Green Kitchen Remodeling – A Primer

By Adam Eisman,
Posted on Sunday 26th April 2009

The kitchen can be a very active and demanding space, supporting many different functions and acting as a meeting place for the family. This means that the kitchen is ripe for efficiency upgrades, from lighting to plumbing and anywhere in between, and can serve as the starting point for turning your home into a green, sustainable entity. The biggest obstacle between you and a new, efficient kitchen can be settling on a design that maintains the functionality of the space, while decreasing energy consumption, without expanding the area to greatly. Green kitchen’s do not have to be behemoths, and you can get a lot of what you want if you plan it right from the beginning.

Before starting your Kitchen Remodeling Project, make sure you consider the desired function of the room, the existing conditions that one will have to deal with, the scope of the project, the size of the room, and the layout and space planning. Here is what to think about:


It is important to think about what the desired room will feature, and allow the homeowner to do. The utmost importance, when thinking about green remodeling, is the efficient use of space. The functions of a kitchen traditionally include a work space (cooking preparation), food storage (pantries and refrigerators), entertaining (hosting guests), and most importantly, dining. Think about the limitations of your old kitchen, and how best you can improve on that layout to work better with adjacent spaces.

Existing Conditions

Before you can move forward and into your dream kitchen, it is vital to understand the shortcomings of the kitchen you have decided to leave. Think about the spatial inconveniences , or functionality flaws that you would like to do away with. In addition to these things, water leaks (both outside and inside), air leaks, dangerous chemicals like lead, asbestos, radon, or mold, thermal and acoustical comfort, structural deficiencies, and ventilation or exhaust problems.


Every purchase is a carbon event that involves a tradeoff between certain options. During the process of a green home makeover, you should always be asking yourself, is this the most efficient and sustainable thing to do right now. This questioning should begin at the very beginning, and guide the decision on what upgrade or improvement to make to the home. Don’t be fooled into “going the whole nine yards” because it may improve the resale value. Keep the focus on your families needs and wants!


The plans for your kitchen may require additional space. This could mean turning adjacent space into a kitchen extension, or expanding the home envelope. You may not need to expand the room at all, which would mean avoiding the tendency to expect a bigger kitchen to be more functional. Lots of times, homeowners opt for some neat things to add to their kitchen, like a larger refrigerator, or a wine chiller, that increase the energy costs and are certainly counterproductive to the efficiency goal of a green remodeling job. When thinking about the space you will need, remember to take into account the counter top space necessary for sparsely used items, as well as cabinet space for dry goods and small kitchen appliances.

Layout and Space Planning

The ultimate goal of the project is to increase the efficiency of the kitchen while improving the functionality, but the room still needs to have a balance between utilities, ambiance, and efficiency. When dealing with the layout of your desired kitchen, make sure to meet with a professional so that you know what is reasonable, and what simply cannot be done.

Maintaining safety, health, and satisfaction with the kitchen while staying sustainable necessitates close attention to these components:

    Plumbing Layout - If hot water has to run a long distance to the tap, it incurs a much higher rate of energy loss than if the source is nearby. This will also cause you to wait longer for the water to become hot out of the tap. Also, avoid placing plumbing in exterior walls, as this could cause indoor air quality problems through moisture intrusion.

    Separate - Make sure to keep radiant and convective tools away from the refrigerator.

    Lighting - Provide a mix of task and ambient light to ensure that you lose nothing in the function, appearance and energy performance, and as always, go with Compact Fluorescent Bulbs for longer lasting light bulbs. And try not to use a lighting design that forces recessed lighting into the building envelope.

    Appliance Location - Make sure that there is adequate air space around important appliances, like stoves, ovens, dishwashers, and refrigerators. Also try to keep appliances that get hot, like the first three, away from the refrigerator.

    Kitchen Exhaust - It is vital that the kitchen exhaust is prepared to unload outside, and not anywhere inside the home.

    Universal Design - Consider asking about a universal design when thinking about remodeling the kitchen, as it means the homeowner will have to do less remodeling later, avoiding the costs and the extra materials necessary for another project.

These are but a few of the things to consider when making a green improvement to your kitchen, but it is many steps in the right direction. Go forth, and build green!

The information found in this article has been provided by the ReGreen Program, which is the result of the American Society of Interior Designers’ Foundation and the U.S. Green Building Council partnering on the development of best practice guidelines and targeted educational resources for sustainable residential improvement projects. This program will increase understanding of sustainable renovation project practices and benefits among homeowners, residents, design professionals, product suppliers and service providers to build both demand and industry capacity. Learn more at is a free resource for anyone that wants to save energy, money, and the environment. The articles, product reviews, online tools, and return on investment calculations are researched from a diverse range of public and private sector sources. Overall, the company is passionate about saving money as well as creating healthy homes, offices, and lifestyles.

For a better idea of which improvements to your home will save you the most money the fastest, take a look at GREENandSAVE’s Return on Investment Table for your next Home Remodeling project. Or, consider taking a career in the rapidly expanding Green Industry with the EcoAcademy, which is training people across the country for Green Collar Jobs.

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