When we first started this course, my personal definition of sustainability was “helping the environment and communities around us within current situations, rather than hindering them, through different actions in production and execution” (quoted from 1st blog post). However, now that the semester is coming to an end, I can definitely say I can expand my horizons on what sustainability means and can grow as a designer from my better understanding of the topic. If someone were to ask me to define sustainability now, I would still agree to an extent with my previous definition, especially on the note of helping current situations, but I have now grasped the main idea that sustainability isn’t as much for the environment as it is for us. Like we talked about earlier in the semester with the Eastern Island story, the earth and all our environments are constantly evolving and building themselves back up – yes the indigenous people destroyed the land of Eastern Island, but the earth of that area continued to exist and grow. I would also go on to say that WE are the problems that need to be fixed, and furthermore that if we don’t change our current habits and thoughts of the way we live and do life, we as humans are running out our on clock of existence. I know that is pretty extreme, but to a pretty decent extent I feel it’s true. Sustainability is making our living habits better towards the environment in order to guarantee us more time on earth. And something more, there are so many elements like biophilic design and empathic design that not only are sustainable and “green,” but are also helping the people that it touches! It is so much more than just recycling our cardboard, glass, and plastic.
I think as an interior design student, there were quite a few points throughout the semester that stood out to me. First, I began to better understand empathic design and the role it plays in sustainable practices. When we first started getting into empathic design, I had no idea how it was going to relate to sustainability. However, now looking back it makes a lot of sense. If we as interior designers pay attention to the true wants and needs of our clients and the people that are using the space, there won’t be as much need for constant redesigning. You see, at that point when we are incorporating what they truly want and need, they have what they need to begin with, so there won’t be as much time, energy, or materials wasted in redoing designs that didn’t meet the needs in the first place. If we are also incorporating aspects of green design, such as using LEED certified materials and products, we are hitting a double whammy by answering the needs of our clients while also reducing our impact on the environment. Plus, an added bonus to LEED products is that they are locally harvested and produced so you are giving the space a more individualized and special design concept with local products!
Something else that really stood out to me this semester was designing for the group of older individuals, in particular the sustainable aspect of designing for aging in place. I had heard about this concept before in some of my interior design courses, but we never deeply dove into the sustainability of it all. Similar to my take on empathic design, this is sort of designing a space to “get it right” the first time. So in a scenario where a home is designed for a person and their future aging in mind, we are preventing the need to tear away existing structures and interior spaces (to accommodate special needs for an aging body) because the space will already be set for the future needs the individual would have. This is sort of like a one and done design for a home! And along with this, not only are we saving materials and energy, but are also truly keeping the needs of the client at heart and making sure we have the most efficient use of space for them.
Finally, the last major thing that stood out to me from this course was the trip we took to the OSU sustainability office. I wasn’t aware how much energy we use from wind – 70%! I was automatically very impressed with OSU as a whole and gained a new pride for the way my campus conducts its daily habits and energy consumption. I think this visit was also very reassuring and encouraging for me as a student to continue to harvest the passion for sustainable practices – because it can be done in style! Sustainable designs don’t have to be bland and ugly, as many sustainable designs end up being some of the most beautiful due to the influence of biomimicry and biophilic design. I personally believe that by diving into sustainable design, our designs for interior spaces start to unconsciously evolve into more environmentally-influenced designs. We have learned time and time again that humans function so much better with natural elements, even if it’s just by having a poster of mountains by your work desk to look at, so it’s no wonder elements like green walls and more skylights or natural lighting creep their way into our designs.
I think with this new kindled passion for sustainability, I want to learn even more about how sustainable practices are intertwining with interior design. It would be awesome to learn about specific manufactures who strive to be green and fully sustainable, like Interface carpets who is striving to become completely sustainable by 2020. Learning about more companies like this will make me feel even more accomplished as a designer since I will be incorporating green products into my design, thus lowering my carbon footprint in my designs as well as proudly supporting companies that strive to do the same. I would also like to continue to learn specific steps I can take as a practicing interior designer to contribute to the sustainable community in any way I can. I was not excited about this class in the beginning because of all the preconceived ideas I had about sustainability and how much “green” talk we have been given all throughout school, but I was truly impressed by the amount of information that I was not aware of that is part of sustainable practices, and how it is a goal we can constantly continue to strive for and push the boundaries on.