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.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


If you own or operate a restaurant saving energy, water and other natural resources and limiting waste is not just citizenship, it's good business. By adopting environmenally sound practices you can improve your profit margin without raising prices or comprimising quality. 
Restaurants use five times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings and five times more energy in the kitchen than in the rest of the building.  And all of the energy you waste doesn’t just disappear --- it turns to heat and makes everyone uncomfortable unless you crank up the air conditioner.  The New York Restaurant Association estimates that a 10% decrease in energy costs has the same impact on operating income as a 1.26% increase in sales.

This blog entry offers practical ways to save energy and water and to reduce some other forms of waste, but the most valuable part of it is in  the “USEFUL RESOURCES” section. That’s where you’ll find web sites with a wealth of information and the email address of someone who can arrange for a free audit of your restaurant sponsored by the New York Restaurant Association Education Foundation.

  • Make sure that all equipment is in good operating order, including heating and ventilating systems, appliances, and lighting controls.  Filters should be changed and coils should be cleaned often, especially in a restaurant.
  • Only run equipment when you need to.  During slower times, turn off things that are not in use.
  • When purchasing new appliances, computers or other equipment, get the most energy efficient models you can.  The EPA’s Energy Star designation is indicative of energy efficiency, but some of the listed items are even more efficient than others.
  • If you are installing new lighting, consider engaging a lighting designer who is a LEED Accredited Professional. Good lighting design is an art and a science.
  • For a very modest cost you can change old fashioned fluorescent bulbs to more efficient T8s.  You’ll not only save energy and money with this quick and easy change, the kitchen staff may feel more comfortable because more efficient lighting generates less heat.
  • Turn off computers and other electronic devices when they are not in use.  Electronic devices use some power even when they are off, so it’s best to plug them into a power strip and power that off.
  • Demand response systems or variable speed motors in range hoods can save a lot of money, both by reducing the energy consumed by blowers and by reducing the load on the heating and ventilation system.
·        Check for leaks. Everywhere.
·        Put aerators on faucets that you are not replacing.
·        Low-flow pre-rinse spray valves can save a lot of water.  They are inexpensive and easy to install.
·        If you are replacing plumbing fixtures or fittings purchase models that save water.  Low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets are being used in all the best places.
·        Appliances vary in their water consumption, just as they do in their energy consumption, so if you’re buying anything new get the most efficient model possible.
·        It’s even more important to save hot water than cold water, because heating water takes so much energy. Insulating pipes and equipment is an easy and inexpensive way to conserve hot water. 

  • Limit the use of disposable goods.
  • Recycle cooking oil.  Your cooking waste is someone else’s biodiesel fuel.
  • Track food waste and modify purchases accordingly.
  • Donate surplus food to food banks.

The New York State Restaurant Association Education Foundation has a Green Hospitality Initiative. There is a workbook on their site that you can use on your own, and they have an EPA grant that allows them to offer restaurants free audits for energy, water and waste.

Flex Your Power – Provides a very useful best practices guide for restaurants called Boosting Restaurant Profits with Energy Efficiency.  The following link will get you to the section of the site I just mentioned, but poke around a bit because there’s also quite a bit of useful advice in other sections:

Food Service Technology Center – Provides information about demand response kitchen exhaust, among other things.

Energy Star – Provides tips for saving energy and appliance efficiency ratings:

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Good indoor air quality is important for our health and well-being. Studies by the U.S. Green Building Council, the Federal Government and private entities demonstrate correlations between improved indoor environments and increased productivity and measure that increase in terms of reduced absenteeism. Other studies show that students attending green schools have higher than average scores on standardized tests.
Indoor air quality is typically five times worse than outdoor air quality, and standard construction procedures can degrade air quality and increase health risks. But green design and construction can greatly improve the quality of the air we breathe and create healthier, more pleasant environments at little or no additional cost.
As buildings become more airtight to conserve energy, it is more important than ever to reduce the amount of pollutants and increase the amount of fresh air that we introduce into our homes, schools and businesses.

Here are a few simple steps that you can take to minimize problems with air quality.    
  • Air conditioning vents and equipment should be covered properly during the entire construction project.
  •  Window fans installed and used specifically for construction can help exhaust dust and fumes.
  • Possessions should be removed from the job site, if possible.  Anything left on the premises should be covered and placed in a separate, sealed-off space.
  • Whenever possible, windows should be left open while work is being done.  
  • Job sites should be kept clean and isolated from other areas.  
  • The filters in all air conditioners should be changed when construction has been completed and before occupancy.  It is best to use the highest rated filters that will fit the units.
  • Allow time for the dust to settle and be removed and for odors to dissipate before you move in. 
  • Consider replacing air conditioners with high-performance models that have improved filters.  A filter’s efficacy is indicated by its Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or “MERV.”  MERV ratings range from one to 16, with higher numbers being better.
  • Limit the use of organic building materials in wet or damp areas.  For instance, use moisture-resistant sheetrock in bathrooms, basements and other damp areas.  Use cement backer board for wet areas like showers.
  • Fresh air is especially important in moist areas and cooking areas.  Use bathroom fans and range hoods that vent to the outside, if possible.  
  • Bigger is not always better.  If you install new air conditioners, make sure that you don’t oversize them because a unit that is too powerful can cause problems with humidity and mold. 
  • Wood and bamboo products (whether used in construction materials or furniture) should have no added urea formaldehyde.     
  • Certain solids and liquids, especially composite products, paint, stains, adhesives, sealers and cleaning products emit gases called Volatile Organic Compounds (“VOCs”), and some VOCs have adverse health effects.  Use zero or low VOC materials, whenever possible.  Improvements are constantly being made to the  performance and toxicity limits of low-VOC products.
  • Avoid products containing vinyl (Poly Vinyl Chloride – “PVC”), whenever possible.  Studies have linked the use of such products with serious health problems, especially in children, and the manufacture of PVC releases material that the EPA considers hazardous.
  • Carpet, carpet pads and fabric can also emit toxins.  Organic textiles are not necessarily healthier, unless they are pesticide-free and untreated.
  • If you have a choice, opt for furniture manufactured with water-based or other low-VOC finishes.
  • Antique and vintage wood furniture that has its original finish will not off-gas.
EPA - Environmental Protection Agency - Provides useful advice for safeguarding our indoor and outdoor environments:
Green Seal, Greenguard and SCS – Organizations that test and certify products for lower toxic emissions:

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)- A not-for-profit organization that sets and administers voluntary standards for sustainable design and construction called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).  USGBC not only certifies buildings, it also accredits design and construction professionals. The web site includes a search engine for LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED APs) by practice area and zip