Can Big Kitchens Be Green?


Donald Chong: Small Fridges Make Good Cities

We have often stated that it is hard to call big houses green, but can big kitchens be considered green? We were asked by Kitchen and Bath Business Green- a trade publication serving "the business of building eco-friendly kitchens and baths" (there truly is a magazine for everything!) Read the edited version here or the full version below.

KBBGreen: Are big, open kitchen layouts environmentally friendly, and how so or how not?

LA: In an era of global warming and peak oil, we have to think about using fewer resources both in building and operating. Even the greenest of materials have embodied energy so the bigger a kitchen, the less environmentally friendly it is. The key to our future is to live with less, and the best way to live with less is to design things well.


Donald Chong kitchen: note that the sink and range for this entire kitchen is a free-standing Buthaup "kitchen workbench" at the end instead of the usual monster Viking or Aga.
KBBGreen: Do they cost more to heat or cool? Does heat from cooking raise temperatures in other rooms of the house because there aren't walls to contain it?

LA: The bigger a room, the more it costs to heat or cool. However the biggest problem is that big kitchens seem to always get big appliances; in the upscale kitchen everyone wants the big honking commercial ranges with 20,000 BTU burners, salamanders and professional exhaust systems to cope with it. And fridges that can hold two weeks worth of food. The nicest kitchen I ever saw (very big and open) was by Donald Chong in Toronto, who says "small fridges make good cities"


Donald Chong Kitchen: Lots of room for preserves

KBBGreen: If green, how can designers market this to clients?

LA: Local food, fresh ingredients, the slow food movement; these are all the rage these days. A green kitchen will have big work areas and sinks for preserving, tons of storage to keep it in, but will not have a four foot wide fridge or a six burner Viking range. It will open to outdoors to vent the heat in summer, to the rest of the house to retain the heat in winter. The dining area will be integrated into it, perhaps right in the middle. A green kitchen will be like grandma's farm kitchen- big, open, the focus of the house and no energy from the appliances will be wasted in winter or kept inside in summer.

KBBGreen: If not green, how can you make open kitchens green without sacrificing design and style? (Radiant heat flooring? Vent systems?)

LA: There is nothing inherently "not green" about a big open kitchen, if it is not filled with monster appliances, formaldehyde and vinyl. If it is where you live and not repeated with accessory breakfast rooms and empty dining rooms, it probably can and should be the biggest room in the house. ::K+BBB Green