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Countertops have come a long way over the years and typical marble/granite options are now just two of many options available. Today, the market is even filled with several environmentally friendly or “green” products to choose from.
As a custom-home builder, I find that many of our clients spend a bit more time selecting their countertops as compared to other interior selections, due to the design impact it can have in a room. Whether it’s installed in a kitchen or bathroom, countertops can become a focal point critical to overall design. While many people still choose a natural Marble or Granite product, there are several eco-friendly options that can make an equally important design statement.
Natural wood countertops are becoming more popular due to the warmth it adds to a space. And, since some species of wood are rapidly renewable (they grow quickly), they can be a very green option as well.
In my personal home, which was featured in the 2013 summer issue of Winter Park Home, we repurposed several Camphor trees from our backyard into important building components – including a countertop, breakfast table, meeting table, bench, fireplace mantle and shelving units throughout our kitchen. Camphor trees are an invasive species in Florida and were shading out many native plants/vegetation in our yard. Our decision to harvest and mill the wood has created focal points within the home and also a fun story behind our full renovation. It also didn’t cost more than using wood from other sources.
Another natural wood option, which has gained popularity over the past few years, is Bamboo.
Teragren, a manufacturer based in Seattle, Washington sources sustainable bamboo countertops, which can be priced less than a granite stone ($30-40 per square foot versus $40- 50 per square foot), making it an ideal material to use throughout the home.
This LEED v3 certified countertop is made of Optimum 5.5 Moso bamboo, which is a rapidly renewable, low emitting and 99 percent bio-based material harvested at the peak of its maturity in China. According to Teragren’s website, this specific species of bamboo is known for its high-density levels, making it 25 percent harder than maple.
Another popular trend in the market are metal countertops, specifically stainless steel and zinc. While, they tend to run on the higher end of the budget ($150-200 per square foot), they provide a unique surface area for any room, especially a kitchen.
There are several benefits to using a metal such as zinc. First, it’s naturally non-porous, allowing it to be cleaned easily. Second, each zinc top becomes unique. As a “living-metal”, it changes color over time depending on what materials it reacts to. In addition, it has anti-bacterial properties, making it a great surface for food prep. While, finally, the recyclability of zinc is infinite. After it’s lifecycle as a countertop, it can be repurposed time and time again - never losing its physical or chemical properties.
We will be installing a large zinc countertop at our project on Cypress Lane in Winter Park, stay tuned for images on our Facebook page (facebook.com/e2homes).
Another eco-friendly option is acrylic surfaces. There are several manufacturers of acrylic, including DuPont and LG Hausys. DuPont offers it’s Corian and Zodiaq product, while LG Hausys, offers its HiMacs and Viatera surfaces.
There are several similarities in the DuPont and LG products. They are all highly durable, non-porous and resistant to fungal and bacteria. In addition, they feature pre-consumer recycled material and are GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified for low emissions, which enable them to contribute to several LEED MR credits.
One unique featur
e of the LG Hausys HiMacs products is the ability to pair it with the LG TechTop, a phone charging station embedded in the countertop.
You’ll no longer need to search for your phone charger, but rather just place your phone on a specific spot on the countertop.
As you can see, choosing a countertop, even an eco-friendly one, isn’t as easy as it used to be. Whether you choose to go with a wood, metal, acrylic or natural stone options, it’s important to take in to consideration the location for each surface and it’s use. Also, keep in mind that it’s OK to mix several of the above materials within your home. To demonstrate this, we’ll be using a few of the talked about materials in our project on Greentree Drive, where the client is looking to install wood products in the bathrooms, Corian in the kitchen and quartz in other parts of the home. We’ll be sure to post images to our Facebook page, so stay tuned for those.