By David Wulff, AIA

Thinking of doing a kitchen remodel? You might try some other materials that have been on the market but you just didn’t know it.

Great kitchens enable us to do more than cook great meals. The kitchen is a gathering place, the comfortable haven in the home where we can casually connect with friends over a glass of wine or cup of tea. So, why shouldn’t we create a comfortable, contemporary, eco-advanced kitchen?

Start with your appliances. To decrease the energy consumption of your appliances without sacrificing performance, look for products that carry the Energy Star Label. Most major manufacturers offer Energy Star rated models across all appliance categories.

But, the real buzz in the kitchen is the eco-intelligent materials being created for cabinets and countertops. There’s an array of new possibilities. Fast-growing, rapidly renewable natural materials like bamboo, sorghum plants, and palm trees are just a few. Also, consider highly recycled materials like aluminum, glass, steel, and copper to enable visually exciting, high-performance kitchens.

Bamboo is rapidly becoming somewhat of a poster child for eco-intelligence, and it presents a great choice for kitchen cabinetry. Products made with bamboo are helping to get our appetite away from trees.

The next generation eco-friendly cabinetry options also include Kirei – a Japanese word that translates roughly as “that which embodies clean and beautiful” – Board. It is processed similar to bamboo. Kirei Board is manufactured by San Diego based Kirei USA.           The harvested stalks of the fast-growing sorghum stalks remaining after harvest are pressed together and glued to create a lightweight and durable material that has a distinctive nutty texture. This is a great use for a plant waste that would otherwise be burned or dumped.

And for fans of coconuts, there’s a company that turns plantation-grown coconut palm trees into material marketed under the label Durapalm. Once the palm trees have completed their useful life (usually about 80 years), the trees are gathered, layered multiple strands of palm wood atop one another, and transformed into beautiful, stable ply boards.

The uses of these three products – bamboo, Kirei, and Durapalm—can be used for flooring, furniture, and paneling.
Moving into composite materials (materials made from a mixture of different materials0, eco-possibilities for cabinetry includes Wheatboard (a material created from wheat stalks and straw), and Meddite II made from recycled paper products.

So, for your next kitchen or bath project, you might want to think outside the wood box and look into some of the eco-friendly products on the market.

DAVID H. WULFF, ARCHITECT welcomes the design challenges presented by new projects and is dedicated to developing innovative design solutions to meet every project requirement. David H. Wulff, AIA, 167 Trails End, Lake Lure, NC 828-625-5537, www.dwarchitect.com.