Healthy Kitchens and Baths
A guide to materials for flooring, countertops, cabinetry, and more that benefit people and are better for the environment.
Synopsis: Sustainability educator Annette K. Stelmack offers a comprehensive guide to materials for flooring, counters, cabinetry, and wet areas that are natural, recycled, low-impact, and/or renewable. The articles includes a list of directories for finding products that meet environmental and health benchmarks, and as well as specific manufacturers and products that have reputable certification of health and environmental effects by outside organizations.
Kitchen and bath design is frequently driven by the look and cost of materials. While that formula may have worked fine in the past, today’s homes are built for better energy efficiency, which means they are more airtight. This increases the importance of picking materials and products that don’t foul the air and harm the health of a home’s occupants. It’s equally imperative to understand that our natural resources are dwindling, and that we can manage the environmental impact of a kitchen or bath project through considered choices of building materials.
Think long term and do your research
Designing a healthy, ecofriendly, high-performing kitchen or bath is a balancing act. Even in the greenest project, it’s likely that you will have to use products that are not themselves green. They may, however, be used in a manner that helps reduce the environmental impact of the building as a whole. A well-thought-out kitchen or bath design that substitutes intelligent, eco-friendly, benign products for conventional ones can make the difference between a good building and a great one.
Before picking any products, start with a timeless design—this means anticipating and building for future needs to avoid extensive renovations down the road. This goes hand-in-hand with the durability of the products you choose. Durable, long-life products require less frequent replacement, putting less stress on resources and landfills.
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