Examining the Status and Future of Design for Sustainable Behavior in Interior Design Education


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Virginia Tech


Despite the building industry's commendable efforts for creating sustainable environments, numerous studies have shown buildings are not achieving the environmental goals designers and architects are predicting during the design phase. This has been attributed to a number of factors including occupants' unsustainable behavior patterns which affect the amount of energy and resources a building consumes. The effect of human behavior on sustainability has been studied by experts in various fields, it has not however, been sufficiently analyzed by interior designers. Although interior design authors have argued the field has transformed itself to an area concerned with human behavior, there currently are no established design processes or knowledge domains that can help interior designers understand and design to encourage sustainable behaviors. On the other hand, industrial designers have advanced Design for Sustainable Behavior DfSB, an area of research that intentionally uses design solutions to encourage sustainable behaviors. This research argued DfSB can help overcome the gap identified in interior design (ID) by providing ID with design strategies, design processes and precedent. As such this research focused on analyzing the current state of designing with the intention of changing behavior within ID education in order to reach recommendations for the integration of DfSB into ID.

The first phase of the study involved a nationwide questionnaire distributed to ID faculty members to gauge the current state of DfSB within ID, including faculty members' attitudes towards it, barriers to integrating it, recommendations for content and teaching methods along with any ethical concerns that may arise from intentionally changing behavior through design. Concurrently, a review of top ID programs online material was conducted to identify the presence of DfSB within existing courses. This phase demonstrated faculty members hold positive attitudes towards DfSB despite their limited familiarity and knowledge of the field which was identified as one of the major barriers to its integration. Additionally, despite none of the programs indicating students are taught how to encourage sustainable behavior through design, it was apparent a foundation for DfSB exists within ID due to the presence of sustainable design courses, human factors, and some social science courses.

Findings from the questionnaire spurred a group of questions that required a nuanced investigation through interviews with a sample of ID faculty. These interviews painted a clearer image of the current educational terrain and general directions within ID education. They also allowed the researcher to collate ideas for overcoming barriers to DfSB integration along with establishing recommendations for disseminating DfSB into ID education and practice in a manner that capitalizes on the resources currently available in ID and removes identified hindrances.



Interior Design, Behavior, Sustainability, Design, Sustainable Behavior