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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Green Remodeling Offers Many Perks for Homeowners

Nov 26, 2014 10:56AM ● By Kevin Jotkus

Many people have a clear vision of what they want for a remodeled master bathroom/closet space—perhaps a timeless/transitional look with personal touches, or a cutting-edge room. In addition to aesthetics, functionality may be very important—a space that is more open and practical. But no matter what goals the homeowner has, incorporating sustainable materials can play an important role in creating a beautiful and healthful personal space.

Using sustainable materials for cabinets, tiles, countertops and paint can enhance the health and well-being of the entire family, lessening indoor air pollution from outgassing of toxic manufacturing chemicals and materials. To be more energy efficient and save money on utilities, a tankless water heater, spray foam insulation and floor heating system are also great choices when remodeling.

Sustainable Options

Nothing beats the natural look and visual beauty of real stone countertops, but of course, that’s not a cheap or eco-friendly option. Fortunately, the industry has caught up with the economy and created sustainable and affordable options for almost every design need and budget. For example, beautiful manufactured porcelain tile slabs, available in sizes up to five-by-10-feet, look like real Calcutta marble stone (cut from age-old mountains and shipped at a high monetary and fuel cost from overseas). These tiles can be used for floors, walls and countertops. Natural marble requires regular maintenance, and because it is a porous material, stains easily. Porcelain countertops do not stain or chip and are scratch-resistant, ensuring lasting beauty. It also can cost 40 percent less than marble and from an ecological standpoint, is typically made with 100 percent natural minerals (often recovered from other manufacturing processes), including quartz, kaolin, clay, feldspar, silica and natural coloring agents.

Eco-friendly cabinets are also readily available. Look for those that are locally made using no-formaldehyde-added plywood and water-based stains and varnishes for better indoor air quality. Whether the need is for built-ins, foldouts or even pocket doors, sustainable cabinetry can be fashioned for every closet and bath need. Low- and no-VOC stains come in almost every color and finish option.

Energy-Saving Fixtures

Many water-conserving plumbing fixtures are available on the market due to the growth of the green and eco-efficient market preferences. Toilets account for nearly 30 percent of indoor water consumption. Dual-flush toilets, available from many manufacturers, have two flush options and can save up to approximately 17,000 gallons of water a year. For the shower, consider switching to a low-flow shower head (two gallons per minute or lower), which still offers adequate water flow, but will save on water usage. Some new fixture technologies also infuse air into the water flow, ensuring an enjoyable, high-pressure bathing experience using less water.

Tankless water heaters are a great option for saving energy and delivering instant hot water. Heaters can be installed for an entire home, a single room or even under one sink. They operate only when needed, avoiding the waste of natural gas or electricity that occurs when a conventional tank runs constantly.

LED lighting is also recommended. In the last two years, the industry has stabilized light color and greatly reduced the cost to retrofit fixtures and bulbs. They are a great product that is cost-effective to run, emits little heat and has a life span of 15 to 20 years.

Air Quality

To ensure healthy indoor air quality, consider zero VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint for walls, ceilings and trim throughout the space and in an adjacent master bedroom. The finished space will be environmentally healthy, with the look and feel of a home spa retreat.

Kevin Jotkus is president and owner of Green Living Designs and Globus Construction, located at 1930 1st St., in Highland Park. For more information, call 847-681-0126 or visit on Facebook.