Wednesday, 7 December 2011
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Mold is a green interior design issue
Mold is a problem that affects the indoor air quality of a home and so mold falls within the remit of green interior design. There is a lot that can be done in terms of the design of an interior as well as the maintenance of an interior to stop mold forming. This post is a guide on how to stop mold forming in your home and how to deal with mold once it has formed in an environmentally friendly way.
Health problems caused by mold
Mold is caused by spores in the air. It is impossible to eradicate spores from the air. Mold needs moisture and oxygen to form. Once mold is growing on a natural material such as paper, wood, insulation or carpet it poses a health risk to inhabitants. It can trigger attacks of allergic rhinitis; it can cause respiratory problems; and it can cause asthma attacks.
Dealing with the root cause of mold
The main cause of mold is a leaky water source. Either a pipe is burst or leaking or a wall is letting in the damp. Before you can effectively deal with mold you have to deal with the water problem in a home.
The green way to clean mold
To get rid of mold you have to clean it with water and a detergent. Normal detergents contain chemicals that pollute. Choose an earth friendly detergent or alternatively use vinegar or bamboo vinegar. Both these liquids are acidic and are capable of killing mold.
If mold is growing on a hard surface such as flooring it is possible to clean it off. If the mold is growing on an absorbent surface such as a curtain, ceiling tile or wall paper it is necessary to replace the mold affected material as the mold will grow back no matter how many times you wash it off.
Precautions to stop mold forming in the home
To prevent mold forming in a home you should take the following precautions:
1) Make sure the home is properly ventilated. Either open the windows regularly or use the fan on your programmable thermostat to move the air around the house.
2) Use extractor fans in places where lots of moisture is generated in a home. These areas are normally the kitchen and bathroom.
3) Keep an eye on humidity levels in the home. Ideally the humidity should be between 30% and 60%. To reduce humidity levels you can give a room a blast of cold air from an air-con unit. You can also place bamboo charcoal around the home to absorb excess humidity from the air. If you live in an area with a hot and humid summer than it is recommended that you install a programmable thermostat that can deal with de-humidification. Two good models for this are the Honeywell RTH8321 VisionPro 8000 that uses the air-con unit to control humidity and the Honeywell Prestige HD that can control a separate de-humidifier unit.
4) Bamboo is naturally anti-fungal and so is highly resistant to mold forming. Using bamboo blinds instead of curtains and bamboo flooring instead of carpet are both good precautions for preventing mold forming in the home.
If you follow these guidelines you shouldn’t have a problem with mold. Whatever you do don’t let mold spread through your house. It will affect your health and severely reduce the worth of your home.
Tuesday, 16 August 2011
The Bigger picture
How much water do you need?
- Turn the water off while you are soaping your body and then turn the water back on to rinse off.
- Put lagging around the water pipes so that the water in the shower warms up quicker.
- Install a low flow shower. The typical low flow shower reduces GPM from 5 to 2.5 or even less. This is achieved by holes in the shower wand that draw in air and mix it with the water. The aerated water from a low flow shower system can have a beneficial spa effect on the body. No spray strength is lost with a good low flow shower.
- Check all faucets for leaks. A leaky faucet can use 20 gallons of water a day.
- Install faucet aerators. These work on the same principle as low flow showers – namely, they mix air with water to reduce GPM flows. You can buy faucet aerators that use as little as 0.5 gallons a minute.
- Don’t leave the water running while you brush your teeth. Fill a glass and use this water to rinse your mouth and clean the tooth brush.
- Don’t leave the faucet running when you wash dishes. Fill up a bowl and use this water to rinse dishes, cups, cutlery etc.; after you can use the water in the garden.
Thursday, 28 July 2011
The Triple Bottom LineThe triple bottom line states that we should assess a project according to ‘people, planet and profit’. In other words something is good if it helps the environment, helps people and if it makes a profit.
Recently, scientists have realized the importance of negative ions to human mental and physical health. If people spend a long time in an interior with a low negative ion count they are liable to feel depressed, lethargic and generally out of sorts. Often increasing the negative ion count in a room can do more for a person’s well being than prescribing medication. The situation is made worse by the fact that electrical appliances give off positive ions that make people feel bad.
This is the reason why people only need to open a window and take in a breath of fresh air to feel better, to feel energized.
Negative Ions and Green Interior DesignNegative ions are produced by moving water and air that breaks down molecules into negative ions. Places such as beaches and waterfalls have lots of negative ions. It is perhaps no wonder that people feel more relaxed on a beach than in a city.
The challenge for a green interior designer is to increase negative ions in a building in a cost effective manner. The Japanese who tend to live in very similar houses seek a technological fix to the problem – they buy negative ion producing air-con units. This is not very green because the machines require a big input of resources to make and they use electricity that is probably made by burning fossil fuels. After the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 the imperative for Japan is to save electricity. One low priority is surely negative ion machines, especially when negative ions can be generated without wasting electricity.
Since negative ions are produced by movement of air, having good ventilation in a home will naturally increase the negative ion count. Open windows and fans in the summer will improve the negative ion count of a room and make people feel more comfortable.
Another great sustainable interior idea is to use bamboo charcoal. Bamboo is a renewable resource that can grow in virtually any climatic conditions. Bamboo uses less water than trees and produces more oxygen than trees.
Bamboo charcoal emits negative ionsWhen bamboo is heated in a kiln bamboo charcoal is made. It is a substance with a great many uses for the home and garden. The property of relevance to this post is that bamboo charcoal emits negative ions.
By leaving a few sticks of bamboo charcoal around the house the negative ion count is increased. It is a simple and elegant solution to environmentally unfriendly ion machines. Bamboo grows everywhere in Japan. They should grow up and put consumerism aside for a second and use bamboo charcoal in their homes to make them happier. The money they save will also make them richer.
Wednesday, 13 July 2011
The cork oak grows mostly in the Mediterranean area. Portugal is the biggest producer of cork in the world. The cork oak trees takes about 40 years to mature. Once matured it can be harvested for its bark. It is the bark from which cork is made. Removing the bark from the cork oak does not damage the tree. It takes 9 years for the cork oak tree to grow another bark. The cork oak can live for 150 years. If the bark is removed correctly then natural habitat is maintained.
Advantages of Cork Oak Flooring
The great advantage of cork as a renewable resource is that the tree is not chopped down to harvest the resource.
Advantages of Bamboo Flooring
Advantages of Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring
Disadvantages of Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring
Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring
Advantages of Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring
Saturday, 11 June 2011
Recommended Thermostat Settings
Types of Programmable Thermostat
Energy Star and Buying TipsIt is important to do your homework before buying a programmable thermostat. There are lots of programmable thermostats on the market. The best have the Energy Star certificate. This is a guarantee that the device will save you energy and thus money. There are also a variety of different functions on programmable thermostats some of which you will find useful and others less useful. It is a good idea to read reviews of programmable thermostats to find what functions are offered and how accurate and reliable the thermostats you are considering are.
Saturday, 28 May 2011
Not only is bamboo fast growing, it is also a hardy plant that can withstand nearly any climate. There are native types of bamboo in every continent excepting Europe and Antarctica. Bamboo can be grown organically because it is naturally resistant to bugs and pests. Moreover, it doesn’t drain the soil of nutrients. Bamboo has successfully be used to reclaimed land damaged by agriculture. Finally, bamboo doesn’t need to be planted since it propagates through a root system.
The great thing about bamboo from the perspective of utility for the home is that it is a very hard material that can be used in the same way as hardwood. Bamboo can be carved, pressed together and thus can be used to make furniture, flooring, kitchen utensils, mats, roofing, blinds and a hundred other items for the home and garden. It is also possible to make clothes from bamboo.
There is now a wide range of bamboo flooring styles commonly available. The most popular are horizontal, vertical and strand woven bamboo flooring. Of these three types of bamboo flooring, strand woven bamboo is the hardest and is suitable for high traffic situations and heavy furniture. It looks great – just like hardwood flooring – and is easy to maintain and clean. Bamboo is antimicrobial and also antiallergenic and so bamboo flooring is great for people with dust mite allergies.
Bamboo in the Kitchen
There are many ways to use bamboo in the kitchen. Bamboo is odor proof and water resistant and so bamboo mats are a good addition to the kitchen. Bamboo kitchen utensils such as bowls, tongs, steamer, knife block, drawer organizer, chopsticks and placemats are all cheap and good earth friendly products for the kitchen.
Bamboo shoots can be used for cooking. Bamboo charcoal can also be used to keep oil used for deep fat frying clean. The Japanese use ground up bamboo charcoal to improve the taste of noodle soup dishes.
Bamboo charcoal also makes a great water filter to remove excess chlorine from faucet water.
To replace dangerous and toxic surface cleaners in the kitchen it is possible to dilute bamboo vinegar 1 part to 20 and use it in a spray bottle to clean and sterilize surfaces. Bamboo vinegar can also be used to clean windows. Bamboo vinegar for cleaning is much better both for the inhabitants of a home and for the environment.
Bamboo charcoal can be used in any room in the house. Instead of using air fresheners that contain VOCs that cause respiratory problems bamboo charcoal can be placed in a room to suck out the unpleasant smells. To replenish bamboo charcoal and its ability to absorb unwanted odors it just needs to be left in sunlight for a few hours.
Another property of bamboo charcoal is that it can regulate humidity in a home. It also emits far infrared rays that are called the ‘rays of life’ and promote cell growth. Furthermore, bamboo charcoal also emits negative ions that help to neutralize the positive ions given off by electrical appliances that cause nausea in some people
Bamboo Charcoal Soap
Bamboo charcoal is exceptionally porous and when it is made into soap it cleans to the bottom of the pores. Also it doesn’t leave a layer of residue on the skin like normal soaps. This means that after washing with bamboo charcoal soap the body’s natural oils can moisturize the skin properly. Bamboo charcoal soap is a great treatment for eczema and acne.
Bamboo in the Office
The office at both home and work is a room that is used a lot. It is thus a good idea to make it more people and environment friendly with bamboo. It is possible to buy bamboo desks, coffee tables and chairs. A bamboo mat under an office chair protects flooring. Various types of bamboo office equipment is easily found online or in good shops such as bamboo space savers, bamboo file holders, bamboo pen holders, bamboo laptop holders. Bamboo shades are anti-allergenic, easy to clean and can add a stylish look to an office. Asus make a bamboo laptop computer with high specs that reduces the use of plastic on the computer by 15%.
Bamboo Shades and Blinds
Curtains are difficult to install. They are also a pain to clean. The chemicals used for dry cleaning are bad both for the environment and for people’s health. The most eco-friendly window treatment is bamboo blinds and shades. They are made from a renewable resource that biodegrades. They are easy to install and easy to clean.
There are a variety of bamboo shades and blinds available – roman blinds, vertical blinds, big slats and matchstick bamboo blinds. A style of bamboo shade or blind can be found to suit any décor style.
Outdoor matchstick bamboo blinds add privacy to a veranda, patio or balcony. They also filter out dangerous UVA and UVB rays. Often outdoor bamboo blinds are what are needed to make an outdoor space more inviting.
Bamboo in the Garden
Bamboo can be grown from seeds or from small plants. It is easy to grow. Bamboo clumpers add a striking adornment to a garden and also help to fertilize the soil. Running bamboo can be used to mark a boundary and to create privacy and shade in a garden.
Bamboo makes an ideal material for stakes for the garden and for fencing. The Japanese use bamboo charcoal as a fertilizer for green tea.
The limits of bamboo in the home and garden seem to be only limited by our imagination. Bamboo can be used for furniture, flooring, window treatments and for a wide range of every day products. Bamboo can also be used to make a home cleaner and healthier. It can even be used to make us more beautiful. Bamboo truly is wonderful and should be at the heart of attempts to make a home or office more sustainable.
Monday, 23 May 2011
CFLs are not New Technology
Why Buy CFLs?
Mercury and CFLs
CFLs can lower Mercury Levels
- Incandescent light bulb life span: 1,000 hours
- CFLs life span: 8,000 hours
- LED life span: 25,000 to 100,000 hours
Thursday, 19 May 2011
Making a Building more Environmentally FriendlySustainable Interior Design is also known as Green Interior Design. It is the process of making a building more environmentally friendly. This is a big task that can be divided into a number of different categories. The US Green Building Council (USBC) set up Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) to set up metrics by which the building industry could evaluate how green and sustainable a house, office or building was. The metrics are divided into 5 main categories:
1) Reduction of carbon emissions
2) Conservation of water
3) Energy Saving
4) Indoor environmental safety
5) Careful use of resources
I believe it is beneficial to look at these metrics one by one to gain a better idea of what sustainable interior design is all about.
Reduction of Carbon Emissions
Despite those on the fringes of science and politics who claim climate change is caused by alterations in the sun's intensity or by a long cycle of weather patterns, or who just deny climate change altogether, the overwhelming majority now accept the evidence. This evidence that the levels of carbon dioxide in the air is increasing and that this trapping heat in the atmosphere and causing average temperatures to raise every year. It is undeniable that the polar caps are melting and that sea levels are also raising.
Much of the blame for this is down to mankind's economic activities. Burning fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution has made a profound impact on the atmosphere. As economies increase so does the amount of carbon emissions. With the recent rise to prominence of such economies as China, Russia, Turkey and Brazil more carbon is being put into the atmosphere than ever before. At the same time photosynthesis by plant life that turns carbon into oxygen has decreased as more nature is cleared and more trees are chopped down. As the seas are being polluted plankton(also known as phytoplankton) is being lost that also absorbs carbon from the atmosphere.
A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon emissions given off for any given project. The aim of sustainable design is to reduce the carbon footprint of a house to a minimum. This is done in a number of ways.
- Reducing transport carbon costs (trucks etc. usually burn petrol) by sourcing materials directly.
- Looking at the carbon throughput of each item used for the building - quantifying how much fossil fuel was needed to make each item eg. mining for resources, transport, assembly etc.
- Reducing the amount of energy that is not from a renewable energy supply that is needed to construct the building and to keep it running. Such factors to consider are heating and cooling and the use of photovoltaic panels.
- The carbon emissions of those who construct the building - ie. their transport costs and the carbon emissions of the machines used for construction.
Conservation of Water
Already many parts of the USA are classified as in a 'moderate to severe drought'. The fossil water supplies of India is approaching zero. 1 in 8 people already lack access to safe water supplies (water.org). 70% of the world's fresh water is used on agriculture. As the world population grows more food will be needed and fresh water supplies will shrink even further. The UN estimates that by 2025, forty-eight nations, with combined population of 2.8 billion, will face freshwater “stress” or “scarcity”. (ibid). Make no mistake about it - water will be as important a commodity in the future as oil is now. Wars will be fought over fresh water supplies.
Against this backdrop it is very easy to understand why we should conserve water supplies in the home. An important part of green interior or sustainable interior design is about designing homes that need less water to make and use less water to run.
Saving electricity is very important to green interior design or sustainable design. The aim of the Passive House is to keep an interior at a comfortable temperature without the use of heating or cooling devices. This is done by superinsulation that traps heat or cool air in a home. Only when it gets really hot or cold will a Passive House need inputs of heating/cooling. This can be powered by photovoltaic panels on the roof.
Most electricity is generated by burning coal, oil or natural gas. These are not only limited resources but the burning of these resources also increases carbon emissions. Burning coal also releases the heavy metal mercury that poisons ground water supplies. By using less electricity a home produces less carbon and uses less natural resources. The environment benefits with less pollution and less carbon in the atmosphere; and people benefit from less harmful pollution and money savings.
The metric of energy saving as laid down by LEED is a perfect example of the Triple Bottom Line - 'people, planet, profits'. It is the profit motive that drives a lot of sustainable design refits to a building. Saving energy saves money that can be used to pay for the changes and to eventually record profits.
Examples of energy saving methods include:
- The use of solar panels and wind turbines to create clean, green energy
- The use of a heat pump. It is 3 or 4 times more efficient than a regular electrical resistance heating system.
- Switching from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs.
- Using a programmable thermostat to avoid over heating or over cooling an empty building
- Using a smart strip to override stand by on electrical appliances
- Changing washing machines, air-con units, TVs and other electrical equipment to Energy Star recommended products.
Indoor Environmental Safety
Part of the role of a green interior designer is to make spaces that are healthy for people to live. People in the developed world spend 90% of their lives in doors. Due to lack of ventilation levels of polluting and unhealthy substances in the air can be 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. To make people healthier in their homes and offices it is essential to keep indoor air as free as possible of such things as volatile organic compounds, radon and dust mite excrement. This can be done by:
- Replacing VOC containing products such as thinners, varnishes, paints, air fresheners, furniture glue with non VOC alternatives.
- Sourcing antique furniture and other items for the home that has off-gassed all health threatening VOCs
- Testing a home for radon levels
- Installing bamboo, reclaimed hardwood or cork flooring
- Using bamboo blinds and shades instead of curtains
Careful Use of Resources
Hardwood, coal, oil, natural gas, iron ore, aluminum and many other resources commonly used in the home and office are fast running out. If we are going to make homes that are sustainable we have to learn how to stop our reliance on these limited resources and instead find new and creative ways to use renewable resources that grow quickly enough to keep up with demand. Such renewable resources include bamboo, rattan, water hyacinth and cork. Other strategies are to use recycled resources or to take unwanted resources and turn them into something of higher value (upcycling) such as reclaimed hardwood flooring.
Where possible resources should be taken locally and with minimum impact to the local surroundings. If hardwood is needed then it is better that it is taken from a forest that practices sustainable forestry.
Furthermore, the impact of building in an area must be assessed and the damage to the environment limited as possible. Building interiors must also be designed as to reduce pollution to the surrounding area.
This is just a bare outline and a summary manifesto of how sustainable design is ideally practiced. The idea is that the methods, tests and systems for sustainable design should always be modified and improved; and should always respond to the needs of the local people and environment.
Our only hope for a secure future and a decent living standard for future generations lies in improving our ways of designing and building homes. They have a fundamental impact on us, the environment and the future. This places sustainable interior design at the heart of what the environmental movement is trying to achieve.