UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Anna Marshall-Baker honored by Interior Design Educators Council

How do the materials around you affect you, and how have they affected those who produced them and the environment?

Dr. Anna Marshall-Baker, professor and chair of the Department of Interior Architecture, can tell you. Her research concerns the interconnectedness between the environment, human health and well-being, economic conditions, and aesthetics.

In March, she received the Arnold P. Friedmann Educator of Distinction Award from the Interior Design Educators Council. IDEC’s most significant award recognized her contributions to interior design education, her leadership, her innovations in the profession and her excellence in teaching.

Marshall-Baker’s work on sustainability in interior design has not just influenced -operations and academics at UNCG, but that for every student who studies with an interior design educator. In previous years, as president of IDEC, Marshall-Baker guided the organization to adopt core values in sustainability, so that all educators incorporated it into their coursework and all interior design students gained a fundamental knowledge of sustainability. Through her research and leadership, Marshall-Baker has put the focus on interior design’s interaction with human health and environmental health.

“We need to understand the effect of informed design decisions, and the designer’s power and responsibility to influence quality of life,” she says. “Whether it’s in a home, in a medical facility or on an assembly line.”

Marshall-Baker’s work examines aspects of design such as indoor air quality and the use of nontoxic materials that support normal human development. She has given particular attention to environmental safety for young children, and a good part of her research and advocacy concerns newborn intensive care units (NICUs).
She is a member of the Consensus Committee on Recommended Standards for NICU Design, which combines the efforts of a variety of experts from all fields in analyzing healthcare environments and seeks to implement evidence-based requirements and best practices in design standards. The committee publishes their findings in the Journal of Perinatology.

Last year, Marshall-Baker co-authored “Creating an Environmentally Sustainable Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” published in Newborn & Infant Nursing Reviews.

She also works in biophilia, which is the study of our inherent connection to natural conditions. Marshall-Baker can point to statistics on health and productivity that relate to biophilia. For designers, the challenge is to understand features of the natural world that can be designed into space such as colors, shapes, proportional relationships, and textures that are found in nature. Windows in offices, for example, are desirable to fulfill a human need for natural light conditions.

At UNCG Marshall-Baker promoted sustainability on campus when she was Faculty Senate chair and when she was co-chair of the Sustainability Council. In those roles she facilitated connections across campus and interdisciplinary interaction centered around sustainability – and worked closely with Academic Affairs and Business Affairs to find sustainability-based economic savings.

In the UNCG Department of Interior Architecture, Marshall-Baker compiled a materials library, which is a valuable resource for interior design students. Each material in the library has a documented life history, from its creation to disposal, which students can analyze to discover how “green” a material may be. The emphasis is not only on where the material came from, but on the health of the humans who have worked to produce the material, those who live with it while it’s in use and how it affects the environment after it is discarded.
“Through the library, students develop a process for evaluating material, and for making informed decisions,” she explained. “When they join design firms they’ll be able to advocate for sustainable choices.”

For UNCG, Marshall-Baker sees a future interacting with renewables, and entrepreneurship in green energy. She celebrates UNCG’s efforts to recycle water from chillers, and students’ contributions to and guidance of the Green Fund. She also sees opportunity for even more green education on campus, through classes and initiatives, and through asking questions about our progress toward a healthier planet.

“Students learn about sustainability and then influence how it is taught and practiced at UNCG ,” she said.

By Susan Kirby-Smith