Green architecture is a relatively new branch of architecture which focuses on designing sustainable, environmentally friendly buildings in order to minimise the harmful effects of construction on the environment, as well the human health. Hence, the three fundamentals of green building can be listed as energy efficiency, resource conservation, and health. Interior design used in these structures is known as green interior design and is meant to be a counterpart to green construction. Green interior design focuses on building spaces that incorporate sustainability in terms of materials, energy usage, durability, etc. Construction projects aiming to achieve certification from green rating systems such as LEED should consider creating green interiors as a part of the project. Professional interior designers such as interior design Melbourne can be consulted to incorporate green interior design concepts to an existing space or to design an entirely new building with sustainability in mind.
Energy is a large aspect of buildings, and even more so in interior design. Energy can be considered in two ways – the energy used as the building is in operation, and the energy used in the extraction, manufacture and construction of the various materials used in the building as well as the building itself. The latter is known as embedded energy and is a subject of much concern in modern sustainable construction programmes.
The concept of embedded energy accounts for all energy used in the production of the materials used in the design. Therefore, greener designs are those that use materials with lower embedded energy. Interior design is mostly concerned with the energy savings associated by reducing the operational energy usage. This can be done by making maximum use of natural light and ventilation as opposed to extensive use of interior lighting and air conditioning, where buildings are cooled naturally or built to retain heat within the building. Examples for this type of designs are those that make liberal use of outdoor areas such as courtyards and verandas as well as skylights and windows for enhanced lighting and airflow. The materials used for the construction of internal partitions and walls are selected for their thermal properties to reduce the need of internal heating and air conditioning.
The materials used in green interiors should ideally be recycled or recyclable. The source of materials is also considered as well as the durability of materials. This is closely tied to the concepts of embedded energy and health of the occupants as building materials, especially those used in interior design have a substantial impact on health. Examples for sustainable materials include metal, which is fully recyclable and ethically sourced timber.
Materials such as asbestos and lead based paint are infamous for having caused significant health issues. Health of the occupants and the construction workers is another factor considered in most green building systems. The materials selected for interior design should be non-toxic and non-volatile. The non-volatility prevents the material from “shedding” and mixing with dust and air as time passes.