ecotecture.GIF (12664 bytes)
Department of   Design and Environmental Analysis,
Cornell University
  1. External Considerations

  2. Core & Envelope

  3. Indoor Ecology

  4. Material/Product Content

  5. Ecotecture Worksheets

  6. Additional  information.

  7. Case Studies

Use the table of contents to go directly to specific topics:



Furniture, Walls and Partitions

Design Considerations:

Natural or Recycled-  Provide furniture systems that are recycled components. There is no natural material more durable, strong, flexible, or widely used than wood.

The most widely used softwood and hardwood species come from tropical rainforests and old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest- these resources are exponentially significant, yet are disappearing at an even faster rate.  Architects should discuss sustainable management with their wood suppliers and encourage building practices that use wood more efficiently.

Raw Materials Acquisition- Recyclability and recycling of materials is essential and provisions should be made for the disassembly and reuse of all products by the manufacturer.  

Raw Materials Processing and Manufacturing-  Avoid using furnishings that require high amount of embodied energy to build and create a potential environmental desecration through the mining, refining, and transportation of them.  Criteria for materials should be set to conserve resources.  Questions such as: Is it needed?  Is there a substitute with lower mass and/or lower embodied energy?

Product Distribution-  Use furnishings that have been manufactured locally in an "sustaining" manner, to avoid environmental impacts of transportation.  It reduces the embodied energy use because materials do not need to be transported over long distances; it helps support local economies; it ensures climatically appropriate solutions for that region; and it expresses the culture of the community.

No / Low Emissions-   Look for products that do not pollute the air inside the building, or at least produce less pollution than conventional products.  Toxicity of materials should be carefully reviewed to protect indoor air quality and the employees from suffering from off-gassing effects.  Consult all MSDS sheets in order to determine presence of harmful chemicals in products, paying particular attention to exposure limits and known medical hazards. 

Products cannot contribute more than 500 g/m3 of total volatile organic compound (TVOC) 50 mg/m3 of particulate 60 g/m3 of formaldehyde (HCHO)

Furnishings must test against standard environmental chamber protocol

Complete workstation emissions should not exceed:

  • 5.68 mg/WS/hr TVOC
  • 0.68 mg/WS/hr HCHO

Disposal & Renewability- Attempts should be made to use recyclable or biodegradable materials.  

Consult IAQ Spec List for manufacturers and product test results
Air Quality Sciences, Inc. Atlanta, GA
Consult MSDS sheets for all materials

Case Studies to Research:

Herman Miller- Miller SQA Facility
Zeeland, MI.
William McDonough + Partners

Further Information:

-Primer on Sustainable Building
Rocky Mountain Institute
-The Green Pages:  The Contract Interior Designer's Guide to Environmentally Responsible Products and Materials.  
Kim Nadel, C.I.D. & Andrew Fuston, Co-Authors
399 4th St., Brooklyn, NY 11215
-Interior Concerns Resource Guide
Victoria Schomer
131 W. Blithedale, Mill Valley, CA 94941
-Sourcebook for Sustainable Design
Boston Society of Architects
52 Broad St., Boston, MA. 02109
-The Natural Home, Bierman-Lytle, Paul and Marinelli, Janet

Web resources:
-Oikos:  Green Building Source
-Global Environmental Options
-Indra's Net
-Environlink's Internet Green Marketplace
-Energy Efficient Environments, Inc.
-Real Goods Trading Company:  Real Goods Catalog
“Green Market.”  Sutton, Katherine Day. Interiors Vol. 157, No. 1. January 1998, p. 38.











































Cornell University, December, 1998