"It's too old"!; "It's to stuffy and too hot." these are the resonating battle guns of the "air-conditioning wars", which we all have, or will at some point in our working lives, participate in. this is just one example of the issues that we deal with in our working environments, our home environments, and in human comfort and sustainability in general. Sick building syndrome is another term that jumps to mind, an epidemic that has been kept quiet for too long. Sick building syndrome is mostly caused by poor indoor air quality. We can blame the lack of productivity in the workplace, the endless thousands of rands that we pour into medical bills, and the alarming carbon emissions footprint, on our unsustainable ways
Sustainable design has taken the world by storm, but it seems that the fire is not burning or rather green enough, where interior design is concerned. We need to take the microscope to the word ‘sustainable’ in design, and unpack it piece by piece. When we do that , we realise that it refers to a holistic design perspective, meaning that no stone can go unturned. Having said that, lets take a closer look at our internal environments. Are e comfortable where we work? What about where we live? What impact do our habitats have on this environment?
The factors to take a look at, when designing sustainable interiors, are: ventilation, thermal insulation, furniture and materiality. Every aspect of our internal environment needs to be considered, from floors to ceilings, window openings, lighting, walls finishes, surfaces, just about everything.
It is astonishing how many toxins and fumes we have in our homes and workplaces, particularly in paints, adhesives and cleaning products we use. Some of these contain Volatile Organic Compounds which linger in the air. Notable toxins that we live with range from benzene to formaldehyde to asbestos (from historic sources). What is also alarming is that, in air-conditioned offices, there is hardly any fresh air let into the building and, although going green is all about recycling, it is quite disturbing how we re-use germ and illness-laced air for eight hours, five days a week, for the average worker.
There are many eco-friendly products geared to help in the design of sustainable interiors, and in sustainable living. For example, there are energy saving appliances, alternative materials for furniture, such as locally produced wood, bamboo (which is sustainable, depending on the source), locally produced fabrics and hemp. Hemp has recently taken the spotlight for being versatile and very sustainable.