Making it Easier to be Green
Green design includes energy conservation, but that's not what it's all about. It's about having good air quality both indoors and outdoors, making the environments in which we work, live, study and play healthier and more comfortable and conserving all of our natural resources.
This site will provide a balanced, holistic view that includes advice about saving energy, water and other natural resources, improving indoor air quality, using environmentally responsible design and construction techniques and minimizing waste.

I will be focusing on interiors for three reasons:

  • We spend about 90% of our time indoors.
  • Buildings in the United States annually consume about 30% of our total energy and 75% of our electricity.
  • As a New York State Certified Interior Designer and a LEED Accredited Professional, I want to share my knowledge and expertise with you.
Sustainable design and construction can be done in many different styles and using a wide variety of materials. There are examples of healthy, sustainable, comfortable and inviting interiors for commercial, not-for-profit and residential clients on the web site for Interior Design Solutions.
You can use the labels on the sidebar to locate entries that you want to read. For instance, most people might want to look at the entries for "Green Homes," but "Green Finance" would be of more interest to professionals involved in the design, construction, management, financing and marketing of buildings.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why You Can't Afford to Not Go Green

I was very surprised last evening when a group of highly successful developers were asked about their plans for going green, and each of them mentioned cost as a barrier for doing so. I realize that sometimes environmentally preferable choices have higher initial costs, and that access to capital is tight. But these were developers who usually operated their properties, rather than selling them, which meant that their own bottom lines could benefit from energy and water efficiency. And more importantly, there are considerable risks associated with not going green. It's not just that operating costs can affect a building's value, it's also that when you "economize" by eliminating more sustainable choices you might run afoul of the law.

Local, state and federal officials are taking steps to require energy and water efficiency, and regulations are becoming increasingly strict. And no one seems focused on the fact that while incentives are often available for efficiency levels that exceed legal requirements, you cannot get a payment or a tax break reward for simply obeying the law.

U.S. Green Building Council recently released Top 10 lists of green building legislation in the House and Senate. That's nineteen bills in addition to The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was signed into law about a year ago. Twenty Federal bills, and who knows how many state and local bills, seem a very strong indication that "going green" is not really optional. Many of the bills do involve incentives, but often those who cannot be persuaded by a carrot do wind up on the wrong end of a stick. The USGBC "Top Ten" include:

House Legislation

Senate Legislation

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sustainable Interior Design --- Making Healthier Choices

The mantra of green design is "People, Planet, Profit." Personally, I don't think that there is any contest as to which of these is most important. While we do need to preserve the planet for future generations, we cannot risk their health and well being in the process. And our extreme focus on certain areas of green design and determination to prove them cost-effective could lead to serious health problems for current and future generations. Because energy efficient buildings are by definition relatively air-tight any toxins, dust or mold that are brought into such buildings tend to stay there.

Sustainable interior design, architecture and construction done properly are holistic practices that protect the health of building occupants. But unfortunately one of the most important aspects of what responsible design professionals do can be value engineered out of a project by someone who is focused on short-term financial paybacks and unfamiliar with the potential serious risks, both to the physical health of building occupants and the long-term fiscal health of any organization that does not take the necessary steps to ensure healthy indoor environmental quality.

When I tell people that I specialize in sustainable interior design, I often get the impression that they think "bamboo," when in reality I'm much less focused on saving trees than protecting people. Preserving North American forests may be more closely monitored than preserving healthy indoor air quality. And many sources for bamboo introduce more toxins into the interiors in which we spend 90% of our time than hardwood products would.

Improved indoor air quality can help reduce asthma, flu, sick building syndrome, headaches and respiratory problems that can lead to missed time from work or school, chronic illness, and potential lawsuits. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has quite a bit of information on preserving indoor air quality and the potential risks of not doing so in this section of its site:

Indoor Air Quality - EPA

Every interior design project, whether it involves space planning and construction or just new carpet, furniture and/or a fresh coat of paint, can affect the health of building occupants. And poor choices on the part of individual tenants can disrupt the air quality in even a LEED Platinum building. So all things being equal, I recommend always working with a design professional with demonstrable expertise in improving indoor environmental quality.