Kitchen renovations tend to be a first priority when it comes to renovating older homes. There are many reasons for this including colour, design, material use (think terracotta tile flooring from the 80s), and most importantly, functionality. Kitchens are also a great place to start a more eco-friendly renovation. There are more and more green options everyday, and they’re easier to find from efficient appliances to better flooring choices to no-added urea formaldehyde cabinetry.
I was wondering about what kind of things you should look for when you’re searching for a green kitchen designer so I contacted Clara Puskas. Clara knows a thing or two (and more) about green kitchen design. She’s the Chair of the Green Committee for the National Kitchen and Bath Association, as well as an experienced green kitchen designer and has won numerous awards for green kitchen design. So, needless to say, she knows what it takes to design a more eco-friendly kitchen than the norm.
CR: What are some of the points that distinguish a green kitchen designer from a regular kitchen designer?
Clara: A green kitchen designer will be able to:
- provide more space without necessarily changing the square footage of the home,
- focus on natural and task lighting, water and energy saving,
- work with rapidly renewable/ fsc certified/ zero VOC/ environmentally preferable products, but reuse if possible (try avoidng landfill),
- design for smart storage, recycling and use,
- design to use less materials/more open shelves etc, clean look, easy maintenance is priority in green design and product choices,
- [develop a] design [that] should adapt easily so no major changes/replacements should be needed for 50 years,
- appliances energy star and as needed depending on home/ family size, cooking style,
- proper venting, air quality, insulation, windows, doors not only for natural light but to connect with outdoors, decorate with fruits, vegetables, plant to create shade during summer, or use blinds, green roofs…d.epending on how far the client can/willing to go.
The more time and effort you put into the design, the better will be your end-result. Keep these points in mind when searching for green kitchen design.
CR: how do you approach a new kitchen design for your clients?
I start interviewing my clients in their home so I can see the space, the position of the home on the lot, windows, door locations, can we work within the same footprint? Finding out what they like and dislike in their present kitchen, budget vs. extent of reno- wish list, how they use adjacent dining room, are key information. Checking, and upgrading the existing electrical, plumbing, insulation is the perfect time when renovating the kitchen. I also recommend if feasible enlarging , upgrading windows if there is a nice view and doesn’t compromise storage, function within the same footprint. This helps connect with outdoors, enjoy the four seasons, helps fresh air circulation, and with natural light received that could result in energy savings. When no windows are available, skylights, solar tubes are wonderful alternatives to consider . Energy efficient lighting fixtures, dimmers, multiple switches will also promote energy savings. Designing for proper ventilation of gases and moisture is priority for a healthy kitchen. Also very important how many are in the family, how old they are, how they use the kitchen, do they cook together, further more do they entertain in the kitchen, are the guests involved in preparation of food, or not, in that case the design should keep guests out of the working triangle. All these information effects fixture, appliance choices beyond being energy star rated. How they shop and therefore store, effects appliance, storage, recycling considerations . I recommend environmentally favorable products that conserve energy, water, improve air quality, rapidly renewable, long lasting and low maintenance, with consideration of my clients’ height, age, perhaps physical limitations that all effects design choice for mechanism, height of counter tops, appliances, storage under and above. I aim to optimize the existing space’s potential, by using environmentally friendly products that minimize water and energy consumption. and with all these create safe, functional, healthy and beautiful rooms that meet my clients need and dreams.
As you can see by the detail of Clara’s questions to her clients, there is a lot to take into consideration when designing a new kitchen. Making it a green kitchen adds an additional layer of complexity because it goes well beyond material use — it’s more than just using bamboo as a floor. It’s about keeping the same home footprint, if possible or realistic, using less, not more, of everything which means simpler cabinets with less millwork. Reusing anything that’s possible, etc., bringing in natural light, therefore thinking about smart, efficient window choices….
Finding a green kitchen designer
There are kitchen companies that specialize in green kitchens. Like Clara, designers with a dedication to being environmentally conscious will have received a certain amount of training above and beyond their design degrees, so it’s best to ask them what sort of training they have. Look for training and completed certificates in sustainable kitchen design, lighting, etc., from resource centres such as the American Institute for Architects, and Interior Design schools and organizations. They could also be LEED qualified, (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional.) Regarding education, the National Kitchen and Bath Association offers a one-day Green Kitchen Design workshop for its members.
All Photos courtesy of Clara Puskas, Chair, Green Committee, National Kitchen and Bath Association.