Sunday, April 22, 2012

Research Matters!

The MA of Sustainability for the Interior Environment was launched at FIT during summer 2011, with a small group of 10 Design professionals.  But it really began months before when we were contemplating the idea of starting a Master in sustainability and each of us asked ourselves: why do we care? And what can we do about it? While for most of us it was a career move, it was mainly a strong conviction that there must be a more responsible way to design and build. The urge to seek this out is what brought us together here.

The program began with a good dose of healthy debates over the societal impact of design. These discussions exposed both our common and conflicting ideals of sustainable design. Throughout the course of the first semesters, the program challenged our sustainable design assumptions by showing that simply taking a stand for the environment and the people who live on the planet is not enough. Design lives within a context that includes more than just materials and aesthetics. The program pushes us past the limits of conventional design practices by exploring literature related to such areas of study as behavioral research and policy studies revealing the incredible connectedness that takes place between design, people and the natural environment.

Being an FIT Graduate student certainly keeps us on our toes.  The classes give us the broad and big picture strategies about how we can make a difference. But it is the back and forth between expansive personal research and the collaborative approach in class that encourages discussions and fast forward thinking. Collectively we constantly ask ourselves: what resonates with us? What information do we select? What do we report on?

As working professionals that dedicate our time outside of our work-week toward this MA we are constantly navigating the inevitable hurdles of time-consuming research.  This same struggle is reflected in the real world. Behavioral Research and Policy analysis is lacking in the business of interior design…. And the reason, it’s time consuming. Interior design is a service-based industry that depends as much on market economics as any other service. But it has failed to recognize the value of these research initiatives. The business of interior design largely centers primarily on aesthetics. While it may be difficult to find conversations about Behavioral Research within most interior design firms we must take into account that these tools exist in other industries solely to increase profits. It works! So if these multi-national corporations successes can be attributed to the extensive social research then we can take this same model to impact the growth of sustainability and build a healthier environment.

While we are here to explore what “endures”, we have to break the current modus operandi to better illuminate both the themes and pillars of sustainable design: Environment, Economy, Equity and expose how these three E’s are not enough.  Research is what sheds light on how we have to look at the pillars of cultures, what Jane Jacobs identified as education, community, sciences, family and governments.

I feel that the MA program at FIT gives us the tools and resources to bring behavioral research and policy analysis to this field of study. As a result sustainable design is no longer a sysphean mission. And while we can’t predict the future, we hope we can set the pace for research to take place in the interior design field.

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