August Monthly Forum Re-cap: Green Interiors

September 2, 2014

BY:  KATYA GULETSKY   By show of hands, the majority of attendees of the GreenHomeNYC August Monthly Forum on Green Interiors were almost equally divided among interior designers, architects, and product designers. They came to hear Green Interior Design practitioners talk about green design, its design vocabulary, standards, and examples of application, about making green furniture, and about teaching and learning to be a green designer.   The conversation was kicked off by Ethan Lu, the Director of Graduate Studies at the New York School of Interior Design and Principal at Metropolitan United Studio. Mr. Lu talked about the general principles of green interior design, which seeks to improve air quality, minimize energy and water use, and increase human comfort. He talked about the importance of designers understanding the true sustainability value of their choices, being able to distinguishing between truly “green” and “green-washed”. Mr. Lu illustrated his point with an example of bamboo, which, because it is rapidly renewable, is often automatically considered a “green material”, however, it is often transported over long distances or finished with toxic protective coating which makes it less than a green choice. Mr. Lu talked both from his experience as a designer, and as an educator, and he gave some examples of how his students are taught to consider Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and understand the concept of Life-Cycle-Analysis (LCA).   Jessica Rose Cooper, Director of Project Management and Sustainability at Delos, talked about the WELL Building Standard®, which is a proprietary protocol developed by Delos, in partnership with leading scientists, doctors, architects and wellness thought leaders. WELL Certification™ is administered by the an independent body International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). WELL works in alignment with LEED, the Living Building Challenge, and other global green building systems.   Ms. Cooper talked about how WELL focuses not just on sustainability, but also on human wellness within the built environment. She led the audience through the seven categories relevant to occupant health in the built environment – Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind. She talked about the importance of maintaining the standard post-design and construction, which is why WELL Certification™ requires a certified building to undergo an on-site post-occupancy performance audit, as well as re-auditing every three years.   Christy Everett, Principal of respondé Furnishings, told the audience the story of her company. respondé stands Responsible Design, and the company stands for creating modern, attractive, durable furnishings that are safe and sensitive to the environment.   Ms. Everett told us how at first she and her colleagues opened a store and simply wanted to sell hip modern furniture that is also sustainably built, but quickly discovered that the pickings were slim. Then, as someone with a background in industrial design and experience in manufacturing, she decided to make her own furniture. respondé was born. All products are proudly Made in the USA and adhere to the principles of sustainability: longevity, using reclaimed, renewable or recyclable materials and applying low-VOC finishes. respondé’s furniture enables green interior projects to earn LEED credits.   Grazyna Pilatowicz, Chairperson of the Sustainable Interior Environments Graduate Program at FIT and Co-chair of the FIT Sustainability Council, discussed how education of interior designers is integral to the growing acceptance of the principles of Green Interior Design. Young people today come into college already well versed in sustainability and trained to think about the impact on the environment. Often, it is the teachers who scramble to keep up with the challenging questions put to them by their students. The field of Green Interior Design education is a work-in-progress, as the educational institutions are working to design relevant curricula, and teach students the tools and the way of thinking that will help them create smart and sustainable designs.   Ms. Pilatowicz talked about a wealth of resources that can help not only students, but established professionals to learn, research and find information about green design, anything from material information, to case studies and sociological user profiles.