ealthy and sustainable ingredients—namely, a lack of chemicals. Most importantly, green building materials do not contain urea-formaldehyde, also known as urea-methanal, a resin that is found in just about everything, from plywood and particleboard to paints, textiles, and carpeting. “It is a known carcinogen,” explains Goldman. “It definitely contributes to all sorts of issues relating to breathing, allergies, asthma—it can cause all sorts of reactions and it’s in absolutely everything!”
What many people may not realize is that going green often means going back to the basics of construction materials: making quality products as they were made before the introduction of chemicals in the 1950s and 60s. “What we did in the 20th century is we put chemicals into absolutely everything—as a stabilizer, as a conditioner, as a preservative—thinking that was a solution,” explains Goldman. “Now, we’re spending the 21st century taking it all back out again!” In the realm of house construction and remodeling, that means reevaluating all the products used down to the paints and adhesives.
Once the cabinets were just right, the next big choices were floors and counters. To maintain continuity with the wood floors throughout the rest of the house, Brown chose red oak flooring, made from sustainably harvested wood from Quebec and northern New England. Stained a warm reddish-brown to match, it is NAUF (No Added Urea Formaldehyde), just like the cabinets, and comes with a 26-year warranty. “Kitty’s never replacing this floor,” says Goldman. “Not only is the floor beautiful, sustainable, and healthy, but it is also durable and low maintenance. She doesn’t have to think about it again.”
One of the perks of going green is that the products will have a longer life. “Sustainability does equal quality because we want to make things that will last and be low on maintenance, and to do that, you have to make something well,” says Goldman. As with most high-quality products, there is a higher price. But as Goldman says, “Do you want to buy it from us first—or do you want to buy it from us next?”
The counters are a mix of NAUF maple-stained wood from Canyon Creek and an innovative product called Eco by Cosentino, a recycled glass and concrete surface. Goldman added an ogee profile to the edges of the countertops. “The style is very country, and so the ogee edge gives the counter a classical, country look that goes with the rest of the house,” Goldman notes. “You can add a new material, but by using classic lines, you create a classic look.”
Other green details included energy-efficient lighting, VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) free paint, and the replacement of fiberglass insulation with an eco-friendly batting. Brown says she couldn’t be happier with the end result of her kitchen. “The materials are beautiful, so practical, and so earth friendly,” she says, “I absolutely love my new kitchen. It is inviting. It’s warm. It’s so light and airy!”
For Goldman and Smith, the reward is not only watching the transformation of the space, but also steering their clients towards ideas that will bring their goals to fruition. “It is our job to lure this information out of our clients and then realize it for people,” says Goldman. For Smith, who particularly enjoyed working with Brown, “It is a joy to guide her to choices that may not have been her normal, practical, run-of-the-mill options.” The choice to go green was essentially Kitty’s—her husband, Tom, was convinced by the quality of the materials and the final product.
The Browns are part of a growing number of people who are seeking out greener alternatives for reasons of health, efficiency, low maintenance, and concern for the planet. Amazingly, ‘g’ Green Design Center remains one of the only places in the region specializing in green building materials and design. Goldman regularly gets requests from people in the Boston area.
“People want their houses to be energy efficient, knowing the value of it. They are more aware and they want things that are safe and healthy,” Goldman notes. “Businesses also want green options because they want to be able to market themselves as sustainable.”
Going green in a home design or remodel project couldn’t be easier. With more choices than ever, there is a seemingly endless array of options to fit a variety of budgets and styles. “When we started in 2006, we had an option of about three different countertops,” reflects Goldman, “We have over 20 options now. There were a few options for wood and bamboo and we now have multiples.”
The clientele has also evolved. “Not everyone who comes in here is ‘earthy-crunchy,’” says Goldman. “Most people are somewhere on the spectrum.” Today, green design offers enough options to satisfy both the hippie and the pragmatist in all of us.
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Amanda Wastrom is a frequent contributor to Cape Cod HOME.