We have all heard the term “green” when it comes to our purchases, appliances, and day-to-day habits. But what does it mean when applied to designing a home? 

Laura Sullivan, owner of Asheville’s ID.ology Interiors & Design, has been designing green homes for years. She explains that there is more to the process than you might imagine when practicing green design. 

“When most people thing of ‘green,’ they think of conservation,” she says. “Things like saving water, saving energy, and using sustainably harvested or rapidly renewable materials. 

“Those things are wonderful, and we absolutely do strive to do them. It’s important to be a good steward of the environment, and be conscientious about limiting waste and our carbon footprint. However, green design goes beyond what’s good for the environment. It’s also about what’s good for the homeowner.”

This means designing homes that promote optimum health for everyone who lives in them. “Standard furniture, finishes, and building materials can actually be very toxic,” Laura notes. “The chemicals used in them off-gas into our homes, contributing to everything from respiratory distress to an elevated risk of cancer. Some furniture and materials contain allergens that can really diminish the quality of life for people sensitive to them.”

Indoor air quality is especially a problem for homes built with the environment in mind. “Green homes are built tighter to make them energy efficient,” says Laura. “Tighter homes mean a lot less air flow from drafts. So part of green designing is to go even further to make sure that the homes we’re designing for people aren’t making them sick.”

Laura employs several strategies to lower the health risks in the homes she designs. It is important that “we try to buy local, because local furniture has fewer preservative treatments. We use natural, low-VOC stains and finishes whenever possible; we educate clients about toxic furniture and materials; and we help them choose the healthiest options possible for their lifestyle and budget.” 

For Laura, designing green homes is a passion. “I strongly believe in protecting the environment and protecting the health of homeowners. Home design should be an integrative process that seeks to do both.”

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