FDMC Best Pratices in Woodworking Technology and Business

Cabinetmaker contributes to breakthrough green home

By William Sampson

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For many cabinet shops green building is still something that is not part of their daily diet. Still, it’s hard not to notice all the business doors going green could open. So, how do you get up to speed?

That was the situation Bill VaVerka of Verk's Custom Cabinets found himself in. He was offered the opportunity to get involved in a project building what some claim is one the most sustainably built houses in the country. Dubbed the Costa Mesa Green Home, it is the first private residence in Orange County, Calif., to be certified Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes Program. The home was awarded 104 points, four more than needed to achieve Platinum status.

About the home 

The private residence of local real estate developer Steve Blanchard, the home showcases more than just environmentally conscious building practices. Its 5,000 square feet includes six bedrooms, six and a half bathrooms, an office, and a kid’s family room. At center stage is a 1,000-square-foot kitchen with cabinets that reach as high as 10 feet.

Architect David Gangloff of Ladera Ranch, Calif., designed the home to be a modern interpretation of the California Craftsman style as well as being a showcase for green building ideas.

“In addition to durability, my requirements for cabinets were low emitting glues, adhesives and finishes used on woods and panels that were FSC certified and contained no added urea formaldehyde,” says Gangloff. “We wanted the warm look of natural wood to complement the Craftsman style of the home and form juxtaposition with the harder materials like concrete and stone veneer.”

Joining the team 

VaVerka got involved in the project through a friend of the homeowner. But despite seven years as a custom cabinetmaker, he really wasn’t all that familiar with the requirements for green building. His first step to change that was a talk with his building products distributor, Weber Plywood and Lumber Co. There he connected with Steve Weisenberg, a LEED accredited professional who manages Weber’s Environmentally Friendly and Green Materials Division. “Steve is one of the more knowledgeable people out there,” says VaVerka. “People don’t understand there are certain levels of green. I tried to stay as green as you can get.”

Building green in Orange County presents additional challenges, but Weisenberg was ready to help. “Orange County is one of California’s strictest when it comes to sustainable building codes so this was a job that needed a lot of attention to detail,” says Weisenberg. “Bill and I talked about what materials to use, viewed some GreenT samples and prepared for his presentation. The homeowner loved the ideas and awarded Verk’s the job.”

GreenT is a hardwood plywood from Timber Products Company. It is constructed with a recycled content core made from certified wood components and meeting the California Air Resources Board (CARB) formaldehyde requirements. “This innovative home is a model of how sustainable residential building should be undertaken,” says Timber Products Vice President Roger Rutan. “Every detail was thought out and we’re thrilled that GreenT hardwood plywood was selected for the cabinetry and contributed toward LEED points.”

Tackling the job 

Besides doing the showcase kitchen and all of its cabinets, VaVerka took on most of the interior built-ins throughout the house. That included the master bathroom, cabinets in four other bathrooms and even a small entertainment center. Everything was built with sustainable products.

VaVerka, who runs a small two-man shop using all conventional equipment said using the environmentally responsible materials required no special tooling or machines.

“This was a challenging job but also an educational experience for me in green building,” says VaVerka. “It was easier than I thought to meet the LEED requirements because the GreenT hardwood plywood satisfied every need and did not compromise quality. The materials do make all the difference when working on a sustainable project.”

More green in the future 

Now that he’s completed one major green project, VaVerka is anxious to take on more.

“This is the future,” he says. “The quality of wood is excellent. It’s safer to work with. As far as me as a woodworker, I want to be healthier, so why wouldn’t I use this? And people are getting a cleaner product for their home.” 

April 2010

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