Reflections of Climate on Interior Design Around the World

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Reflections of Climate on Interior Design

What’s the problem?

Each minute, issues surrounding climate change grain more and more traction in popular discourse. In light of the velocity of natural disasters and the issuance of several international agreements committing to limiting the Earths temperature to 15C, governments, corporations and individuals are making a conscious effort to achieve this goal.

In some corners of the world, dealing with extreme temperatures is non-negotiable and maintaining habitation is only made possible through specific living arrangements. Architects and interior designers are aware of the economic and health and safety impacts that changes in the Earths climate can have on buildings and the people within them. 

What’s the solution?

Contained in part of the solution is to first be prepared for catastrophic natural disasters and embrace greener options to reduce the carbon footprint. Combined with these preventative measures are interior design strategies that enable inhabitants of a building to live a better quality of life in extreme temperatures. 

Before we get on to what exactly interior designers can do, let’s remind ourselves of why part of the solution to this global problem rests in the hands of interior designers. Buildings, i.e the fundamental fabric that interior designers work with, are substantial energy consumers. The entire lifespan of any building takes its toll on the atmosphere through energy consumption; whilst being built, used and demolished.

The role of Interior Design

It’s estimated that globally, buildings consume more than 29% of total energy- relative to that of the 20% consumed by the transport sector. Further, it’s predicted that the relative energy demand of buildings will only grow over time (BP Energy Outlook). More alarming statistics arise when we look at the US- the worlds largest economy, where buildings account for 48% of total energy consumption. 

Energy use can be direct or indirectly related to the use, function and maintenance of a building. Direct energy constitutes heating, cooling, lighting and the use of electrical appliances. Indirect looks at surrounding factors, like how and where was everything contained within a building made? How did it get there? Naturally, there are many unknown answers to these questions, but what is for sure, is that a credible interior designer will make a conscious effort to get to the bottom of these questions and make informed decisions. 

So, how exactly can interior designers create beautiful and functional interiors, whilst simultaneously contributing to the international effort to combat climate change? Essentially, interior designers must use the tools in their creative capacity to either make interior spaces more comfortable and equipt to occupy despite climate change, or they can contribute to preventing it from happening. Whilst the latter is clearly the more desirable outcome, it’s not always practical to redesign an entire building for the purpose of climate change. 

However, when it is possible, for example, the refurbishments of a home, office or commercial space shouldn’t only be to update the aesthetics or keep up with trends. Rather, it’s a great opportunity to make it more efficient and sustainable. 

Reduce Reuse Recycle 

In completely renovating a building, these three ’R’s’ should be central to the design strategy with climate change in mind. 

To reduce is to ultimately specify less and not more. By focusing only on the absolute essentials in a room through minimalist design, fewer items should inherently produce a bigger impact. Do so through colour, statement pieces, pattern, texture or detail. Fewer furnishings can have a profound effect on a clients budget, the finished design and our planet. 

Reusing is one of the most effective ways to save cost and energy whilst producing charm and charisma by the masses. It can easily be achieved by repurposing existing items in the same space or keeping an eye out for original pieces to use them in modern ways. 

The interior design scene, whilst late to jump on the sustainability waggon, has recently seen an increase in recycled content and recyclable material. As climate change discourse and the problems of energy over consumption come to the surface, people are more aware than ever of the problems associated with landfill waste. Recycling efforts have increased and will continue to grow over time. Resultantly, the use of post-industrial waste has grown in popularity.

Needless to say, providing recycling opportunities when designing spaces is both a source of materials and creative ideas as well as the responsibility of the interior designer.