“Green,” “eco,” “sustainable,” materials and products are no longer as rare as hen's teeth. There is an increasing market for all things “green,” but all the green products in the world won't necessarily create a “green” interior design solution. Understanding the importance of the life cycle of the design for which they are intended is as equally important as the material choice—it's the way the materials are used that will significantly change an ordinary design into a sustainable one.

Much has already been published on reducing the life cycle impacts of products during manufacturing and designers need to be aware of these. However, comparing the life cycle assessments (LCAs) of various manufacturing processes can be complicated, the information opaque, and the results confusing. While the importance of the environmental impacts during manufacture are significant when selecting materials and products for interior environments, equally important are the issues related to consumption, the practice of specification for the use of materials and products, the impacts of indoor air quality, and end-of-life options.

This article will address how interior designers/architects can address some of the greatest environmental impacts of their practice, specifying materials and products, by understanding the life cycle impacts of their designs, rather than just the materials they use, for domestic and commercial use.

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