Anna Ruth Gatlin is a change agent for a more sustainable Auburn University. One project at a time, she demonstrates the advantages of a new approach.
Anna Ruth has served as an interior designer for the university for three years. She and her coworker, Margaret Devall, work on projects requiring interior design, but they also work on projects with electrical and architectural components.
“We might have ten projects of our own, but sometimes will be working on about 30,” she said.
In all these projects, Anna Ruth attempts to take a fresh approach, reduce waste, and think about the larger picture in the long term.
“When you look at the life cycle (of a product), and the amount the product will cost throughout its life for upkeep or to replace, maybe it’s more expensive (in the near term) to do something that will be a longer lasting product, but it will cost less in the long run.”
One of Anna Ruth’s collaborative projects is the Engaged Active Student Learning (EASL) classroom, an innovative, experimental classroom design located in Haley Center. The project is an incubator classroom that tests several different table designs to determine which designs create the best environment for engaged student learning.
While the classroom’s focus is engaged learning, Anna Ruth and her team incorporated sustainable aspects into the design that enhance the function and productivity in the classroom.
From the carpet, which was made from recycled materials by Interface Carpet in LaGrange, GA, to the glass boards that replace conventional and short-lived white boards, Anna Ruth and the other collaborators consciously chose local, recycled, more sustainably made and durable materials whenever possible.
According to Anna Ruth, “This project required a lot of thought, a lot of brainstorming and a lot of creativity and I really enjoyed it. The sustainable choices of the design tie into the educational aspects of the classroom because they are part of the inherent quality of the room.”
When designing interiors, Anna Ruth prioritizes what a product is made of, how it is made, and its durability, life cycle cost, and maintainability. Because more sustainable options were chosen, the classroom has higher quality materials that will last longer and are easier to maintain.
“Sustainability doesn’t have to be an ‘either/or decision.’ It can be an ‘and’ decision,” Anna Ruth continued. “As long as you do your research and are conscious about what you’re doing, the sustainable choice is often the easy choice.”
Anna Ruth finds that sustainable options are not just better for the environment, they are also better for the functionality of a room. As Anna Ruth explains, “While some things like glass boards may be more expensive up front, they will outlast Haley. They won’t have to be replaced or cleaned with chemicals like typical whiteboards, and you won’t have to stare at a (hard to erase on a white board) two-year-old math problem either.”
For Anna Ruth, “sustainability is about being conscious of the decisions you’re making and how they affect the world around you.”
Anna Ruth believes this consciousness begins with education. She graduated from Auburn with a bachelor’s degree in interior design before pursuing her masters in the same subject.
“You can’t make conscious decisions if you haven’t been educated to know what makes an impact, and why you need to be conscious of these things,” Anna Ruth continued. She hopes that her sustainable design and passion will rub off on others.
“I’ll keep making conscious choices and hopefully either subconsciously or consciously, my choices will influence others to be more conscious with their decisions.”
For more insight into what drives Anna Ruth, check out her feature in Auburn University’s Take 5.
Post contributed by Jaclyn Brass, Office of Sustainability Intern