(ARA) - Did you know we spend as much as 90 percent of our lives indoors and that indoor pollutant levels are often two to five times higher than outdoors? Using the principles of green design will significantly improve your home's indoor environment, leading to better health and well-being for your family.
Simple changes make a big difference. "Many principles of sustainable design and green building can be easily incorporated into your existing home without extensive remodeling," says Lilia Gomez-Lanier, interior design faculty at The Art Institute of Atlanta - Decatur, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta. Plus, such improvements can save you money.
"Efficient use of water has become a national as well as a regional concern," says Robert Brown, interior design faculty at The Art Institute of Tennessee - Nashville, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta. When replacing appliances or fixtures, look for those that use less water, such as low-flow faucets and shower heads, dual-flush toilets, front-loading washing machines and newer models of dishwashers with two drawers, so you can run small loads. Using less water can add up to big savings on your water bills.
With many Americans suffering from asthma and allergies, indoor air quality is more important than ever. Household pollutants like mold, radon, carbon monoxide and toxic chemicals from building materials, household cleaners and pesticides can be health risks. Start by reducing dust and improving ventilation. Clean furniture, floors and carpet regularly. Consider cleaning and sealing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Ensure that range hoods, bathroom fans and gas fireplaces vent to the outdoors. Eliminate sources of asbestos and lead, and eliminate or properly store air fresheners, pesticides, certain cleaning products and paint, which can emit pollutants. When you redecorate or renovate, look for low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, stains, adhesives, carpets and hard surface flooring, as well as wood and bamboo products manufactured without formaldehyde.
"Energy efficient appliances save you money in your electrical bill, and there may be tax incentives for switching to more efficient systems," says Leslie Roberts, interior design faculty at The Art Institute of Charleston, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta. She recommends using a heat pump and a programmable thermostat, adding insulation in walls, ceiling and floor, and insulating windows, window treatments and floor coverings. Gomez-Lanier adds, "Introduce an attic fan and ceiling fans to circulate air and cool the house with less energy. Use heavy draperies to eliminate a lot of direct light and heat." And don't forget energy-efficient light bulbs.
When remodeling or redecorating your home, reuse existing furniture and building materials where possible. Used furniture - either your own or items purchased at a garage sale or second-hand store - can often be reupholstered and refinished to look new. At architectural salvage stores you can purchase doors, windows, hardwood floor planks and more. When using new materials, Roberts says, "Choose materials that are produced from rapidly renewable resources, such as wool rugs, bamboo or cork tile flooring." Though these products sometimes cost more, they generally last longer and are a better investment over time. Purchasing materials with recycled-content is also an environmentally sound choice, helping ensure that recycled materials will be used again to manufacture new products. You can easily find construction materials with recycled content, including drywall, insulation, plastic lumber, kitchen countertops, glass tiles, carpet and padding - even steel.
Help in making green choices in your home
A Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-accredited interior designer can help you make sound environmental choices for your home and prevent expensive mistakes. An interior designer who has achieved this accreditation knows effective green design solutions and keeps up with the newest information about sustainable products.
Start going green at home today. Your family, your wallet and the planet will thank you.
To learn more about The Art Institutes schools, visit www.artinstitutes.edu.