INTERIOR DESIGN &
CLIMATE CHANGE

 Building performance is the key driver of efficient design. Interior designers play a critical role in designing a balanced relationship with people and planet. These are some of the decisions an interior designer makes. 

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MATERIALS &
FURNITURE

EMBODIED CARBON

These are the carbon dioxide (CO₂) greenhouse gas emissions that result from materials and construction, and remain throughout the building's entire lifecycle. This includes the emissions that result from manufacturing, transport of materials/goods, and on-site construction. Embodied carbon consists of all CO₂ that results prior to the building/space becoming fully operational.

ALTERNATIVE MATERIALS

Interior designers have to make critical decisions when sourcing materials to curb emissions wherever possible. This may involve the use of alternative materials, which are less carbon intensive, or opting to source materials that are close in proximity to the project site. Examples of sustainable alternative materials are mycelium, a fibrous material derived from fungi, cacti, and bamboo, all of which are fast-growing and highly renewable and can replace traditional textiles/wood.

HUMAN + ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH

Materials directly influence human and environmental health. The chemical composition, toxicity, and pollutants of materials directly influence human health in the short and long term. Over time, through degradation, oxidation, and other processes, these chemicals are released and can cause severe impacts to our health and the environment. 

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SOLAR POSITIONING

SUN PATH

Assessing sun positioning is a critical part of the interior designer's role. This influences how decisions that optimize natural shading and comfort are integrated into the interior environment. Understanding the sun also becomes a way to access solar energy, natural lighting for the space, and serves as a free heat source. 

WINDOWS

Interior designers use sun path diagrams and other climatic variables, including temperature, to determine window placement, and glazing/treatment for optimization. Designers make these decisions to minimize the heat transmitted throughout the interior environment during warm months as well as to insulate to retain heat during the cold season. 

THERMAL COMFORT

Maximizing comfort for the occupants of a space is an integral part of the interior design process. Decisions an interior design can make in this regard include placement/proximity to windows, materials, ceiling height to regulate airflow, integrating systems that allow for users to control their environment (access to blinds, thermostat, and more.

SYSTEMS INTEGRATION

INTELLIGENT BUILDINGS

Interior designers can work alongside other stakeholders to create intelligent building systems. These are environments that leverage real-time data to monitor occupant behavior, thermal comfort, indoor air quality, and energy consumption. Systems that may be integrated to maximize efficiency are kinetic flooring as well as heat capture, storage, and repurposing. 

BIOMIMICRY + BIOPHILIA

Biomimicry involves creating interior systems that mimic those existing in living ecosystems. This is the process of solving human problems by designing environments based on natural and biological processes. This helps designers maximize efficiency and functionality.  Biophilia is defined as the human urge/tendency to harmonize with nature. Within interior design, biophilic practices are used to increase occupant proximity to the natural environment, whether through sound, materials, water/plants, etc. 

RENOVATIONS

The adaptation of existing buildings for maximum efficiency could be a primary driver of mitigating carbon emissions. Renovations are a massive source of emissions, resulting from demolition and the replacement of materials, furniture, and fixtures. Studies show that environments that experience cyclical, or recurring, renovations, ultimately produce more CO₂ than the building's exterior envelope. 

"INTERIOR DESIGN IS HUMAN ECOSYSTEM ENGINEERING"

BRENDAN BUCKLEY

LAMONT RESEARCH PROFESSOR, BIOLOGY AND PALEO ENVIRONMENT
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY