For the Australian industry at large, green interior design is largely focused on lowering environmental impacts and carbon output of a space. This is in line with major green building perceptions, but fails to encompass holistically sustainable principles and foundations.
While there may be a perception of this kind of one-track green ideal, those who lead the green building sector are not ignoring these extra vital elements. In fact, they are doing just the opposite.
In a move that is an important reminder of the various other elements of green interiors, Environment Minister Greg Combet officially opened the Indoor Environmental Quality Laboratory at the University of Sydney. The world class facility aims to emphasise the importance of interior air quality, how this can be improved through the implementation of green building features (ie. low VOC materials, natural ventilation ect.) and its strong positive impact on productivity and health and wellbeing.
The laboratory will act as an industry test centre for professionals from across the spectrum to develop an understanding of the element of increased interior ‘quality’ as a key element of green buildings, and how this relates to a number of air quality and room comfort from natural ventilation and daylighting to acoustics and internal temperature control.
According to the head of the laboratory, Professor Richard de Dear, the shift away from traditional green thinking as a solely environmental stream is an important and relevant move to encourage in the regards to Australian industry workers.
“So what is a green building? It’s a building designed, or retrofitted, to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on the natural environment and building occupants by: Efficiently using energy, water, and other resources, and; protecting occupant health, improving comfort and employee productivity” says de Dear.
While de Dear appreciates the importance of an energy effiency/environmental focus on these spaces up until now, he also notes the importance of Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ), which stands as an up and coming ‘second tenet’ of green buildings and involves factors of ‘temperature, radiant heat, humidity, air movement, ventilation rates, indoor air pollution, daylight, artificial lighting, sound and acoustics’.
“It’s true that the first tenet of green buildings, resource efficiency, has received most attention to date, but the focus is shifting to the second tenet – IEQ,” says de Dear.
In addition to acting as a general test bed for works of this nature, the laboratory will allow for research that will set new IEQ standards.
“The research projects already under way in our IEQ lab aim to establish a set of principles, guidelines and protocols that can be used to assess the performance of a building from the point of view of its occupants,” says de Dear.
Shifting the focus away from the typically environmental elements of green building and placing it on the added value that this offers – value to health, value to living standards, value as a productivity booster – the sector is in a position to be far more acceptable to a mainstream industry. The laboratory will promote the value added by IEQ and the importance it now holds to our national interior design sector.