Interior Design Alum LEEDs the Way

Lauren Hall (Interior Design, 2007) says she wants to “open people’s eyes to the possibilities of smart design.” Aesthetics and profit are important, she says, but just as important is design “that communicates with the surrounding environment and responds to a global responsibility for efficient design.” Hall is intently focused on spreading the word about sustainability–so intent that she sat for and passed a design-and-build examination usually only tackled by professionals.

Smart design is “green” and sustainable because it uses locally obtained materials (thus reducing transportation costs and supporting the local economy), is built from environmentally sound materials, and is durable.

Lauren HallDurability is a key issue for Hall, who sees a lot of buildings tossed up for quick profit without any thought for overall quality and longevity–especially low-income housing. “It doesn’t have to be that way,” she says. “You can build within budget and still have something that lasts and is attractive.”

It was the growing realization that beauty and livability don’t exclude profitability that led Hall to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Hall says she was inspired to investigate the potential of smart design by one of her instructors, Kathleen Ryan.

Ryan “really encouraged me to do a lot of reading and thinking,” Hall says, “and to check out the LEED program.”

LEED is the “nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings,” according to the U.S. Green Building Council web site. “LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.”

Drawing by students of a design for Habitat for Humanity.
Drawing by students of a design for Habitat for Humanity.

Hall took and passed the LEED exam in the summer of 2006. One of Hall’s teachers, Associate Professor John Turpin, says that it is “highly unusual for students to take and pass the exam. Having taken the exam, I can truly vouch for the amount of time and energy she had to commit to the process.”

But for Lauren Hall, it was all in a day’s work. She’s won scholarships for her academic ability, and has picked up a minor in sustainable development through the School of Economic Sciences. “I want my generation to be better designers,” she says-and that takes hard work.

Among the rigors of an interior design education at WSU are the junior and senior year projects. These involve working in interdisciplinary teams (with students from other design fields such as architecture and landscape architecture) on real-world projects.

Drawing by students of an interior design for Habitat for Humanity.
Drawing by students of an interior design for Habitat for Humanity.

Hall’s senior-year team project centered on creating a culturally sensitive and sustainable housing design for Habitat for Humanity. Working out of WSU Spokane’s Interdisciplinary Design Institute, Hall and her team first studied the needs of potential Habitat clients.

“There’s a large Russian émigré community in Spokane,” Hall points out by way of example. “And Russians like privacy when they cook. Unlike Americans, they don’t like an exposed kitchen.” In order for Habitat’s clients to literally “feel at home,” the young designers had to understand the specific vernacular (or everyday) architecture of particular cultural groups.

The result? A versatile design that can be easily adapted for use in any of the 124 countries in which Habitat for Humanity provides services. And that, says Hall, is smart design in a nutshell. “Habitat for Humanity was thrilled. This design gives people a home they’ll want to live in for a long time,” says Hall.

Lauren Hall graduated in May, 2007 and now hopes to go to grad school in architecture.

“My goal,” the Kennewick native says, “is to come back to eastern Washington and spread the word about sustainable design.”