Many design professionals and companies have built their businesses around eco-design and sustainability. In honor of Earth Day (April 22), Editor at Large is taking the opportunity to recognize a few of the leaders in the movement to create healthy and eco-friendly living environments.
Robin Wilson, interior and product designer
New York-based interior and product designer Robin Wilson is known for her sustainable ways in the creation of her product lines including cabinets for Holiday Kitchens, and hypoallergenic pillows and bedding and Nest furniture for Robin Wilson Home, as well as her homes for clients. Her most recent project, the Eco Bungalow, helped a family in need who lost their home in a tragic fire. Wilson and her team built a fireproof, energy efficient and toxin-free home from the ground up.
Robin Wilson standing outside of the "Eco-Bungalow"
“Sustainability was a priority in this home because the family has three children and they want to make sure that the planet is still intact for future generations,” said Wilson. “They were happy to see that much of the salvageable material from the previous home could be sent to other places and used for raw building materials.”
Interior of the "Eco-Bungalow"
Her favorite eco-friendly products include bamboo floors, FLOR carpet tiles, low-VOC paints, Silestone countertops and Kohler fixtures which are Water-Sense certified. “We also work with the Sustainable Furnishings Council to identify furnishings manufacturers such as Mitchell Gold+Bob Williams, Salamander and Aronel Wallpapers which are manufactured sustainably.”
Wilson also carries out her passion for being sustainable in her partnership will Holiday Kitchens, which licensed her brand of cabinets in 2009.
Holiday Kitchens cabinets
“We have been working together to build brand recognition for a firm that has been focused on sustainable manufacturing since 1946. Today, they are one of the largest custom cabinet manufacturers in the USA and they employ over 200 workers in Wisconsin. As a privately held company, they have a commitment to the environment (replanting acres of trees), providing a lifetime warranty because they believe in their products and offering over 96 unique door styles so that you can get a custom product. Holiday Kitchens cabinets are sold at 500 dealers nationwide, and I use their products in almost all of the kitchen projects that we complete.”
So, what does Wilson want to tell designers who are trying to incorporate sustainability into their projects?
“Designers need to know about Salamander and Novosbed which are manufactured sustainably and do not add toxins to your home environment,” she said. “Designers should also tell their clients that companies that have sustainable practices are often very concerned about quality, innovation and efficient manufacturing processes, which can also ensure that they are being progressive with their commitment to non-toxic finishes, stains and adhesives—leaving your home a healthier space.”
In other words, it’s worth the investment.
Sheri Koones, author of Prefabulous World: Energy-Efficient and Sustainable Homes Around the Globe
Sheri Koones’ latest book shines the spotlight on designers, architects, builders and homeowners who are choosing to build the “prefabrication” way, by assembling components of the structure in a factory and transporting the completed assembly to the construction site, which ultimately saves time, energy and costs once the home is completed.
“There is a growing concern for the rising cost of energy and the political/environmental ramifications of obtaining it,” said Koones. “Therefore saving energy in our homes is a major issue today. There are also a limited amount of resources available to us and it makes sense to conserve those resources as best we can. Building prefab is the best way to conserve resources in the building process. Most of the materials that end up in a dumpster at a site-built construction are materials the homeowner is paying for and add to our landfills. When building prefab, cutoffs are reused and some materials, such as drywall and metal are returned to the manufacturer to be recycled. People today are more conscious of waste and using their resources, as productively as possible—prefab construction is therefore a growing way of building both residentially and commercially. This is good for the environment and economically advantageous.”
Prefab home in Amsterdam
Once the home is built and completed in this “prefab” way, it is then up to the interior designer to choose eco-friendly products and finishes. Koones offered up some tips:
- Windows need to be correctly placed for optimal solar advantage.
- Insulation has to be excellent to meet the needs of the local climate.
- Overhangs should be well placed to limit overheating in the summer and to provide heat in the winter.
- The heating and cooling systems should be designed to be as efficient yet comfortable as possible.
- Adequate air exchange is important to keep the interior air as healthy as possible.
Prefab home in Ontario
“Designers should utilize certified wood that comes from managed forests and use as many materials as possible that are recycled and recyclable,” said Koones. “There are many eco-friendly options today such as quartz used instead of other less sustainable stones. Bamboo, cork and linoleum are particularly eco-friendly for flooring. Photovoltaic panels and solar panels are becoming increasingly available with subsidizes available.”
Hunter Douglas’ energy saving window treatments
“Some people have this idea that recycled materials or eco-friendly products aren’t as attractive,” said designer Sally Morse, Director of Creative Services for Hunter Douglas. “I’m happy to say that’s not the case at all, you can have the best of both worlds when style meets eco-conscious manufacturing.”
In honor of Earth Day, Morse shared a tip about using energy efficient window treatments. She explained that energy lost through windows can account for up to 25% of utility bills.
Duette Architella shades and Modern Precious Metal blinds
“Highly insulating Duette Architella honeycomb shades from Hunter Douglas have a cell-within-a-cell honeycomb structure that can reduce solar heat gain in summer by up to 80% and heat loss in winter by up to 40%,” said Morse. “The shades have five insulating air pockets to go the extra mile and reduce heat transfer at the window by 20% or more. By conserving energy at the window, you can rest assured your cooling and heating systems won’t have to work as hard.”
A number of other window treatments from Hunter Douglas are not only energy efficient, but they are produced with recycled content. The Modern Precious Metals blinds are made from 95% recycled aluminum slats, while Hunter Douglas Provenance woven woods shades are made from sustainable materials including grasses, woods, reeds and bamboo.
ADAC’s Eco-Fashion Trunk Show
Earlier this month Fashion Group International Atlanta and ADAC teamed up to present the 2014 “Spring into Green” Eco-Fashion & Accessories Trunk Show. The event is hosted annually in honor of Earth Day to promote products that are sustainable and made in an eco-friendly way.
Eco-friendly textiles and objects for sale at the trunk show
Guests were invited to shop for items from more than 25 of Atlanta’s leading eco-friendly and sustainable designers and companies. Home décor, beauty products, fashion and jewelry were all up for grabs and shoppers enjoyed special discounts.
Sustainable Furnishings Council, hosting SFC Next June 13 - 14
The Sustainable Furnishings Council continues its mission of promoting sustainable practices among manufacturers, retailers and consumers alike, year-round. Interior designers are encouraged to become members and receive special benefits like courses and events that will help further their knowledge of eco-design.
A good first step? Attending the SFC’s annual conference "SFC Next" which will take place June 13 – 14 in Washington, D.C. and will explore the use of sustainable products in interior design, how to create healthy and safe interior environments and will provide additional workshops and networking opportunities. Attendees will hear from sustainable design pioneers including Wilson, Jillian Pritchard Cooke and Patty Grossman. Click here to register.
Are you doing something to promote sustainable design this Earth Day? Drop us a line and let us know—firstname.lastname@example.org.
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