Let's not forget that sustainable interior design plays an important role in addressing serious problems related to the built environment, specifically everything related to carbon emissions. Although in many cases we depend on the construction sector, the reality is that the very nature of construction, as we understand it today, is unsustainable.

Sustainable design, on the other hand, is a complex and elaborate approach that takes into account not causing damage to the environment, thus minimizing the negative impact it produces.

The key issues and sustainable design options that professionals in the sector should consider are related to:

  • Energy efficiency

  • Water systems

  • Construction and installation materials and techniques used.

Energy in Sustainable Design

The production of energy from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas generates greenhouse gas emissions, thus contributing to climate change. Conventional energy consumption also causes depletion of resources (coal, oil and natural gas) that cannot be easily replenished, if they do.

That is, the conclusion to all this is that we must reduce the use of energy using passive design techniques, energy efficient products and choosing renewable energy sources.

The passive design is remarkably simple and incredibly effective. What it indicates is that we must take advantage of the sun, wind and outside temperatures to choose the orientation, shape and design of the building and its thermal envelope (which, of course, is a vital element of the overall design).

The passive design incorporates:

  • The use of natural heat from the sun to heat interiors.

  • Solar shading, which controls sun exposure, which is incorporated in the form of solar control glazing, deep overhangs, blinds or external blinds.

  • The thermal mass, which is created using dense materials with the ability to store high heat and cold, is used for natural heating and cooling.

  • Thermal insulation, this reduces the rate of heat or cold transfer from the outside and reduces the need for heating and mechanical cooling.

  • Natural ventilation takes advantage of the use of windows, vents, roof vents, etc., thus allowing fresh air to flow naturally around the internal spaces.

  • Air tightness prevents many unwanted drafts and, consequently, heat loss.

  • The natural lighting during the day, is collected by glazing, other transparent materials and the depth of the rooms, reducing thanks to this the need for electric lighting by optimizing the availability of natural sunlight.

  • Living walls, consist of a very useful type of passive design that can be used inside the house. What is usually done is to use soil to provide thermal mass and plants to absorb dust and air pollution.

Of course, passive design has its barriers to break down, and professionals will generally need help to ensure that any passive energy strategy installed in a construction is successful and effective. It is possible that not all of these elements are used, for which it will always be necessary for the interior designer to take into account energy efficiency, particularly in terms of lighting, use of appliances and construction services with energy efficiency for heating, ventilation and cooling.

The passive design is even more effective, and much cheaper, than the installation of renewable energy systems, since these require the work of several professionals, such as those in charge of electrical, plumbing or mechanical engineering services.

Renewable energy systems produce energy from sources that, unlike fossil fuels, and as the name implies, are renewable. The most common systems are:

  • Solar thermal heating for water

  • Photovoltaic cells for solar-powered electricity

  • Heat pumps for heating and cooling

  • Wind power for electricity

  • Biomass for heating

Water in Sustainable Design

We need to make responsible use of water to avoid its scarcity, particularly in dry regions. But, in addition to this, the transport and processing of water for use in the construction industry also generates carbon emissions.

The most appropriate way to conserve water is to collect rainwater and recycle gray water from bathtubs, washing machines and dishwashers. Water-saving accessories and appliances are also effective, and water meters allow occupants to see their use of water and reduce their use.

Materials in Sustainable Design

The materials that can be used are very varied and the effect they cause on the environment is much broader, ranging from the depletion of resources and the loss of biodiversity, to the impact on health and waste generation. It is true that the exact impact on several environmental problems is different, since the energy required for manufacturing and during the life cycle of materials and products manufactured from them is unconditional. Happens all the time.

The materials also contribute characteristics to the way in which the spaces work from their thermal performance to the general durability, also affecting the impact that a construction project and the resulting structure have on the environment.

The best way to mitigate the damage is to reduce the consumption of these materials whenever possible, and replace them with materials that are made sustainably and reused and recycled whenever we can.

To finish, but not least, interior designers should reduce, reuse and, when possible, recycle materials. In addition, they need to use renewable energy as much as possible. They cannot also forget the possible environmental impact of the materials, processes and products at each stage of the construction project, including the phase in which the building is occupied and if later it was necessary to demolish it.

Another important aspect to keep in mind is that you always have to think about codes and regulations, so you should always work with professionals from the city or area where we live, for example, engineers, architects or interior designers from New York or Chicago. Sometimes the full spectrum, especially when it comes to many construction experts. A good team will work together and share their knowledge on the key issues of sustainable construction and design in order to achieve environmentally friendly results.