Answer: Green design takes into account the health of the environment as well as its inhabitants, not just now, but in the future. If a product is made, say from non-biodegradable materials, its use is not environmentally sound as it will be discarded in a landfill and remain for centuries to come. However, if that material can be recycled for new use, then it becomes less harmful in the way it can be used and manufacturing original material is no longer necessary.
Green design does include the products used in an interior, but it really begins with the builder in new construction and continues throughout the entire design process. Learning to identify as well as correct non-environmentally sound design details and correcting them can be difficult. You can arm yourself with some preliminary research and education.
Since you already have a project, consider this your case study and grow from here. Begin by outlining your client's requirements. For example, the flooring. Hard surface flooring that is free from man-made materials would included such selections as marble, hardwood, brick, concrete, Mexican tile, slate, flagstone and other stone products. Soft floor coverings including area rugs, wall to wall carpet and tapestries, will need to be made from wool, cotton, sisal, jute or other natural resources. Today there is an array of beautiful floor coverings made from these natural materials, which I saw recently at the Surfaces '97 Floor Coverings Show in Las Vegas, NV. I was so impressed with all of the new flooring products made from 100 percent cotton and 100 percent wool. Manufacturers today are keenly aware of this growing interest and need for environmentally friendly products.
Many Web sites exist today and more are added every day that will help you find environmentally sound products. Below is a collection of sources on the Net as well as conventional (by telephone) that I have found to be helpful.
http://www.greenbuilder.com/sourcebook/howtouse.htm http://www.sustainable.doe.gov/articles/gpd/index.html firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail) email@example.com (e-mail) Design Response: (408) 286-3822 firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail) email@example.com (e-mail) Allied Signal (804) 520-3564
Green design is so important to saving our environment for ourselves and our children. Whatever we can do to protect it as well as our clients' well-being will prove positive for the future. Good luck and good learning.
Wall selections will be more of a challenge, especially for painted surfaces. Many of the paints used today still are made from harmful materials. Make sure you use a water-based paint wherever painting is required. Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emission standards vary from state to state. You do want paint with a low VOC emission. Become familiar with different suppliers of paint by reading about their paint specifications. This can be a tedious task, but is well worth the time spent. Another factor to consider is the coverage, volume of solids, drying time, etc.
Wallpaper selection also may be limited. Choose materials such as grass cloth, linen or other natural fiber content for your designs. Other wall treatments such as granite, marble, wood, stone, brick, glass block and concrete (painted and designed) can help you create not only a unique interior, but also a healthy one.
Fabrics for window treatments, upholstery and accessories follow suit and will need to be made from cottons, linens, flax, wool, silk and other natural fibers. Fabric manufacturers offer an array of selections made from such yarns. Also consider wood blinds, shutters, woven woods and natural grass shades.
When working with natural fabrics, it is important to think about the harmful sun rays that will damage your finished products. Use a cotton lining, when possible, have the windows tinted from the outside, and use caution when specifying natural fabrics for window treatments. There are particular fabrics that are stronger than others. Always check the specifications on the back of each fabric sample for additional information and don't be afraid to consult your representative or the manufacturer directly with any questions.
Fabrics used for seating require some additional consideration. You will want something that is easy to clean, especially with children and pets (even if the pets are outdoors, if the children are playing with them, their hair and dirt will be carried indoors on the children's hands and clothing). For stain removal protection, you may have to do some additional research, unless your client is not opposed to man-made substances for fabric protection. Leather is a good choice for a natural fabric and does not require stain protection. Usually a mild soap and water will remove most surface spills. Remember to check with the manufacturer for cleaning tips.
Ceiling treatments that are environmentally friendly may also be used. Woods and other natural products for ceilings are readily available from various manufacturers.
This is a continuing series of articles written by Sharon L. Anderson which will answer some of the many questions we receive at Draperies & Window Coverings, as well as questions Anderson has encountered in her own business.
Sharon L. Anderson, Associate Member, Interior Design Educator's Council (IDEC), has more than 14 years experience as a commercial and residential design professional. She has taught numerous courses at colleges and universities throughout Southern California and is a published author and frequent public speaker.