Thursday, June 12, 2008

A few of the sustainable products & finishes

I met with Eric King from Greenable last week to continue discussing the selection of the interior finishes for the house along with some of the other sustainable aspects. All the folks at Greenable have been extremely helpful with this project and they continue to be a great resource for information and samples of sustainable materials. The areas we are currently working on are flooring, countertops, stair treads, paints & stains, and other sheet materials. Also, we talked about the installation of the BioBased spray insulation and the timber for the sunshades on the back of the house, both of which we are sourcing through Greenable.

Flooring: We will have only two types of flooring in the house - bamboo and tile. We felt that carpet is not a very sustainable flooring strategy for a residential project.

For the bamboo flooring we are considering the Strand Woven Carbonized "Nutmeg" from Green Choice Flooring. [From Green Choice's website]: "Our Strand Woven products are made by taking strips and strands of bamboo and weaving them together. We then compress them under intense pressure and heat resulting in one of the hardest and most stable flooring products on the market today. Strand Woven Bamboo flooring is also the ideal green product because it actually uses the by product that you get when making more traditional bamboo floors. Nothing is wasted during this process." Strand Woven bamboo is 100% harder than Oak and 20% harder than Mahogany. In addition to bamboo being a rapidly renewable resource, we feel this is a great option for the floors due to its beauty, durability, and low maintenance. The cost per SF is also very competitive.

Strand Woven Carbonized Bamboo Flooring

For some of the tile (in the kitchen & bathrooms ) we are looking at recycled glass tiles by companies like Trend and Oceanside. There are some really beautiful recycled glass tiles on the market these days (that don't all look like 'sea glass'). You can get mosaics, large squares, running bond, and many other types. We are also considering locating some salvaged 'subway' tile (white, running bond) if its not too expensive. For this project, we are looking to use glass tile for the backsplash above the counter in the kitchen and also in the master bath shower. Since many of the finishes in the home will be subtle, earth tone colors, we thought that these areas might be a nice place to have some fun. Below is an example of some of the various glass tile colors and patterns we are considering.

Recycled glass tiles from Trend and Oceanside

Countertops: This has been an ongoing search for many, many months. We are still torn between a few different products. The options have included Paperstone, Ecotop, Fireslate, poured concrete, Icestone, and Caesarstone for the kitchen . I really like the concept of the Paperstone material but I have reservations about the amount of wear that the counter shows (scratches, etc). I have also heard stories about Fireslate having problems during installation and not holding up as well as one would hope. The only one we have totally settled on is Icestone for the bathroom vanities. Although, we are leaning heavily towards Caesarstone countertops ("Raven" color, honed). Caesarstone is composed of 93% crushed Quartz held together by resins. The only real drawback I see with Caesarstone is the fact that it is made in Israel and thus has to travel a long way to get to Philadelphia. The element of sustainability that deals with how much effort is involved in actually acquiring a material (i.e. the steps in the manufacturing process and the distance it has to travel to get to the project) is call "Embodied Energy". If you can get products that are manufactured locally, you cut down dramatically on the amount of 'embodied energy' related to that product, thus saving a tremendous amount fuel and energy.

On the other hand, one really great advantage to Caesarstone for this particular project is the extremely small waste factor. You see, their standard slabs are 56.5"Wx120L". Our kitchen is comprised of 2 "L-shaped" pieces (with a 36"H turn down piece at 2 ends) and a 16"Wx72"L high bar slab. The "L-shaped" pieces are 56"Wx98"L. The leftover piece from one of the "L" cut outs will be cut in half and used for the turn downs and the other will be cut in half (lengthwise) and laminated together to become the high bar slab. The remainder of the material (2 - 20"Wx56"L slabs) are good size pieces and will definitely be utilized in another part of the house. So you have to make sure you look at all the sustainable factors involved in the selection of a particular material and then prioritize those factors.

Icestone countertops, however, cover all the sustainable aspects very well - a beautiful, green product and manufactured fairly close: in Brooklyn. [From Icestone's website]:
"IceStone is proud to be the first and only durable surface in the world to receive the coveted Cradle to Cradle™ certification. Cradle to Cradle assesses products on a number of criteria, such as the use of safe and healthy materials, design for material reuse and recycling, efficient use of energy and water throughout production, and instituting strategies for social responsibility. At IceStone we manufacture our products with 100% recycled glass in a cement matrix, diverting hundreds of tons of glass from landfills each year. We operate out of a renovated, day-lit factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, creating U.S. jobs for workers in an eco-friendly, safe and respectful environment."

Caesarstone countertops

Icestone countertops

BioBased Insulation: [From the BioBased website]:"BioBased Insulation markets building products that allow residential and commercial structures to be more sustainable. BioBased Insulation seals a structure's thermal envelope, making it is more energy efficient, healthier, more comfortable and durable than traditionally insulated homes. BioBased Insulation also is water-blown and soy-based, so it is more environmentally responsible." "The "Bio" in BioBased Insulation is soybeans. It is an energy efficient, American-made product that incorporates natural, renewable oil-based polyols as a replacement for a portion of the traditional petroleum-based polyols found in spray polyurethane foam insulation." And for any architects/builders out there: "BioBased 1701 is a Class 1, closed-cell, air barrier that is spray applied using water as the blowing agent. It is a Class II vapor retarder at 2.5 inches, has no VOCs, CFCs or HCFCs in the finished foam.

BioBased 501 voted "Outstanding green product of the year 2003.
BioBased 1701 is GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified and Certified.

BioBased spray foam insulation being professionally installed. The reason the guy looks to be in a 'haz-mat' suit is because, as with most foams, the material is extremely sticky and should not be handled until it has fully settled which point it is completely safe. They also scrape off the excess foam and recycle it for future use.

No comments: