Green is no longer simply the word of the moment. Instead, it is a trend with staying power. At least, that’s what many kitchen and bath dealers and designers are indicating through their increasing interest in all things sustainable and environmentally sound.
According to those industry professionals surveyed in a poll recently featured on KBDN’s Web site, www.KitchenBathDesign.com, 81% of respondents reported that they are seeing interest in green products hold steady or grow in importance – and they expect this trend to continue into the future.
When it comes to what can be learned from this pattern of growth and stability – in a less than stable market – the answer may lie in the basic idea that, when going green, every little bit helps. Kitchen and bath designers indicate that their customers want to make changes, and even small ones will give them the feeling that they are doing something for their families and the world around them.
Manufacturers and suppliers to the kitchen and bath industry have increased their product offerings in the green category, with many retooling existing products to meet updated water-conservation guidelines and indoor air quality requirements. And, while in previous years environmentally friendly meant more expensive, there are new products being added at different price points every day.
Air quality is a key factor in the greening of the home. Newer homes are more air tight than houses built even 20 years ago, according to the EPA, which is good for heating and cooling purposes, but bad for indoor air quality. In fact, the EPA estimates that indoor air quality is up to 10 times worse than outdoor air quality on the smoggiest day.
Considering Americans spend 90% of their lives indoors, it’s clear why this is a key issue in designing healthy spaces. Additionally, air quality is not a stand-alone issue; rather, every other component of the home can have an impact on overall air quality.
Air quality can be compromised by off-gassing from cabinetry, countertops, flooring, wall coverings or fabrics; by cooking by-products released into the air, or by mold caused by excess moisture or poor ventilation.
Proper ventilation is critical, but air quality can be tricky. Just as too little ventilation can lead to compromised air quality, if too powerful a fan is installed in a forced-air HVAC system, volatile organic compounds can be drawn out of furniture, fabrics, carpets and cabinetry.
To spread information about this, the EPA has partnered with the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory to create the Indoor Air Quality Scientific Findings Bank, a resource for IAQ questions.
While air quality is a big-picture issue impacting healthy design, every component of the kitchen can have a positive or negative impact on how healthy or green a space is.
Since cabinetry is often the single biggest product investment made in a kitchen, it’s a good starting point for those looking to go green.
In the past few years, the kitchen cabinet industry has come a long way. The creation of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association’s Environmental Stewardship Program in 2006 marked a turning point for self-governance in the cabinet industry. Since the program’s inception, 151 cabinet companies and brands have earned KCMA’s ESP certification, creating more green cabinet options, and raising the bar for future products.
As a result, high VOCs, formaldehyde off-gassing and other associated indoor air quality issues are largely being eradicated from quality cabinetry. Additionally, strict air quality controls put into place by the California Air Resources Board at the beginning of this year are expected to spark greener product offerings industry wide.
Countertops are also increasingly being impacted by the green movement. The GreenGuard Institute (www.greenguard.org), a third-party certifier, tests for VOCs in the products it certifies (such as Silestone, Cambria, Samsung Staron, Wilsonart and dozens of other brands large and small that are certified to be low VOC).