Posts Tagged ‘sustainable interior design’

White paper by John Martin-Rutherford, PhD, Chairperson, Harrington College of Design Interior Design Program. This feature is continued from yesterday.

Understanding what underlies the ‘renewable’ designation as well as the ecological effect of its manufacture and use is the first level of analysis.  Should a sustainable resource pass this first level, we must determine whether its harvesting, shipping and manufacturing processes contribute to any air, land or water damage.    Are harmful chemicals involved in the manufacturing or delivery processes that cannot be rendered inert after the process is complete?  Do these chemicals harm the people involved in the process?  If the answer to any of these is affirmative, then, again, the resource is not as ‘sustainable’ as we might imagine or be told.  Lastly, if the product can be used and adapted again and again over an increasingly longer lifespan, then the product is sustainable over time; a welcome benefit to the consumer.

The concept of sustainability is simple but the determination of what is deemed to be sustainable is not.  Sustainable design must go beyond the surface in order to determine the degree of sustainability of a product.  Once that is determined, the responsible designer can make decisions based on a complete set of facts and not just opinions or assumptions.   The manufacturing industry is beginning to respond to the necessity and desire for truly sustainable products by creating and marketing products that are acceptable and sometimes even preferable to less environmentally friendly choices.  However, the designer is the one who has the responsibility to make certain that the product is truly ‘sustainable’ and that the design and installation completes the sustainability gestalt.

– John Martin-Rutherford, PhD 

About Dr. John Martin-Rutherford , Chairperson, Harrington College of Design Interior Design Program:
John Martin-Rutherford began his design journey as a young child who enjoyed painting. He turned his innate interest in art into a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Art from The Centre College of Kentucky as well as a second Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture and a Master’s of Interior Design from University of Kentucky in Louisville. After travelling to Austin, TX to work with Dr. Charles Moore at the University of Texas, John went on to attain a Master’s Degree in Architecture then moved to San Francisco where he served as Director of Interior Design and architectural project manager for Leo A. Daly Co. John eventually moved back to his home state of Kentucky to attend University of Louisville and obtain the last of his six degrees–a PhD in Urban Design.

John is a huge promoter of the arts in all arenas of his life. He renovated a mansion in Louisville, KYinto a center for the arts where art exhibits, musical soirees, theater companies, and writers are all welcome. John, himself, is an oil painter and sculptor and has been president of the Kentucky Opera Guild, president of the theater group in college, on the board of Pandora Productions (a theatre company), etc. He has lived and studied in Italy and France and traveled around Asia, and was a United States representative to the International Laboratory of Architecture and Urban Design in Urbino, Italy. He believes strongly in the benefits of studying design in diverse regions and countries and has a personal love of Japanese Art, Architecture, and Landscapes.

John has many goals for his time at Harrington and is focused on creating a diverse atmosphere with a more global focus. He is also dedicated on preparing students for the real design world by creating confident and capable designers for the future.

Photo courtesy Minimalist Photography

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White paper by John Martin-Rutherford, PhD, Chairperson, Harrington College of Design Interior Design Program


One of the biggest buzzwords around these days is ‘sustainable’.  It seems that the word has gained some interest for the public as well as the business and governmental sectors of most communities.  In the design industry it is no longer a question of ‘should we or shouldn’t we’ but another constant in the way products and design projects are conceived and produced.  However, if we asked a dozen people what the word meant, we would probably get a dozen substantially different answers.  Sometimes listening to different viewpoints is a positive thing when the viewpoints are properly collected, analyzed and compared.  However, beginning with a basic understanding of the subject under discussion is a requirement.   Sustainable design is a relatively new aspect of the design process and, as with most ‘new’ things in the marketplace, it is a term that is often misunderstood and misapplied.   It is a marketable commodity.   Used intelligently and with integrity, it is not just a laudable thing but a necessary one.  However, as most ‘new’ ideas and concepts in any industry, it is often adopted too quickly and without a complete understanding of the term or it is adopted unscrupulously to ride on the wings of the latest high-flying and easily merchandised product.

Sustainable design is only a part of the concept of ‘sustainability’.  Sustainability is an indivisible part of ecological stewardship of the planet’s resources.  Its effect is not just on the planet but on the humans and other creatures that inhabit the planet.  It is a gestalt; a complete and mutually-dependent operation.  A product may use a rapidly renewable resource as its primary element, but we must look at what underlies the ‘renewable’ designation as well as the ecological effect of its manufacture and use.  For instance, a rapidly renewable resource may be one that is produced quickly and with few or no fertilizers or pest control requirements but what negative affect does its growth have on the land, air and water used in its farming?  Does the resource contribute to ozone layer damage or water depletion or is the land denuded of enough nutrients to require it to remain fallow for some time after a crop is harvested?  Does its farming deprive indigenous species of their natural habitat?  If any of these is answered affirmatively, then the resource is not as ‘sustainable’ as we might think. 

Keep reading tomorrow!

Photo courtesy Minimalist Photography

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