Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Buildings Are Top Cause of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

I just read something in Lightsearch Magazine online that I didn't know.

If you had asked me what produces the most greenhouse gasses before I read the article, I would have answered vehicles.

AIA Survey: Only 7% of Voters Know Buildings Are Top Cause of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

We humans really need to get our act together.

It blows me away that we HAD an energy crisis back in the late 70's and it's taken us till now to realize we've got a problem.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Stop Using Plastics and Save the Earth!

Today in the San Francisco Chronicle Mark Morford, the irreverent columnist, opened my eyes about where all the plastic is going, after it leaves my kitchen and home, in his column entitled Come see our giant toxic stew!

Horrified, I followed Mark's links to the LA Times site called Altered Oceans

If you dare to look, be sure to do Part 4, on Seaborn Plastic Debris.

Then tell me what you're going to use next time you have a choice.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Latest Kitchen Trends Hot off the Presses

I have just completed an on line panel discussion with 11 other kitchen designers from across the country for (unknown) manufacturers. The firm doing the study was RICKI, authors of a previous study featured in Kitchen & Bath Design News recently: Study Reveals Consumer ‘Pain Points’ for Kitchens.

Our effort was a followup to their "Pain Points" study to see how we designers address the "issues" raised by the twelve families, who were the study participants, working in their kitchens.

“Observing people in their kitchens identifies opportunities for solutions for manufacturers and retailers."

“In particular, annoyances or ‘pain points’ found in the kitchen highlight potential opportunities.”

While many participants had issues specific to their individual kitchens, some common “pain points” emerged. Among them:

Organization – Better methods for relieving clutter and improving accessibility.

Cleanliness – Easier-to-keep-clean appliances and other kitchen products.

Space – Additional space or ways to maximize existing space.

Product Design – Issues specifically related to product design improvements.

Noise –Ways to minimize noise.

We were also asked our opinions on various subjects to ascertain coming trends in kitchen design and products.

I have permission from the originators to discuss the results here.

So here goes:

1. Consumers are committed to opening their kitchens to surrounding rooms.

We have gone from pass-throughs and pony walls to eliminating wall cabinets entirely, and walls of windows. This is a BIG DEAL, because we also need to find storage space for many more kinds of household items in, or adjacent to, the kitchen.

2. Kitchens have become multi-tasking spaces where homeowners do everything from watching TV to computing to family interaction and entertaining friends.

Oh, and incidentally they store, prepare, serve and eat food in there too! A strong and common request from consumers is for a comfortable kitchen on top of all of the above. Homeowners want it all! Comfort and convenience, organized storage and functionality, personalized, warm and enticing, all in the same space: The kitchen of today.

3. Contemporary styling will come on even stronger in the next year and beyond.

This means European style, or frameless, cabinetry will be used in the U.S. far more than in the past two decades. Frameless has been pretty peripheral since it made its big splash back in the mid 80's. That will end, and frameless will be used for both traditional, transitional or "fusion" (a more streamlined version of traditional), and contemporary kitchens.

4. Stainless steel is on its way out.

Consumers are just looking for the next big thing. Is it oil rubbed bronze or floating glass panels? Something else? I'd love to have some further opinions here.

5. Focal point appliances are coming on.

Manufacturers are intriguing consumers with appliances, mainly ranges, in strong colors. Right now it is only the high-end maker, like Aga, that offers such options. I think this is a trend that will move down to the mainstream...at a premium.
Focal point hoods are already here and will continue to be desirable.
Focal point faucets are up and coming.

6. Cabinet finishes are going deep and rich.

This is already happening. Though it may just be the island, with lighter perimeter cabinetry to keep an airy, open feel; especially in smaller kitchens.

7. A place for everything and everything in its place.

This doesn't require much explanation, except that organized storage is a strong reason for consumers to consider changing out their existing kitchens.
A further consideration is that the kitchen is much more a multi-tasking space. So designers need to incorporate space for a laptop and brooms; a mixer and cell charger; a TV and pet feeding station. This goes way beyond the everyday silver and pots and pans of 20 years ago.

8. Consumers are CONCERNED about energy efficiency, products in the home that can impact health, and green remodeling concepts.

We designers must take the lead and educate ourselves and our clients on best practices in green design for kitchens. There are some Energy Star rated appliances that are more efficient than others. Some manufacturers are addressing off-gassing issues better than others. Kitchens consume a substantial portion of the energy and water used in the home. Designers must keep up with the latest and best information in this fast-changing field and make sure our products and specifications measure up.

9. Consumers demand more individuality and personal customization.

The high-end market is KING right now and for the foreseeable future. High-end consumers want their kitchens, and everything about their living spaces, to be different and highly original. They challenge designers to step up to the plate and give them something MORE.

10. Men have become more involved in the selection of appliances and products and design decisions.

It used to be that the woman of the house made all the choices and the man had the final financial decisions. Now they are sharing the process more, and sometimes the man is taking the lead. This can also make for some delays while they fight out difficult decisions and emphasizes the role of designer as mediator.

11. Designers' Wish List:

Cooktops and sinks that can be lowered and covered up remotely with a movable remote countertop.
Faucets that lower into the countertop and disappear.
Oven that can be completely concealed.
Appliances that can alter their height.
Truly quiet ventilation, disposers and dishwashers!
An aesthetically pleasing replacement for a dish drainer.
A high tech kitchen that does most of the work for you.
A glass tile that would provide illumination in the backsplash.
Integrated cabinets, appliances, sinks and countertops from one manufacturer, as the Europeans have.