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Design Inspirations  Green Talk



Dark side of SuSTAINable Materials

In the Northwest we have embraced the Green movement, embraced the move to utilize materials that are manufactured in a sustainable way, materials that use recycled materials and or can be easily recycled themselves.  So with dismay I discovered that one product that I was very excited about turns out to be VERY SCRATCHABLE and another popular product turns out to be VERY STAINABLE!

Buyer Beware!  BEWARE what the manufacturers tell you whether in person or in their websites.  Ask for telephone numbers of people that have used their products and call them to see how they really hold up. Obtain a sample from the company and try to ‘kill’ it.

The beautiful and elegant GLASS2 product turns out to be difficult to work with by both glass and stone trades people.  Furthermore, the surface is so delicate it can be scratched with your fingernail.  Not a great product to be used as a counter, and unfortunately it is being promoted as such and sold by the slab next to granite and marble slabs that are sold and made into counters. Is this why there are only 17 pictures on the website of examples of use?  We tried 2 slabs over 4 months to create a simple bar counter, without success and came away very disappointed.

VETRAZZO is another very beautiful and stunning material.  Made of recycled glass of fairly nice size chunks, it has a tendency to chip away, particularly at any edge.  (The piece of glass breaks off leaving a hole.)  So the holes are supposed to be fixed before the counter gets to the customer but…..such is not always the case.  The hole problem, however, is not the whole problem (Hah!).  The bigger problem is that the cement that the glass pieces are floating in is extremely porous.  So we have a counter product that instantly stains!!!  IF you ask Vetrazzo, they recommend removing the stain with some liquid soap and water.  Well, that does not work.  If you ask their recommended fabricators, they will tell you to use bleach, which does work.  Further along in the ‘care and maintenance’ document they mention ‘sealing’ the product which ‘is applied during installation’ then further on they recommend that you apply wax to the surface after installation (right away) and ‘a couple times of year thereafter.’ (translation: every six months)  Yet in another paragraph in the document they recommend that ‘when the mood strikes you, buff it with wax a few times a year…’ (isn’t that every four months now?)  It seems to me that if you are up front with the issues and provide a detailed schedule for maintenance you will have happier clients because they will have consciously decided to install this product with the knowledge of the level of maintenance.


I’m disappointed and disillusioned and have stains on my green fingers.



sustainable products for health & home

I have found that some of the best products for your health and home are created by committed individuals, NOT by large corporations and they are NOT sold in your local stores.  The following are a couple products that I highly recommend along with their contact information:

Univera – health supplements:  This company is the poster child for sustainability and holistic health.  The owner is a Korean philanthorpist (Bill Lee) who owns millions of acres of land across the world growing aloe and other plants that provide medicinal value in a sustainable manner. He spent millions in establishing one of the largest plant libraries in the world and his research company Unigen performs medical studies on the effects of different plant based chemicals on the human body.  They take the different plant characteristics and combine them into products that heal your body naturally with plant based supplements.  (I’m a living testimonial, I say heal, they can only say help)  Their headquarters is in downtown Seattle and they ship the products out of Lacey Washington.  Their method of sales of their product is through their ‘associates’ who share in the profits of the sales.  Every new associate triggers a donation to Vitamin Angels which supports four children for one year with essential nutrients. Univera matches direct donations dollar for dollar up to $100,000.   In this Univera world everyone wins; needy children, the person attaining optimum health, the sales associate and our precious environment.  For more info contact  Rediscover Your Vitality... Discover Xtra® 

Bio Green Clean - cleaning product:  This was i ntroduced to me by my husband and I have to say that this is the ultimate in a cleaning product.  It works on everything from counters, floors, stone, leather, metal, teeth, blood, automobiles, mirrors, appliances, coffee machines, etc.  AND it really works!.  AND, by the way, it is 100% plant derived and is so healthy you can eat it.  (It is not really recommended that you eat it, but the MSDS sheet states that you may experience some diarrhea due to the ‘emulsification of grease and oil in the digestive tract’)   Bio Green Clean believes that chemical-free living starts at home and then extends to the world around us.  That is why they developed this product to safely break down and eliminate dirt without harming you or the environment. You can obtain the product directly through 


Keeping Green,  Christine


Sustainable Design is Dead - AIA terminates credit requirement

One of the questions I have often been asked by clients, colleagues and other professionals, is ‘how long is this green thing going to last’?  Is it a fad, a movement or is it a real change in our society?

For the past 10 years it has been a growing movement and has influenced our society from organic food to recycled glass counters.  Most manufacturers that have any interest in being in business have re-evaluated their manufacturing processes and carefully calculated the LEED* points that their product qualifies for.  Most manufacturers proudly advertise their level of ‘green.’

I have noticed, however, a split in some of the professionals that work with building products on a daily basis.  There are many architects, interior designers and contractors that have decided that they are not going to participate in the ‘green thing’.  (I am always shocked!!  REALLY?  Not at all???)  I have found that for most, it is a reluctance to learn new values, new design ‘rules.’  And to stereotype, it is the same group of people that say ‘why should I learn Autocad, I’m going to retire soon anyway.’  But, they are not retiring, they are active, working  professionals in our community.

So it is with apprehension that I read the announcement that AIA** has allowed the sustainable design education requirement to sunset at the end of calendar year 2012.  What? AIA is not promoting sustainable design?  This is what they said:

“Recognizing that sustainable design practices have become a mainstream design intention in the architectural community...AIA members will no longer need to complete the sustainable design requirement to fulfill their AIA continuing education.”

I’d like to think that sustainable design practices are main stream, but honestly, how many sustainable homes have you seen built lately?  Don’t they look suspiciously like the homes that were built 10 years ago?  Has the building industry changed? How many compostable toilets have you sold?  Or even HET’s? Do you even know what an HET is?

My point is that although sustainable design is much more frequent and accessible than it has been in the past, it is hardly main stream and the professionals that need this education the most are the ones that have long been out of school, the ones that would be required to take these courses as part of their continuing education.  I vote to keep those requirements.

Trying to Keep Green


 *LEED : Leadership  in Energy and Environmental design, a green building certification system established in 2000 by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC)

 **AIA: Based in Washington, D.C., the AIA has been the leading professional membership association for licensed architects. emerging professionals, and allied partners since 1857.



To LEED or not to LEED - 2.0

FOR those of you that were around when USGBC had the original LEED* test, you will remember the day that they decided that we had to re-take the test all over (two of them) and sign up for 30 hours of continuing education from the new ‘educational arm’ of USGBC. Oh, and by the way, we were given six months to get on board or get left behind.  We were labeled ‘heritage’ professionals by the internal workings of USGBC, but because of laws that govern accreditations we were still allowed to use our earned LEED AP appellations.

Many LEED AP’s ** chose not to retake all the tests (you would first have to take a test to be called a ‘green associate’, then IF you were part of an existing LEED project you were allowed to take a Specialty test.) Some, like me, were disillusioned by the very apparent economical purpose of this change in the program and chose not to retake the tests.

So, it was with humor that I received an email last week from the Green Building Certification Institute offering ‘FREE’ six hour training webinar that will earn me (apparently no tests involved) a LEED AP Specialty accreditation.  Though later in the document it states ‘complete all six hour-long webinars in the series by Oct 27, 2013…’ and I was unable to determine on the website which 6 hour webinars applied.  Their classes range from $80 to $550 so determining which classes is important. Oh, and by the way you still will need to take 30 hours of continued education every 2 years. It is apparent that USGBC figured out that most of the 155,270 LEED APs were not going to comply with the new system unless they were offered the ‘upgrade’ for free.J

*LEED : Leadership  in Energy and Environmental design, a green building certification system established in 2000 by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC)

**LEED AP: LEED Accredited Professional, a person who has demonstrated knowledge on the LEED green building certification program by passing a test.

Keeping Green



Japanese Spa Towns 

Japanese Spa Towns - Out with Nuclear - In with Geothermal

Traditional Japanese Hot Spring resorts have been a vocal opponent of geothermal energy due to the perceived affect on the level and quality of the water.  But the nuclear disaster of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant caused the entire nation to re-evaluate their energy policies.  Heavily dependent on nuclear power, Japan had only around 4% of their energy in renewable sources in 2010.  Their revised policy puts renewable energy up to 30% of future energy sources.

Tsuchiyu Onsen (onsen means hot spring) is a resort town that will be the pioneer in alternative energy.  Located 9 miles southwest of Fukushima city, Tsuchiyu plans to be generating 250 kilowatts of electricity at a new geothermal plant by 2014.  Geothermal energy has been hindered in Japan because of restrictions on the use of public land where 80% of the potential sites are located.  Because of the Fukushima accident, the government has relaxed the ban in five areas of the country.

Theoretically, Japan can move from the current 537,000 kilowatts from geothermal energy to being the third largest producer of geothermal energy in the world at 24 million kilowatts.  (Behind United States and Indonesia) Being somewhat current in alternative energy sources, I was happily surprised that the United States is leading the world in geothermal energy production!

Keeping Green (and wet in Seattle),