Climate change and how its effects on our interior design industry? Let’s have a close look at it. Climate change refers to the long-term changes in the climate that happen over decades, centuries or even longer. In the last couple of decades, temperatures have risen in the Earth’s climate, resulting in negative impacts all over the world. It is caused by the rapidly increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere due primarily to human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels (e.g. coal, oil and natural gas). Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. Some examples of greenhouse gases include: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other fluorinated gases.
Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. Some examples of greenhouse gases include: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other fluorinated gases.
Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels coal, natural gas and oil), solid waste, trees and other biological materials, and also as a result of certain chemical reactions (e.g. manufacture of cement). Methane emissions mainly come from livestock and other agricultural practices, land use and by the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills. It is also emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas and oil.
Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural, land use, industrial activities, combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste, as well as during treatment of wastewater. Fluorinated gases include hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride which are synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases that are emitted from a variety of industrial processes. Fluorinated gases are occasionally used as substitutes for stratospheric ozone-depleting substances (e.g. chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons and halons). These gases are usually emitted in smaller amounts, but because they are potent greenhouse gases, they are sometimes referred to as “High Global Warming Potential” gases (aka, High GWP gases).
The greenhouse effect works just as its name suggests, a greenhouse. A greenhouse is a building with glass walls and a glass roof – used to grow a variety of plants, food and flowers. Greenhouses offer a stable and predictable environment which shelters tender plants from extreme weather by staying warm inside, even during the winter. During the day, sunlight shines into the greenhouse and warms the plants and air inside. At night, it’s colder outside, but the greenhouse remains warm inside – this is because the glass walls of the greenhouses trap the Sun’s heat. The greenhouse effect works the same way on Earth. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, traps heat similar to the glass roof of a greenhouse. During the day, the Sun’s rays pass through the atmosphere, warming the Earth’s surface. At night, Earth’s surface cools, releasing heat back into the atmosphere. Some of the heat is trapped by the greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere – this is what gives our Earth a habitable climate.
However, due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil, more and more carbon dioxide amongst other greenhouse gases are released into our atmosphere – causing Earth’s atmosphere to trap more and more heat. Too much of these heat-trapping gases lead to the warming of the Earth and its oceans resulting in rising sea levels, changes in storm patterns, altered ocean currents, changes in rainfall, melting snow caps and ice, more extreme heat waves, fires and drought. These negative impacts are projected to continue and in many cases, intensify, affecting human health and wellbeing, infrastructure, agriculture, forests, freshwater supplies, coastlines and marine systems.
There are many ways to prevent climate change, one way is to take public transportation to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions (which is one of the top causes of climate change) or if possible, ride a bicycle to work. Being more conservative with energy usage also helps, by turning off lights and unplug devices that are not in use, it cuts down on energy usage in your household and in turn causes the power plants to expend less energy which can result in the production of more greenhouse gases.
An area that the interior design industry can play a part in is when it comes to the type of materials they use and where they source it from. As more forests over the world are being cleared for agriculture and animal grazing, and to obtain wood for fuel, manufacturing, and construction, we have to evaluate our sources of raw materials.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) were set up to enforce sustainability and the importance of using timber from sustainable sources. According to the Forestry Commission, deforestation is the world’s second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce this environmental impact, architects, landscape architects, developers and contractors are highly encouraged to source raw materials from certified, sustainably managed forests where trees are replanted as they are felled.
PEFC describes itself as an international organisation dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management (SFM) through independent third party certification. It is not a standards agency but rather a mutual agreement scheme – focusing not only on the ethical aspects of SFM but also the processing of timber, resulting in a bigger emphasis on the supply chain than FSC.
FSC enables specifiers to purchase wood from identifiable, well-managed forests. As a benchmark, any FSC standard has to be interpreted at national level in order for it to be implemented within local forests.
So why choose wood? It is actually known to be one of the most naturally renewable energy sources, which means it will create less of an impact on the environment compared to other materials like plastics and metals. Wood is also generally lightweight, yet strong and durable. When treated correctly, hardwood doors and floors are very likely to last a lifetime, some over 100 years. The longer wood lasts, the less energy is used on the production of new products, which in turn makes it better for the environment. With wood lasting a lifetime, that makes it the ideal material for recycling. Carbon footprint is reduced when recycled wood is used, because it limits the use of freshly-milled timber and preserves our natural timber resources for future use. Reusing salvaged wood also results in less materials being sent to landfill or being burned, both of which release a lot of harmful greenhouse gases that pollute the environment. Not to mention, it is also full of character and raw, rustic charm that only time-worn timber can provide. Wood also absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which then lowers the overall carbon footprint of wood. Once stored, it remains out of the atmosphere. Choosing wood can make a huge difference when considering carbon storage – for example, according to research conducted by the Wood Window Alliance, 160kg of CO2 is saved in every wood window chosen instead of PVCu.
At Ecubespace, we strive towards sustainability and reducing carbon footprint – which is why we work hand-in-hand with EGGER, our wood-based materials supplier. They are a transparent and modern family business that aims to provide customers with innovative solutions and market-oriented products and services based around a natural and renewable material – wood, all while committing to promote sustainable forestry.
Conserving resources is part of EGGER’s core values. They achieve it by strictly practising sustainable forestry and through integrated plants, energy generation in their very own biomass power plants, state-of-the-art manufacturing technology and environmentally friendly logistics systems. They also reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that are dangerous to the environment through the thermal and material use of wood in a closed cycle. They aim to continue improving their environmental performance in the production process, thus selecting internationally certified energy and environmental management systems in accordance with ISO 50001, ISO 14001 and EMAS.
Besides sustainability, EGGER embraces the special qualities of wood – the natural and homely warmth it brings to any living space. They are aware of the rising importance of indoor air quality, as buildings become more insulated and draught-free. As a result, they intensively test the emissions of their products and also get them measured by independent and trusted institutes – all of which allows us to create a safe and pleasant atmosphere for our clients and their loved ones.