The Sustainable Series Pt4-Sustainable Cabinetry
Sustainable kitchens like sustainable Interior Design are at their core, an effective and efficient use of space where the long-term impact of materials and construction methods are considered. It really comes down to embracing the “life-cycle” approach when selecting materials and considering all phases from manufacture and production to use and future removal and disposal. Eco-friendly cabinetry is gaining significant popularity and there are some great products on the Australian market to explore to help you achieve one.
So, what do you need to consider to determine their ‘sustainability’ suitability?
- What is the materials carbon impact? This is the embodied energy of products and relates to how much energy is consumed during the production, manufacture and transport cycles.
- A sustainable kitchen is one with functional space design, thus reducing unnecessary and wasted materials as well as prioritising quality over quantity. Think in terms of product and material longevity and lifespan rather than quick fixes and substitutes that require replacing within a few years.
- The chemical/toxic components of products and materials. What is their calculated VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) level and to what extent does it off gas?
- And are the products and materials able to be recycled in the future?
The beautiful thing about using recycled materials is that they often have a valuable history and intriguing story behind them which is far beyond their monetary value allowing you to sense and relate to the unique life cycle that you get to enjoy. For example, we have kitchen bench seats that we made using Jarrah boards that are over 100 years old that we salvaged from a building site years ago. The depth of color, warmth and texture is gorgeous and every time we use them, I can’t help but acknowledge and consider their incredible life cycle journey.
This all sounds great but what products should you be considering?...
Whilst this might be a product that surprises you in terms of sustainability, the Laminex business model confirms a commitment to ensuring that product manufacturing, building practices and forest management are all conducted with a future friendly ideal in mind. This is evident by Laminex being the first Australian business within their category of decorative surfaces supplier to receive the Global Green Tag Level A Certification, which is the highest rating possible. The Global Green tag program commenced in 2011 and one of is Australasia’s leading third-party environmental certifications which is readily recognised by the Green Building Council of Australia.
As one of the most prolific manufacturers of wood and paper products, they are conscious of doing all possible to reduce their carbon footprint and have implemented innovative recycling and reuse programs during production to minimise water usage and wood waste.
They now have a comprehensive range of environmentally preferred and low-VOC emission products. All of the Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) which is produced in Gympie has a very low formaldehyde EO rating, whilst the Laminex Timber Veneers, Laminex Structural MR EO MDF, Laminex Contour and Contour Fine edge doors, Formica Melamine and Trade Essentials Particleboard are all Level A certified.
These images show a snapshot of the ranges of colours available, from white to woodgrain, their 2019 Colour Collection is well worth exploring.
Paperock is another fantastic product to hit the Australian market for sustainable cabinetry. This product is comprised of layer upon layer of paper from renewable sources which is bonded together with a phenolic resin (which has no VOC’s or radon emissions) and heat/pressure cured to ensure non toxicity. This makes it an incredibly strong material, for example a 20mm thick benchtop can be cantilevered to 460mm. Much further than any natural stone or stone composite benchtop can. It has also been released in a ply version, which is a high-quality Birch ply with a 2mm layer of Paperock either side allowing for a reduced price point and a lighter material.
In comparison, this product costs significantly less than stone, concrete or stainless steel, offering a great sustainable option for those that are budget conscious, yet is comparably strong and looks fantastic. The company take their environmental responsibility very seriously and ensure that products are manufactured in adherence to their sustainability principals as well as made with longevity in mind.
Regarding cleaning, most stains or spills are easily wiped up, and any scratching caused by knife marks directly on the surface can be buffed out. Due to its composition, this material can withstand heat up to 180 degrees making it a handy benchtop material.
At this present point in time the only colour available is black, however a new colour range is being investigated.
The third product I wanted to bring to your attention is Ecological Panel which also have a range of sustainable cabinetry materials, all certified to FSC standards. The Ecological Panel is the only particle board which is certified 100% recycled post-consumer waste, meaning it’s completely comprised from wood which was destined for landfill or incineration, with the end product being non-toxic, VOC free AND Carbon Negative! This product, however, is not made in Australia but Italy by one of the largest panel makers in the world with 50 years of experience. Therefore, there is a component of carbon outlay to transport it.
Ecological Panel is available in flat, embossed and super hard finishes with an ultra-high quality 120gsm melamine paper, ensuring it’s perfect for medium duty benchtops
Beyond the initial construction phase it is also the other end of the life-cycle that needs to be considered with sustainability and sadly, once their “working life” is complete, most kitchens end up being discarded at the tip, with a large component of mixed waste product featuring glues, mastics and laminated chipboard that are impractical to recycle. If joinery is screwed and glued, it will typically have a minimal edge strength meaning the potential for disassembly and reuse is quite low.
If you are considering a sustainable kitchen, look to products like those mentioned above or consider solid timber which is mechanically fixed. Compliment it with an ultra-low or zero VOC paint (as many now available have fantastic wash and wear properties), water and energy efficient tapware and appliances and finish it off with a sustainable benchtop (keep an eye out for a future blog 😉).
If you are using heavy products like tiles, they are best being sourced locally to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation.
As I’ve urged before, start to think beyond colour palettes and textures and delve further into the true components of what you are installing. Lots of small steps towards sustainability lead to a much larger movement and awareness. And ultimately a home truly built for the future.