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People-First Places: A Commitment to Sustainability

By Jessica Rossow, RID, NCIDQ

March 3, 2022

If you’ve ever talked to an Interior Designer, chances are they’ve had the “we do more than pick pretty colors” conversation with you. While we enjoy the occasional home remodel show as much as anyone else, our education goes much deeper. Interior design includes a wide range of knowledge that impacts our approach to any project.

This holistic approach to design includes sustainability and the impact that our industry has on the earth. It’s equally as important for the main specifier of finishes on a project to be aware of the effect the materials will have on the occupant’s health.


Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, is the most environmentally damaging plastic. Toxic chemicals are released throughout PVC’s production, use, and disposal. When PVC is used in a space, occupants can experience dizziness, drowsiness, and/or headaches.  Some PVC products also contain lead as an active component, which has been found to cause lead poisoning to the users dwelling in these spaces. Prolonged exposure may lead to cancer and damage to the immune and reproductive systems. The use of PVC in construction has also been shown to have higher greenhouse gas emissions. These materials become even more dangerous if a fire occurs in the space. During a fire, hydrochloric acid is released, injuring occupants and firefighters who are exposed to the smoke and subsequent fumes.

PVC Pipe
PVC Pipe
Sustainability Clean Building

Additionally, there isn’t a way to safely manufacture or dispose of PVC products. The plants that produce these products release an immense amount of toxic chemicals into the air and environment around them. These pollutants effect nearby communities, farms and drinking water. When these materials are removed from a building, there is a similar effect. PVC is not biodegradable or degradable. At this point in a PVC material’s lifecycle, it will either be dumped in a landfill or burned in waste incinerators.

Sustainability Clean Building

Several materials that are specified in projects such as flooring, wall protection, decorative wallcoverings and wall base commonly contain PVC.

As more studies are being done and more information is becoming readily available, several interior finish manufacturers have been removing PVC from some or all of their offerings.

NEIRP Green Wall NEIRP Green Wall NEIRP Wooden Wall
NEIRP Green Wall NEIRP Green Wall NEIRP Wooden Wall

Our Commitment

At Design Collaborative, we have made the decision to consciously find and specify materials that do not contain PVC. In 2022, 75% of our interior finishes will be PVC-free. Our Interiors team made this our sustainability initiative for the year, recognizing that we can make this small change in our projects and create even bigger changes in both our clients’ and the environment’s well-being.

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