Designing eco-friendly kitchens
When we hear about fitted kitchens and built-in furniture, we have a rough idea of what that refers to. We’re likely to imagine premium brands, natural and durable materials, and an ethical dimension. But is there a more precise definition for eco-friendly kitchens?
“A fully fitted kitchen is above all well designed and durable. The most environmentally-friendly kitchen is one that will last a long time,” explains Marika Nelson of Cuisines Multiplex, one of Quebec’s leading retailers of fitted kitchens.
“The production methods, the materials and the hardware must be of very high calibre, and in addition to being functional and ergonomic, the design must have a timeless beauty that makes people want to live with it for a long time,” she continues. “The component parts must be sound with no toxic volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions, locally sourced and/or sustainably managed or made from recycled materials (such as NuGreen particleboard),” she adds. She also notes that “several types of certification exist that make it possible to be selective about the source and composition of materials.”
The labelling system used by certification firms has become a major reference point. You need to know which standards you can trust. If we had to choose, we would single out these three key standards:
- Eco-Certified Composite – This is a labelling program that considers carbon footprint, sustainability, local and renewable resources, wood sourcing and recycled/recovered content.
- The ENERGYSTAR appliance rating system – This system focuses on high efficiency appliances that use less water and energy.
- The Forest Stewardship Council Canada (FSC)– This is an organization founded in Mexico in 1992, after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to ensure the judicious use of forest products with due respect for biodiversity and indigenous cultures.
There are also more general standards, such as LEED, that rank products on an international scale. However, according to Marika, the main goal is to make sure that the materials used in kitchens are locally sourced and don’t contain such harmful substances like urea formaldehyde (also known as formol), a carcinogenic substance released by certain materials, especially when in contact with heat of humidity and should therefore have no place in kitchens and bathrooms.
True cost of a kitchen
Does a fully fitted kitchen cost more? Not necessarily. You can find some good prices when you buy local.
“We favour locally sourced materials,” says Ms. Nelson. “It’s true that we’re pretty spoiled: our rural regions are complete with a variety of magnificent wood, beautiful stones and real know-how,” she points out. “We encourage our customers to choose solutions that fit their needs and to select energy and water efficient appliances and accessories. This will help them save money in the long run.”
Marika explains further, “The way I see it, limits – be they technical, spatial or aesthetic – are a spur to creativity. No two projects are alike. Each space requires a different solution and the needs and demands of customers vary greatly; that’s what makes each new project challenging!”
“We find inspiration in everything related to space, images, and materials: art, nature, design, architecture,” Marika affirms. “Social movements also influence the creative process. We’re living in an age when we are rethinking our ways of living and of living together, and we are revisiting our ideas about the scale of space.”
A fitting idea for our time, fitted, “green” interiors are gaining in popularity. In the past, awareness of ecology had to be promoted, but today customers are up on the latest trends and ready to consider new ways of designing their homes. “I like to think that we are (belated) pioneers and that in 10 or 15 years from now, ecological materials will be standard issue,” concludes Ms. Nelson. That’s a bet we’re ready to take!