Making Gold From ‘Green’ Design

It may be easier than ever being “green,” as many experts contend – but it still takes a considerable amount of foresight, planning and hard work.

That much is becoming increasingly certain, even in a housing market that remains volatile and murky. In fact, the need for kitchen and bath design firms to approach “green” design with a well-conceived game plan has become as obvious as the fact that the green movement itself is making major strides.

Recently published stories in Kitchen & Bath Design News certainly attest to that.

The stories point consistently to a sharp rise in consumer interest for environmentally friendly products, an increase in the implementation of sustainable design practices and continued growth for sales of green building materials, including those in kitchens and baths.

The anticipated housing industry rebound will no doubt be accompanied by even more pronounced demand for environmentally friendly, resource-efficient design, products and construction – demand fueled largely by a shift in consumer attitudes from conspicuous consumption toward a more thoughtful, reserved pattern of spending.

When it comes to green, however, it’s one thing to talk the talk and another thing to walk the walk.

In other words, the kitchen and bath industry needs to be truly ready to meet the anticipated demand – not just say it’s ready.

And that’s where the hard work comes in.

For one thing, before trying to sell “green” projects, kitchen/bath specialists need to learn the fundamentals of green, and develop a growth plan to gradually expand the capabilities of their company.

Such a plan can perhaps begin with specifying such products as low- or no-VOC finishes, water-efficient plumbing fixtures, energy-efficient appliances and tankless water heaters. It can then involve more sophisticated green building practices, systems and products, which run the gamut from recycled flooring, centralized lighting controls and radiant floor heating to centralized automatic lighting controls, certified wood panels and decorative hardware made from recycled content.

A logical way to approach this is for kitchen and bath designers to become conversant about green, familiarizing themselves with product features, manufacturing processes, options and third-party certification programs. Sales professionals, similarly, need to become adept at educating homeowners about energy, water and resource efficiency – and how green remodeling can increase the value of their home, reduce utility bills and provide them a healthier and more comfortable place in which to live.

But far more than simply that is needed.

Kitchen/bath design firms need to establish a “green baseline” – reviewing and updating materials and processes, such as adding deconstruction and recycling. Staff training needs to be implemented, including briefing sessions for subcontractors. Eco-friendly products need to be displayed in showrooms. Green expertise needs to be marketed in literature and special events. Manufacturers, for their part, need to align their product brands with changing consumer values. And trade associations need to develop training programs and revise textbooks to reflect current building science and green technology.

The green movement, in many ways, is still in its infancy – but that’s likely to change…and fast.

Companies can, and should, differentiate themselves from their competitors and leverage their green-design skills to grow their business. But they’ve got to do more than simply talk about it to truly make it happen.