In this post I’m going to deal with two lesser-talked about reasons for interior design that are more on the practical side.
Interior design is about putting people first
Most of us know, at least on some level, that our surroundings affect our mood.
The rooms we spend a good portion of our time in every day will either enhance or reduce our ability to concentrate and get work done, and our ability to relax.
Interior design has many pyschological as well as sociological reasons for being.
There are two other, slightly more serious topics which underscore why interior design is important, that we might not readily think of when the term interior design comes up.
And by important, I mean actually valuable and useful to the average person and the general public.
The first reason why interior design is important concerns our health and safety in public areas, which affects us when we are in those areas, and the second is a larger global factor, and affects everyone.
1. Interior Design Directly Contributes to Public Health and Safety
Before interior designers, interior decoration was done by residents and in-house staff, while space planning was left to architects.
Today we have the profession of interior design, which at the interior architecture level can be responsible for the planning of the entire ecosystem within a building.
More Than Just a Pretty Face
A holistic approach
A commercial or contract interior designer who designs the interiors of buildings which will be used by the public is trained to plan every aspect of the use of a space.
Research for best practices
From elements such as staircases, loft and ceiling systems or partition walls, through to the study of traffic flow-through and the adjacency of rooms within the architectural shell, interior designers or interior architects working in the public domain will do extensive programming and research prior to design.
Meetings, consultations, data collection and organization, and numerous other preparatory work will be done long before getting to work putting plans to paper.
Consultation with specialists
Designers consult with engineers before making the best recommendations for the placement of building services such as electric, plumbing and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning).
How the interior space is intended to be used and who will be using it is considered for each area and the needs and requirements of each laid out.
A lot of research is compiled and studied in order to get the maximum use out of a space and to make sure it is comfortable and practical for occupants and visitors alike.
Meeting building code requirements
When it is time to fit the space out and choose the appliances, the lighting and the furniture, all health, safety and fire codes need to be considered to meet strict building code regulations.
Even the acoustic properties of materials will be compared and selected to meet the needs of the project.
Large public and commercially used spaces will need to solicit high-performance materials which meet specific requirements before selection.
The Story of a Public Interior Fail
Without regulation to ensure that the materials used in any part of the built environment are safe, standards may not be met.
This results in accidents and sometimes, the loss of human life.
I will illustrate this point with a story I came across in my research on interior design while studying.
I happen to live in Taiwan at present.
A shocking example of interior designing gone wrong in the public sector was evidenced in a dramatic fire which engulfed a nightclub in Taiwan in the nineties.
-The blaze claimed 64 lives and naturally, an inquiry into the incident was conducted by government authorities.
-An inspection by the fire department showed that the fire was, in fact, the fault of the designers of the nightclub, who had used cheap materials which were easily flammable.
-The negligent designers had also inadvertently blocked safety exits and made it difficult for people in the nightclub to get out in an emergency by not having clearly demarcated exit points.
The Taiwanese government, responding to the public outcry over the incident, was quick to respond with regulation to ensure that the same tragedy would not occur again:
Taiwan’s government wrote into their law that interior designers must, as well as earning a three-year degree in interior design, also obtain a type of building technician’s licenses.
The license is now acquired by prospective designers after graduation from an accredited degree program by sitting for a national exam.
Now, whenever an interior designer creates construction drawings in Taiwan, they must sign off on their work.
Regardless of whether a licensed structural engineer, construction professional or architect was also involved in the drafting of those documents, the designer would still bear a minimum of fifty percent of the liability should anything go wrong.
Legislation covering interior designers in the public sphere differs greatly from state to state, with many, if not most countries not specifically requiring licensure.
In the U.S. only Louisiana, Nevada, Florida, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico require specific qualifications for interior designers.
2. Conscientious Interior Design Promotes Sustainability
As we’ve seen, the potential risk to human life is one side of the problem when designing the interior of buildings without consultation with a knowledgable and legal interior designer.
The second risk is to the environment.
Material and sourcing hazards
Presently in the industry, depending often upon the scope and who is doing the hiring, often when a construction project is underway, building contractors look to cut costs.
This desire to curb costs and maximise profits can result in poorer environmental choices.
For example, many trade products (such as paints and solvents) which have lower VOC (volatile organic compounds) emittance are more expensive, so despite the hazards to human health they present, substandard or barely standard products continue to be used.
The unconsidered and unscrupulous selection of materials may also result in the use of cheaper products from disreputable sources that may be harming the environment.
Many exotic hardwoods, for example, originate from the ancient rain forests of Indonesia and Brazil.
These rain forests, which should be protected, are unfortunately still logged and their timber sold illegally for use in high-end furniture in countries which do not discriminate or guard against such practices.
Knowledge is Power
In a perfect world, budgets would allow for the sustainably sourced material to be used over the less sustainable.
Although a designer can’t control every aspect of a project, in most cases the designer is responsible for, or at the very least, can request the use of specific products used in the design.
Designers are backed with the educational knowledge and the resources to make better informed decisions about product selection, so they can and should be a voice and an advocate for change in the building industry.
An ethical designer who understands the ins and outs of the design process can help to ensure the most efficient, safe and beneficial outcome for every project, and ultimately for the people who will use the space.
Do you have anything to add to our two big reasons for the importance of interior design?