Green Interiors: Fun with Furniture – July 19, 2006

July 19, 2006

The Green Building Forum is held on the third Wednesday of each month (except December) @6:30 PM and features presentations by green building practitioners followed by discussion. The events are always free and open to the general public. Please RSVP by email to: rsvp@GreenHomeNYC.org. View the notes and related information from all our past forums here, and look for details on upcoming forums on our events calendar.

Many thanks to our speakers, hosts and attendees at the July forum, Summer Fun with Interiors, Part I of II

Speakers:
David Bergman, principal of his own architecture and interiors firm, and founder of Fire & Water, a furniture and lighting design/manufacturing company specializing in sustainably designed products.
Jesse Johnson, Q Collection, a Manhattan-based furniture design company that is committed to addressing indoor air quality
Where: Solar One (inside), Stuyvesant Cove Park East 23rd and the East River (6 Train to 23rd St, or L Train to 1st Ave.) Click for map and directions., 457 Madison Avenue
When: Wednesday, July 19, 6:30 – 8:00


Who said sustainable interior design, furniture, textiles and lighting cannot be stylish, contemporary and appealing to a mainstream audience? Not the two guests that the July forum was pleased to welcome at the Solar One green building classroom located along the East River front at 23rd Street. The two guest speakers were David Bergman, head of David Bergman Architect and founder of Fire & Water, and Jesse Johnson, co-founder and CEO of Q Collection.

David Bergman is breaking down barriers when it comes to the idea that eco-design is adobe homes, straw walls, grass mats, and only a hippie trend. Pointing out that we have come along way from that design style or lack thereof, companies like Vivavi and IIKH are creating cool and modern home furniture and accessories. Overcoming the legacy issue, David Bergman’s interiors and light fixtures are well-executed designs that are creative, fresh, and current yet constructed from sustainable, recycled materials and uses non-toxic finishes. Coining the term Eco Style or Transparent Green, the “green” is there, but it is not necessarily the first thing you see. What you do see and appreciate immediately is the visual and functional design intent. This is what you instantly see when viewing the beautiful, elegant, high-end furniture and rich and luxurious textiles of Q Collection. Q Collection is emphatically changing the outlook on sustainable design with their chic and striking pieces that have the health of humans and the health of the environment at the forefront of their designs.

LIGHTING
In the past, fluorescent lighting was associated with ugly fixtures, poor quality of light and discoloring skin tone. But technological improvements have made the fluorescent bulb the ideal replacement for standard incandescent applications.

The incandescent bulb, considered a ‘glorified toaster’ since the filaments within glow and produce heat, is not efficient. Incandescent and halogen bulbs produce 10 to 20+ LPW (Lumens per Watt); while compact fluorescents produce 50-60 LPW and linear fluorescents produce 60-90+ LPW. Fluorescent bulbs also last 10-20 times longer than incandescent bulbs! Another technological stride is Light Emitting Diodes. LEDs, are tiny light bulbs that do not have a filament to burn out, do not get especially hot, and are therefore very efficient. LEDs will play a big role in energy-saving light sources in the future.

Gone are the old obstacles of the fluorescents. Fluorescents are now dimmable. Philips offers the Marathon, an energy saving, dimmable fluorescent bulb. Widely available to consumers these days are replacement bulbs, which are compact fluorescent bulbs that fit into the same socket as an incandescent bulb. Also being manufactured these days are dedicated fluorescent bulbs, which are pin based bulbs specifically made for fixtures that accept this type of bulb. The benefit of these fixtures is that you cannot use the energy-inefficient incandescent. The ballast for the dedicated fluorescent bulb is smaller and integral in the design, making them more consumer-friendly.

The question David asks is: how do we get eco-lighting out of the granola legacy and into people’s bathrooms, kitchens and homes?

Breaking the design imagery that fluorescent fixtures are ugly, lighting manufacturers such as Lightolier, American Fluorescent Corp., Kichler and Justice Design are producing a new design of efficiency in light fixtures that are attractive, interesting and getting closer to what people want. With his award-winning decorative eco-lighting company, Fire & Water, David Bergman has successfully tackled the limitations of efficient light sources by creating light fixtures that are not only energy efficient, but are made of sustainable and/or recycled materials as well. Some of these materials are recycled glass, recycled plastic, eco-resin, and a biocomposite of soy flour and recycled paper.

ARCHITECTURE & INTERIORS
Since most interior design projects in New York City consists of apartment renovations, replacing existing building infrastructure systems like HVAC is not feasible. Therefore, utilizing sustainable materials is the main focus and goal for an interiors project. In one example of David Bergman’s work, a modern and colorful kitchen, we see the use of cork flooring, concrete countertops, recycled glass tiles, eco resin panels, linoleum desktops, and low VOC paints and finishes. David’s interiors see past the legacy problems of sustainable design since it is good design at the same time; aesthetics are not compromised. He starts with design, then layers in the eco-design.

FURNITURE, TEXTILES & HOME ACCESSORIES
Said to have made green haute, Q Collection designs and sells sustainable home furniture, textiles and accessories to the trade. Stylish, high-end, detailed and handsome, their products combine design and high quality with materials that reduce or eliminate risks to human health and the environment. Their mission is “to provide furnishings that are better for you, your home and our planet”. Q Junior is their baby furniture and bedding line that has the health of baby and of environment in mind.

According to the EPA, indoor air quality is now worse than outdoor air quality. Toxic chemicals that make up different interior home products and materials cannot be escaped and children are most susceptible. Concerned with how poor indoor air quality impacts health, Q Collection uses the purest and most environmentally-friendly materials available.

Carcinogens such as formaldehyde, polyurethane and flame retardants have been totally eliminated from the furniture-making process by Q Collection. As an alternative to glues with formaldehyde, water-based adhesives are used instead. They use finishes and dyes that are non-toxic. Instead of using wood stains and finishes with polyurethane, which has been found to cause cancer, water-based and low VOC alternatives are used. Since polyurethane is also the base material found in foam used in upholstery, Q Collection alternatively uses natural latex foam with no polyurethane. Cotton, although a required material in upholstery, is the world’s most polluting crop. Addressing this issue, Q Collection uses organic cotton that is free of pesticides for their batting and flannel.

As for their textiles, Q Collection fabrics are 100% biodegradable, using abaca, hemp, viscose (wool blend), and silk. They recapture their ‘waste stream’ of excess material by using it to create throw pillows, which creatively still look designed.

Knowing that the world loses forest area the size of a football field every 2 seconds, Q Collection uses only certified woods that do not threaten the environment. Using woods certified by FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), which is the best standard for certified woods, Q Collection has narrowed their use of hardwoods to ash and maple. Since mahogany is over cultivated, Q Collection chooses not to use that popular wood.

COSTS
When asked about costs of sustainable design, both speakers concur that high-end, made-to-order pieces such as their furniture and lighting fixtures can be costly. A major component to this high cost is the intensive labor that goes into producing their product. The economy of scales is such that many of these sustainable design companies are small and young and their pieces are made one at a time. In interior design, contractors unfamiliar with green practices and sustainable materials, tend to price their costs higher.

Another factor adding to the high costs is the materials. Since there is no standardization, these design companies must do their own research with scientists and the medical field. Another challenge is locating suppliers of sustainable materials, the issue of where raw materials are coming from, and the distances they must travel to get to the workshops and factories.

FUTURE OF SUSTAINABLE DESIGN
The good news is that there has been a tremendous shift in sustainable design in that it has caught the public eye. Mainstream magazines featuring articles on sustainable design are indicative that consumers are more accepting of the idea and practice. As more people demand and specify sustainable materials, the lower price points will become. As more designers and architects apply sustainable design, contractors will be trained and become more familiar with green materials. And fortunately, there are many green material suppliers increasing locally. Jesse Johnson believes that the demand of organic foods 10 to 15 years ago is where sustainable design is now. In 10 years’ time, demands for sustainable design will merge with the mainstream. Both speakers are not only confident with the path that sustainable design is heading, but they are leaders paving that path by creating notable designs that can be appreciated by everyone right now in the present.

-Maria Sagbiacela, July 2006

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