Behind all that jazz
The much discussed topic of green and sustainability has somehow focused more on construction and architecture, largely ignoring interior design – both as an ideology and a profession. No wonder eco-friendly and natural approaches are not much sought after in commercial or hospitality sectors, though they are being professed and executed on a small scale by some people concerned about our planet. Also, there are misconceptions about interior designing itself.
Interior designing is not just about designing movable furniture and immovable storage and planning the spaces for them. It virtually decides how the inside of a building gets perceived and how specific tasks get performed inside a built space. The indoor light quality is controlled by the design; air conditioning is suggested to compliment the activities; designs are evolved to suit varied purposes like shop, showroom, office, library, lounge, conference etc., and finishes are decided for all the materials ranging from carpets to false ceilings. In essence, the space inside the four blank walls of a room can be completely transformed through interior design.
Yes, theoretically such a transformation sounds feasible, but at what cost? Do we realise the humongous waste we are leaving behind? What about the harmful chemicals we unleash into the insides and make the indoor air unhealthy, especially in air conditioned contexts? Today sick building syndrome is much discussed, for all the harmful effects it has.
Everyone loves luxurious interiors, but rarely does one calculate its embodied energy and bother to rate it for its green components. We notice in commercial interiors, hotels, restaurants and such others that promoters do not mind spending huge money, for finally all the costs are passed on to the customers through service charges or product pricing. Accordingly, it is pretty common to see today design of the interiors costing more than the construction of the building itself. To facilitate recovering the costs, product manufacturers raise the price, but offer greater profit margins to the traders, thereby creating ripple effects of different kinds. High-end hotels too keep their tariffs high and then offer trade discounts, rent free conference halls or allure people through membership.
On a positive note, the profession of interior design has evolved well and has come to stay in India to everyone’s appreciation, both for pragmatic designs and attractive aesthetics. During recent years, it has combined world-class finish with Indian ideas, exploring a wide range of materials. Indian designers are presenting their projects at national and international conferences with much acclaim. It is now time to explore cost-effective and sustainable approaches as well.
We also see millions simply inhabiting rooms without much attention to interior design as suggested above. It does not mean we can dispense with designing interiors, but raise questions like how much of it we need and how to design green interiors.