Going Green in a Chic, Award-Winning Kitchen

Laurie Belinda Haefele

By Barbara Ballinger

ATLANTA—When Laurie Belinda Haefele joined an architecture firm in New York City 19 years ago after graduating from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., her colleagues were beginning to incorporate sustainable features in their projects.

“It wasn’t a big part of the designs, but we paid attention to fenestration—or how air flowed, tried to conserve energy, and used building materials that insulated well,” she says.

Fast forward, Haefele is the winner of the award for Best Sustainable Kitchen at the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s annual convention, going on now in Atlanta. The kitchen cited in NKBA’s design competition is part of a new house in Corona Del Mar, Calif., and demonstrates good practices that other home owners can learn from and may desire in their own residences.

Haefele’s clients were a young couple who wanted to be good energy citizens and also have a healthy home for their family.

Among the features that convinced the judges of the home’s greenness were:

  • Reconstituted wood exteriors on the cabinets that resemble fancy wenge;
  • No-emissions plywood for the actual cabinet boxes, which were made locally so they didn’t have to be shipped from far away;
  • A low-VOC finish on cabinets and low-VOC paint on the walls;
  • Energy-efficient ENERGY STAR appliances;
  • Natural travertine flooring;
  • CaesarStone on countertops and backsplashes that were made from recycled stone;
  • Fluorescent lighting that’s code-required in California and which doesn’t emit as much heat as halogen lamps, but which also offers white illumination versus yesteryear’s yellow;
  • A recycling bin and compost trash center in the island;
  • A tankless water heater that heats on demand rather than wastes energy.

Does going green cost more? Haefele says about 20 percent more on average, but she adds that doing so is worthwhile for two reasons: It’s good for the planet and offers a long-term payback.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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