Low Impact is a Good Thing: The Latest Initiatives in Low-Carbon Design – NKBA


Low Impact is a Good Thing: The Latest Initiatives in Low-Carbon Design

The expert-led panel at the NextSTAGE at KBIS 2024 discussed sustainable strategies and eco-friendly kitchen and bath design.
The panel of K&B industry professionals at Low Impact is a Good Thing: The Latest Initiatives in Low-Carbon Design on KBIS NextSTAGE at KBIS 2024. Image courtesy of Emerald/KBIS.

By Elisa Fernández-Arias

At KBIS 2024, the expert panel at “Low Impact is a Good Thing: The Latest Initiatives in Low-Carbon Design” discussed the integration of sustainable practices, building codes, low impact design and green sourcing on the NextSTAGE. Moderated by Avinash Rajagopal, Editor in Chief, Metropolis Magazine, this event featured panelists Amanda Gunawan, Founding Principal, Only Way Is Up Design; Laurence Carr, CEO, Laurence Carr, Inc.; and Megan Thompson, Founder, greenList by Spark Interiors.

After discussing their personal and business approaches toward sustainability, panelists discussed the inevitable rise of sustainability as it becomes more required by law, and their definition of low-impact products, including the life cycle of products.

They also went into the importance of research and asking the right questions when it comes to finding sustainable products, using strategies including:

  • Learning how products are made from representatives
  • Finding out the impact on the employees making the products
  • Learning where products are made
  • Seeking out low-toxic, low carbon materials
  • Considering end of use and end of product (ideally no waste)
  • Learning about third party certifications like Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

The panel also discussed sustainability in kitchen and bath spaces. Rajagopal asked, “What are some of the practices or materials you’ve been drawn to in terms of having more sustainable kitchen and bath design?”

Gunawan answered by saying that, when it came to these spaces, there were various elements in each — and that, when selecting them, designers can choose the sustainable instead of the unsustainable option, such as reclaimed stone for countertops and water efficient options for spouts. “It’s all these little changes,” she explained. She also said that it’s important to start from the design with a sustainable approach. “The design needs to have a level of thoughtfulness from the very beginning, so you don’t end up redesigning, because that’s extremely unsustainable,” she said. “But another part of it is also seeing if you’re able to reuse something from the original design.”

For designers new to sustainability, Thompson recommendeda good starting point is setting a boundary in their practice. She went on by saying, “Maybe that boundary looks like, ‘I will refuse to sell my clients anything that’s harmful to them. Because if it’s harmful to them, it will be harmful to the planet.’ From there, if we’re doing kitchens and baths, work with your contractors, and ask for one dumpster just for cardboard. Just start with one little thing, get really good at it, then add as you improve upon your skillset.”

Carr recommended reducing negative impacts by opting for energy efficient appliances and water saving fixtures. She also talked about the evolution of regulations on ranges so that they have a smaller environmental footprint. This led to a conversation on electric, induction cooktops, which Carr described as being “as beautiful as, if not more beautiful, than gas stoves.”

Before the Q&A, Gunawan summed up sustainable design by saying: “It doesn’t mean that you have to throw out aesthetics. There is a way to do this right.”