Retrofits are a huge part of the modern interior design sector. As we are in the midst of a huge push towards green building practices and materials, the interior design sector is increasingly completing refurbishments of inefficient spaces in order to improve their overall energy efficiency, something that is being strongly supported by the Green Building Council of Australia and their commitment to retrofitting Australia’s brownest of buildings.
But as these new building and design processes take over, there is always the chance of miscommunication and misunderstanding. We are being overwhelmed by spaces that claim to be green, but is it as simple as adding a pot plant to our offices? Shutting off the lights when we leave our rooms and cracking open a window and ditching the air-conditioning? Well no, not really.
With so much lack of understanding, it is imperative that we in this industry get it right; to truly promote what is a green interior, a sustainable interior, what is simply lower on energy usage and what is downright inefficient.
With the connection between green interiors and productivity boosts it makes good business sense to understand what exactly is involved in this growing industry facet.
In creating a green interior there are a number of things that can be implemented, some that rely on renewable energy sources, and some that do not. Talking in the most basic of terms, achieving a space that is green but does not rely on green technologies, is possible by taking a number of key elements into consideration.
Low VOC Materials
Flooring and paint materials that are low VOC are almost imperative to creating a green space. Not only will this make the space more environmentally friendly due to the low environmental harm production processes, but they can actually enable health benefits through the lack of harmful chemicals expelled.
Bring in the Green
Bringing in plant life not only makes a space greener (both figurative and literally) but it has been proven to reduce stress and boost productivity.
The idea of insulation cannot be repeated enough. Insulating with newspaper, straw or any other kid of green insulation can make a world of a difference to any interior space. If done to its full potential, it has the ability to create a space that is 100% naturally climate controlled, without the use of electrical heaters or coolers, saving carbon emissions and associated costs.
The use of LED and low carbon emitting lights are simply best practice in this country. When designing a space the use of natural light should also be implemented where it is best suited in order to further move away from a reliance on on-grid energy for lighting.
Colour is the dark sheep of green interiors, but it is a little known fact that the colour palette chosen for a room can affect its overall temperature. As with colours in every other situation, cooler shades reflect the sun and are perfect in spaces that receive a high amount of natural light. In contradiction to this, warmer colours should be used in rooms that are colder and have less natural light. In following this design technique, further reliance is taken off electrically run heating and cooling, thus greening up the space.
Furniture and Layout
Finally, the last simple and effective green design factors are furniture and layout. Furniture and fittings can be used as some of the simplest and easiest insulators.
The layout of a space is also imperative in order to make the most of natural ventilation, thermal mass and natural climate control opportunities.
In order to create green interior sacrifices do not have to be made and design limits are not imposed. While Joost’s Bakker’s Greenhouse is a prime example of a sustainable building, both inside and out, working in the green zone does not call for such extremes.
With small changes come big results, and by incorporating these design features reliance can be taken off grid-based energy, productivity can be boosted, money can be saved, and our environments will not be hit so hard.
By Emily D’Alterio