ASID Update: Green in Practice

April 1, 2006
By Robert Wright, FASID
Designers need education on sustainable design to remain competitive and relevant.
By Robert Wright, FASIDIn less than 10 years, sustainable design has gone from being a "cause" supported by a "fringe" group of dedicated advocates to the fastest growing segment in our industry. Today, we as designers need to embrace sustainability to remain relevant in the marketplace. While most interior designers have heard about "green" design and sustainability, many designers need to become more familiar with the principles of sustainable design and to learn more about practical applications for use in their day-to-day practice.

Recognizing the growing importance of sustainability to the design community, occupants and the environment, the ASID leadership in the late 80s developed a position paper in support of green design and created one of the first CEUs on the topic in 1989. ASID was also one of the founding members of the U.S. Green Building Council. Several years ago, ASID established a Sustainable Design Council comprised of leading designers in the field, both residential and commercial, to lead its efforts to promote the widespread application of green design in all building projects and to educate designers about sustainable practices. Since then, the council has created a number of informational pieces, many of which can be found in the Sustainable Design Information Center on the ASID Web site. Council members have also presented numerous talks and CEUs on the topic at major design shows throughout the country.

Going green and sustainable design are fast becoming part of our culture, for professionals and clients alike. And more and more designers are realizing that having a green practice also makes good business sense. But once you decide to go green, what is the process and what exactly does it mean? The ASID Sustainable Design Council has developed a series of professional papers to assist interior designers in applying green principles in their daily design solutions. Practitioners can use this information to make informed design decisions as well as to educate clients. The first of these papers, to be published later this spring, address the following five areas of sustainable practice:

Materials and products. This paper includes generic questionnaires to initiate discussions between designers and suppliers that will help guide designers to ask the right questions and include keys to understand what they are looking for within the manufacturers' responses. An index of resources will be provided as well as tools to teach the designer how to determine if the source is reliable. A list of criteria is provided to help the designer determine if a product is really green or an instance of "green washing," in which manufacturers overstate the extent to which the product is green or sustainable. The paper will also include life cycle assessment evaluators and a method to identify materials that make up the product. Glossary. Interior designers need a simple reference that identifies and defines key environmental terms. This guide will include not only terms and acronyms, but will also include a listing of toxins, chemicals and product types that should be avoided.Green principles. This report will delve into the larger issues of environmental and sustainable concerns. It will address overriding global considerations, such as habitats, water, air and energy, as well as explain how we, as interior designers, can play an integral role in all stages of a project's sustainability. Harmful substances and products. As interior design practitioners, we need to be confident that we understand the big picture when speaking with clients and stakeholders about issues of sustainability, indoor air quality and indoor environmental quality. Knowing the types of toxins, environmentally degrading chemicals and product types to avoid in our interiors will make us all better designers. Marketing "green" to clients. In order to promote and practice the principles of sustainable design, we need to be good spokespeople and be able to sell the concept to our clients. This paper on "selling green" will assist the designer in explaining sustainable design and provide statistics and proven incentives that will be of value when selling sustainable services.

For sustainable design to have wider understanding and support, outreach and education for all is needed. That is why the ASID Foundation has signed on to be a lead sponsor of the National Building Museum's upcoming exhibit, "The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design." This is the museum's first major exhibition to examine new developments in green residential building methods, new technologies and innovative products. Education venues like this museum exhibition coincide with our goal at ASID to provide public awareness and education featuring the vital role interior designers have in sustainable design teams. The exhibition will take a look at some questions homeowners often ask when considering a green home or product, including "What makes a product green?" "How is a green home healthier, safer and more comfortable?" and "How much does it cost to go green?" The Green House will be on view at the National Building Museum from May 20, 2006 through June 3, 2007, before traveling nationally to selected cities in 2007 and 2008.

Watch for more information about the availability of the new papers on sustainability later this spring. In the meantime, I invite you to visit the ASID Sustainable Design Information Center at

  • ASID President Robert Wright, FASID, is an award-winning interior designer, with a focus on office and residential design. He is a principal of Bast/Wright Interiors, Inc. in San Diego, Calif. ASID can be reached at (202) 546-3480 or [email protected], and on the Web at

    ASID President Robert Wright, FASID, is an award-winning interior designer, with a focus on office and residential design. He is a principal of Bast/Wright Interiors, Inc. in San Diego, Calif. ASID can be reached at (202) 546-3480 or [email protected], and on the Web at

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