Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kudos To Interior Designer Marcie Harris

There's something written almost everyday about our home and office environments with words like LEED, sustainability, Green, indoor air pollution, low VOCs.  I was reminded by a Baltimore Sun article recently that we wrote about "Universal design" back in 2005, when we interviewed interior designer Marcie Harris.

Marcie Harris said "Universal Design" and "Green Design" are areas that we now think of as 'specialties" but I believe will soon be standard requirements for all credible design proposals.

Bev: Whoa, Marcie, Mike just got lost with talk of "Universal Design" and "Green Design".
Mike: How did we switch to Green cars and Universal joints?
Marcie Harris: Ha, Ha! Certainly there is correct terminology for this concept - but my interpretation of Universal Design is creating an environment that is end-user friendly - for all age groups and for users with physical limitations. It is not just about ADA compliance. For instance, a space designed for a young family could have lower vanities in the baths for the kids - perhaps with a pullout cabinet under the sink if someone in a wheelchair needed to use it. It is about proper lighting - reducing glare, proper task lighting. It is about proper flooring - seamless changes in flooring materials so someone with limited ambulatory abilities won't trip on the edge of a surface change. It is about wider doorways and hallways and making bathrooms more accessible and safer with proper grab bars and turning radius and wheel- in showers. It is about a space that if you suddenly broke your leg - you would not be helpless in your own space. It is about aging in place.

Bev: It could be about aging "boomers"! And "green Design?
Marcie Harris: Again, we've heard a lot of this lately. My interpretation of Green Design is that designers and architects need to be educated about the 'lifecycle" of the products they specify. This is not only the recycling capability of products, but thinking about what it took to make the product in the first place. Obviously we can't evaluate everything - but if more pressure were put on manufacturers from designers and architects regarding "green design", I believe the industry would react accordingly. I have a client with a child that came down with environmental sickness after they moved into their new home. The off-gassing of VOC's from the various products (osb board, carpet glue etc.) was enough to keep her out of one whole year of high school. This was 8 years ago and things are improving - but it is still a huge concern.
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