Avoid polluting indoors
Let us imagine a hotel lobby or an auditorium built 50 years ago, with the most stylish interior designing possible in those days. Let us also imagine a comparable lobby or hall today, which by default will be a total contrast to the interior of yore, since we would not have repeated the same period style. Now, let us count the range and variety of materials between the two case studies.
Possibly, there will be 50 times more variety and design options today; however that does not mean we are more efficient, happier or successful. On the contrary, we could be 50 times more energy guzzling or unhealthy.
The range of materials for indoors is increasing at such a rapid rate that it is impossible to keep track of them. With globalisation, large numbers of new materials were introduced to Indian markets, mostly related to finishing, interior designing, toilet fixtures and electrical gadgets. Some of them were near-natural or minimally processed ones, but a majority were completely manufactured, often made to look like the natural. Today we can get granite as thin as a board, paint that looks like stainless steel and wood veneers that can put the actual wood to shame.
Before we pat our backs for all this, let us look at the flip side. We moved away from a floor-based lifestyle where we were using the floor for sitting, eating, sleeping and working, to a furniture-based lifestyle where we need woodwork for every task like cooking, storing or studying. This meant we end up filling interior spaces with furniture, items and objects so much, we need to make them all from many components like wood, glass, paints, hardware, adhesives, varied surface finishes and such others.
From industrial set-ups
The majority of interior items are manufactured in an industrial set-up, consuming high energy and discharging toxic wastes to nature. They are transported long distances and by the time reach a site, they would have substantially added to their embodied energy counts! Once in an interior execution site, they are assembled primarily by adhesives, finished by paints and touched upon by polishes. This of course, we can see.
What we cannot see is the emission of VOC (volatile organic compounds) like formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethane. Look at these facts: dust mites make home in carpets; unreachable cracks and corners shelter microorganisms; there could be molds due to excessive humidity; bacterial fungus formation is very common; indoor fabrics contaminate the air; our daily use items may emit toxicity; human activities lead to particulate matters; and equipment generates gases by fuel combustion.
All these except the chemical emissions were there in the past, yet people have survived them all. Indoor pollutants and contaminants in non-air conditioned buildings do not affect us much, thanks to daylight and natural ventilation, however poor they may be. It is the enclosed air conditioned spaces which suffer more, however good the technology is. Anyway, in either case, we need to relook at our unnatural indoors.