What Are the Different Types of Sustainable Interior Design?

Jessica Ellis

Sustainable interior design involves the use of certain materials and building practices to reduce environmental damage. Common types of sustainable interior design methods and concentrations include the incorporation of alternative energy systems, energy-reducing design, and the use of low-pollution, recycled, or sustainable materials. Some interior spaces may use one primary type of sustainable interior design, while others may incorporate aspects of many different environmental concerns to create a fully green space.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

The addition of alternative energy systems to interior spaces is an important focus of sustainable interior design. While the installation of solar panels or hand-powered generators may involve exterior construction, an alternative energy home will need to be designed or retrofitted to suit the new energy system. This can include the alteration of standard power systems, appliances, and interior fixtures to work with solar power, or the installation of faucets that are compatible with sustainable thermal heating systems.

In addition to making a home alternative-energy friendly, sustainable interior design also includes the incorporation of design elements that make a home energy efficient. Passive heating systems, such as windows and floors designed to retain and maximize sunlight, can go a long way toward reducing energy costs. The placement of windows and skylights can also increase the natural ventilation potential of an indoor space, allowing for reduced cooling costs. Even carefully chosen soft building materials, such as thermal-backed curtains, can help cut down on heating costs and energy usage.

Much of sustainable interior design focuses on the materials used in creating an indoor space. One major concern is the reduction or elimination of chemically-treated materials, such as paint, carpeting, and textiles, that can increase air pollution within an indoor space. Green-focused designers often look for products that undergo minimal treatment, or those certified as low-emission products.

Recycled materials are also an important part of sustainable interior design. Used plastic, paper, and fabric can now be turned into nearly any interior product, from tablecloths and doormats to desks and insulation. Some interior designers will search out products that are made from recycled or recyclable materials to help reduce landfill pollution, manufacturing demand, and non-biodegradable waste.

The use of materials made from sustainable, well-managed natural resources is another critical type of sustainable interior design. Tropical hardwoods, for instance, are often eschewed by green designers unless they come from a sustainable farm that does not harvest from natural rainforests. Bamboo is an incredibly popular green material, since it is easy to grow and manage in a commercial setting, and thus is not at risk for extinction or overuse. Organic fibers, such as organically grown cotton, is also prized, since the chemical-free growth of the fibers does not contribute to air and water pollution.

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