.
Organic materials (e.g. wood, wool, and natural stone) seem an obvious choice, but we must not forget that natural resources need to be treated responsibly. Choose materials that are quickly renewable and extracted in an environmentally responsible way, such as cork. cork oak, the outer layer of bark, can be utilized while the tree itself remains preserved and ready to be harvested at every nine years. Choosing solutions with other innovative materials such as PET fibre helps reducing waste from PET bottles as well as to provide acoustic and thermal comfort.
The environmental impact of materials and products must be evaluated throughout their entire life cycle — from extraction, production, transportation and processing, all the way to how they are discarded after use.
Design for waste reduction and management
Architects and Interior designers have a lot of power in their hands when it comes to waste reduction, and at the same time, a big responsibility to act sustainably. Systems need to be built into the design that will manage things like grey water harvesting for garden beds, composting toilets to reduce sewage and water usage, as well as on-site food waste composting.
The planet’s precious resources are limited, and we are finally moving beyond the mentality of discarding products as soon as they go out of style. The world of design is becoming increasingly aware of the need for sustainable thinking and that is why we are also experiencing a growing interest in sustainable trends, like recycling, upcycling and repurposing. Instead of discarding objects while they are still functional, interior designers can – and most certainly should – come up with creative ways to give them a whole new life and purpose.
Another smart way in which architects and interior designers can help divert waste from landfills and the consumption of our natural resources is by opting for synthetic materials that were made from recycled waste or can be recycled and reused at the end of their life cycle . ARCHYI.’s Sculpo Collection is a great example of this kind of cradle-to-cradle approach when waste becomes the raw material for new products and solutions.
Design for safety, longevity and flexibility
Buildings and spaces should be designed and constructed to last and to lower the potential for accident and injury. Using non-combustible and low-formaldehyde materials, low-VOC paint and ensuring that entryways and pathways are easily accessible and well lit is definitely a smart choice. Security fixtures and fittings should include equipment such as sensor lights and alarm systems.
Also for security and well-being reasons, architects and interior designers should consider the lifespan of any material they plan to use, especially for those areas that experience a lot of wear. The goal of designing for longevity is to design durable and timeless spaces choosing quality over quantity, clean and classic over trendy, simplicity and functionality over elaborated embellishments.
Designing flexible spaces is one of the keys to longevity. As people grow and change, they need surrounding spaces to grow with them and reflect those changes. interior designers should consider the flexibility of spaces anticipating future changes. Walls that can be modified to create more spaces when children get bigger and need their own rooms, adjustable and mobile furniture that can be re-assembled to fit the needs of the flexible modern workplace, modular flooring that allows personalization and easy replacement of individual pieces, and so on.
The application of flexible modular elements also makes spaces and buildings easier to maintain as you can replace just the worn-out pieces instead of the whole, helping to keep more waste out of landfills.
Easy maintenance is relevant when designing for longevity. Hard to maintain spaces and buildings will be suffering inevitable regular changes. Investing in elements that are sturdy, durable and easy to clean or replace, however, means that fewer renovations will be needed and, consequently, less waste will be generated. Saving costs that would go toward cleaning and maintenance is an additional great benefit.
Design for healthy and comfortable environments
We spend most of our time indoors; in offices, schools, at home, when we go out to dinner or shopping and that is why considering the health of an environment should be at the top of any architect or interior designer’s priority list. There are several factors to keep in mind when trying to design healthy spaces, nevertheless, the quality of the air, heating, ventilation, lighting and acoustics are those that matter most.
Indoor air pollution is one of the five biggest environmental threats to public health and is mostly originated by the use of products and materials with high levels of toxic emissions. For example, furniture or other elements that have been treated with harmful chemicals release dangerous toxins into the air. Choosing materials with low emissions of VOC (volatile organic compounds) and other air pollutants will improve indoor air quality. Ventilation’s also important so that the air in a room can regularly circulate and remain fresh.
Plants act as natural air filters, and — contrary to common beliefs — so do carpets. Carpets improve air quality by trapping the dust particles from the air and holding them until vacuumed.
Designing healthy comfortable spaces also means to include tall ceilings, strategic use of color and natural materials, textures and patterns, features that encourage walking, such as stairs or the placement of shared resources, ergonomic equipment and furniture, allowing access to natural light in all spaces, as much as possible and active noise reduction through sound absorbing wall and ceiling panels or modular dividers.
ARCHYI. team is positive that these principles are becoming paramount to design in general. Architects and interior designers are the creators of the spaces we live in throughout our lives and should always be guided by sustainable and biophilic approaches not only to help take care of the environment but also simultaneously, ourselves and our future. That is why sustainability in architecture and interior design is not, in fact, a growing macro trend, but an inevitable and unquestionable duty.