Tuesday, September 4, 2007

This Old "Green" House - An Environmentally Conscience, Period Sensitive Kitchen Remodel

Modern sensibilities are easily honored and reinterpreted with today's "green building" materials and techniques. Eco-friendly materials such as recycled glass, cork and bamboo look great in a mid century or contemporary homes. But, is it possible to do a sensitive restoration on a historic home and still inject green practices? Although there is always more that could have been done, here is how we met the challenge during a recent kitchen remodel:

  1. We installed low formaldehyde insulation while the walls were open to increase the rooms energy efficiency and minimize off-gassing. We also opened up the floor plan through the mud room; with a screen door on the far end, a casement window (which cranks out to capture bay breezes) in the middle, and large opposing crank windows ( equipped with simple shades rated to block heat and UV rays) at the table end. This increases cross ventilation through the kitchen which is sufficient to cool the room sans air conditioning in the Summer.
  2. We purchased formaldehyde free solid wood cabinetry: No off-gassing and durability for a longer useful life.
  3. We Installed recycled oak floors (purchased from a demolished barn) and used low VOC water-based stains.
  4. We strove for a "forever" kitchen by choosing finishes with longevity in mind and honoring the original architecture over current trends. Appliances were the exception because they tend to have a serviceable life that is relatively short, and we expect they will need to be swapped out at some point. Modern appliances also help a historic kitchen appeal to a wider audience.
  5. We looked for energy star ratings on all appliances. Ranges do not appear on the www.energystar.gov list because there is no agreement on what to test. We bought a high-end range top, because its longevity will likely out serve all the other appliances in the kitchen. Also consider whether a new appliance will make you a better cook, or if the manufacturer of the appliance is just selling you the idea that it will make you a better cook. We opted not to have any fancy warming drawers or wine refrigerators that use extra energy.
  6. For the most part, we used florescent lighting for all task and overhead illumination. We cheated a bit, and used two incandescent fixtures as accents over the sink and table (but they get the least amount of use.)
  7. Our counter tops are marble with a low-VOC sealant done by Green Envirotek. This isn't a super green surface, but we hope they will go the distance in our "forever kitchen." The new earth friendly sealants take away most of the maintenance issues and the marble can be re-polished down the road to bring back its original luster. Marble also gets extra points for its timeless beauty.
  8. At the prep sink, we opted for a roll-out composting bin instead of a garbage disposal. The main sink accommodates both trash and recycling bins.
  9. Every project has its concessions: I started a search for recycled glass for the back splash along the range wall. I fell in love with an Ann Sacks, Glace tile, which is not made of recycled glass instead. I like how the hand made quality of the tile speaks to a home with history, and the shape feels reminiscent of old subway tiles. Later, I found a 100% recycled alternative at Bedrock Industries, BlazeStone Tile. Too late for me to mend my ways, but maybe this can benefit someone else.
  10. Recycling gave history to some of the room's accessories. The artwork is old crate labels that we found at an antique shop and the kitchen chairs were re-purposed from an old dining room set.

No comments: