Can new decision-making tools enable the interior design community to

reduce client carbon footprints using life cycle analysis?

Designing for the Future


As important as the continued progress on energy and operational efficiency in the built environment, the effort to reduce carbon emissions and counter climate change by taking on embodied carbon has become the biggest challenge yet. While embodied carbon as a result of core and shell construction may appear to have a greater impact, the continuous turnover of the interior environment potentially makes the more significant “contribution” to the carbon footprint of the building. We believe, for this reason, the design industry needs a standardized way to measure the carbon footprint of interior materials. Thoughtful selection of interior materials presents an opportunity to influence the overall quantity of embodied carbon in the life span of a building – leading to better outcomes and smaller carbon footprints. While tools like Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) software have begun to support conscientious design decision making – and though progress has been made in Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction (LCIR) – interior design analysis tools and strategies are still lagging. Our goal is to investigate opportunities for interior design and to propose a way forward through innovative pathways that link the growing knowledge base and tools with practice‐based strategies to support sustainability. For this report, we brought together industry literature and interviews with design professionals, manufacturers, software providers, and topic experts to evaluate the challenges to designers in incorporating LCA design criteria into the interior design process.


The results are findings and proposed strategies that will help designers become a more significant factor in the sustainability solution. Our report also provides multiple perspectives on the potential future use of LCIR strategies in the interior design process, while adding to a larger conversation and movement within the design field. Ultimately, by identifying the environmental effect of interior design decisions through analysis of data, the development of better tools, and modified design processes, there exists increased potential to create positive change – and the ability to move the interior design industry forward.

Meet the Research Team

Sharon Refvem
FAIA, LEED Fellow, Director Sustainability Resource Group / Senior Associate

Nic Kaspereen
Designer / Sustainability Research Assistant