Green Design


The students in Jack Elliott's senior interior design studio never expected they'd have to gather their own course materials, particularly in quite this way. With rope and sled alone, one man and fifteen women had "skidded" a 1,000 pound cherry log from the Eddy Dam Foot Bridge to College Avenue via the Cascadilla Gorge. Next they needed to hoist the log up into a truck for a ride to the local sawyer.

"They were sure they couldn't do it," says Elliott of his stymied students that sunny afternoon January But they got the truck's hydraulic gate to lift up the nose, then spaced themselves along its 12-foot length and, heaving all at once, pushed the log up and in.

"They got such a sense of power by doing this together," says Elliott with evident pride. "And in doing so, a real feel for the amount of resistance that had to be overcome to move this tree from where it had fallen."

And therein lay the lesson. Elliott, an assistant professor of design and environmental analysis, is one of a handful of design faculty across the country to integrate issues of ecological sustainability and design--known as green design--into his studio courses.

The problem, as Elliott sees it, is that the focus of interior designers is so singularly on the interior of spaces and of buildings that they don't realize the effects they have on the outside world. Take, for example, a table. When designers order a table made of number-one oak, they rarely think of the effect they're having on the forest. Or of the fact that only 11 percent of the harvested log will go into A-1 grade lumber; the rest will be turned into paper pulp or pallets.

Add to this the fact that the interior of all commercial spaces in the United States is estimated to change every five years. …

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