Eco-Friendly Interior Design: 5 Materials Your Clients Will Ask For

Sustainable interior design has become increasingly popular among homeowners and commercial builders for a number of reasons.

Ethical concerns, environmental protection, and a desire for increased energy efficiency are some of the top drivers of the trend—but it's also become fashionable to seek out unexpected, alternative, and innovative building and design materials.

Many design and architecture firms cater exclusively to these trends, and offer a  wide range of specialized, "green building" solutions. In fact, sustainable building is on the rise in Canada. In 2014, a study of Canadian architects, engineers, and contractors found that an incredible 60% of surveyed building projects in the country are now categorized as "green."

What does this mean for upcoming interior design grads? More requests for eco-friendly materials and finishes. These are 5 trendy options clients are likely to ask about during your design career.

1. Reclaimed Wood & Certified Sustainable Wood

Many clients want to ensure the wood you're designating for their floors, cabinets, beams, and window trim has been salvaged—rather than clear cut purely for building purposes.

One option is to source wood from land that has to be cleared anyway (for development purposes), and would otherwise go to waste. Or, you could opt for reclaimed barn wood that can be refinished and made new.

A third option is to offer clients wood that is guaranteed to come from local, sustainable growing operations. There are three independent organizations in Canada that certify wood as sustainable, including the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). You can explore these programs in greater detail right here.

2. Leather Tiles & Panels

At first glance, this option doesn't seem particularly eco-friendly (or appropriate for  vegetarians!), but there's an interesting story behind the growing popularity of recycled leather floor and wall tiles.

When leather goods are made, even high quality luxury goods, there are always scraps left behind. These scraps typically end up going to waste in landfills. Since the production of leather products shows no sign of stopping, some eco material producers have embraced the idea of re-purposing the scraps into functional, durable building materials.

The leather scraps are stone-ground into sheets, which can be installed just like cork or vinyl. They're easy to clean, sound-proof, and come in a variety of colours. The leather panels can be used just about anywhere—take a look here for examples of leather floors, cabinetry panels, wall treatments, and more.

3. Bio-Glass (post-consumer recycled glass)

Bio-glass is a trendy new interior design alternative for floors, walls, and countertops. What is it exactly? Bio-glass is made from glass products humans have used and thrown away: bottles, plates, glassware, etc. These "post-consumer" items are compressed and cut into slabs, which have a luminescent quality.

Bio-glass come in hues of green, brown, white, and blue, and often shows traces of its original source components—like the faint outline of the bottom of a glass bottle.

4. EcoRock: Fully recyclable drywall

EcoRock, by Serious Materials, has already been on the market for several years, but remains the go-to drywall choice for sustainable building design. As a product, EcoRock fulfills a number of "green" building requirements:

  • it is composed almost entirely (80%) of post-industrial recycled waste from steel and cement plants
  • it takes 80% less energy to manufacture than traditional drywall, and produces 60% less dust
  • it reduces mold growth by 50%
  • it can be fully recycled after use

5. Biocomposites for structural and non-structural building components

Biocomposite building materials are made from crop residue, utilizing waste that would otherwise end up in landfills. The plant fibres are combined and compressed into particle boards, which can be used for structural building components, such as beams and wall trusses—and non structural elements, such as roof tiles, wall panels, cabinetry, and floor coverings.

Numerous plant fibres are now being used to construct biocomposite materials, including flax, hemp, jute, sisal, palm, cotton, and cordgrass. Increasingly, biocomposites are used as alternatives to petroleum and synthetic fibre-based products.

Interested in learning more about interior design techniques, career paths, or training programs? Considering pursuing an interior design diploma?

Take a look at Herzing College's Interior Design Training, available at our Montreal campus. Fill out the form at the top, right of this page for fast, free information. Or, click below to browse courses, admission information, and chat live with a knowledgeable advisor. We're here to help!

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