It’s Not Easy Being Green

BY Cole Dittmer

With equal parts functionality and sustainability conservation characterizes all three of these green kitchens. Located in the well-established neighborhoods of Summer Rest Whiskey Creek and Highland Hills these eco-friendly kitchens beautifully serve the day-to-day rigor of three families of five. 


Jay DeChesere Cape Fear Green Building Alliance board member is an American Institute of Architects member and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified architect who attempts to fit as many environmentally friendly features in his designs as possible.

For green kitchens in particular DeChesere says features like Energy Star appliances sustainable and durable materials light emitting diode (LED) lighting and under-the-counter hot water heaters can significantly reduce energy and water bills in the long run. Buying locally-sourced materials stimulates the local economy and reduces carbon footprints with less shipping required.

Just as a kitchen is part of a home DeChesere says most homeowners who opt for green kitchens are aware of the small role their carbon footprint plays in todays global community.

Many environmental choices in the green movement are global and it takes a person with a world vision to support these choices DeChesere says. If an owner is interested in sustainability they are interested in the whole house as a priority perhaps focusing on energy savings durability indoor air quality and environmentally-preferable materials.



Green Onions

Sustainable Modernist


 After moving from a very traditional home in the Myers Park neighborhood of Charlotte John and Toni Cornelius made sure to include all of the modern and sustainable features they wanted in their new Scott Ogden-designed contemporary Summer Rest home.

This neighborhood doesnt seem to mind the eclectic Toni says. We just decided to build whatever we wanted.

The use of raw materials polished concrete flooring exposed I-beams and uncovered Plumen fluorescent bulbs were choices made by Toni a forensic engineer. The overall modernist layout was Johns request. To add warmth to the open first-floor living room and kitchen 90-year-old cedar siding was removed from their contractors Summer Rest home and now lines one of the interior walls in the space.

In the open first-floor living and dining room the kitchen harbors more reclaimed wood from the stacks of pallets used on the build which provides the paneling for the large kitchen island. Caesarstone quartz is environmentally friendly because of its durability and the compact recycled materials it is made from prevents bacteria from permeating the surface. A concrete backsplash runs the entire length of the kitchen wall.

The kitchens heat induction cooktop delivers even heat through magnetic fields. With the cooking performance of gas heating just the pot itself heat induction cooktops are more energy efficient than normal electric ranges. Although she has taken cooking classes at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte and The Seasoned Gourmet in Wilmington Toni says culinary excellence is the last thing on her kids minds when it comes to dinnertime.

You know the kids dont eat real food so I wind up cooking a lot of stuff thats not necessarily fun to cook … Toni says.

As with all other appliances in the home the cooktop is Energy Star certified.

Located both under the countertops and along one kitchen wall are custom-made birch cabinets. Materials used in the construction of the cabinets were made from formaldehyde-free birch plywood.

As a final green touch a solar hot water system was also included to reduce the environmental footprint. To better harness the suns rays Ogden completed a sun study before the project began to ensure the hot water heater received plenty of power and the home received plenty of natural sunlight.



Green Grass and High Tides Forever

Water-Conscious Retreat


Being the first WaterSense certified home in North Carolina places Iain and Becca Fergussons Whiskey Creek house on the shortlist for one of the most water-conscious homes in the area. All water appliances and fixtures are certified by the United States Environmental Protection Agencys WaterSense initiative which DeChesere says is a rigorous process. The solar hot water system was specifically designed to use the least amount of water.

Every plank of the pine wood flooring came from the trees that stood on the lot. The milled and finished lumber that came only from the land where the home now stands provides a rustic base for this environmentally conscious family.

We definitely think [being green] is important and we planned on this being our forever home so we wanted to use things that would last were better quality and less impact on the environment Becca says.

The kitchen island is also the product of repurposed hardy materials. The builder used discarded shells from an oyster roast hosted by the Fergusson family to create one of the first kitchen countertops his company made from shells and concrete. The finished product is just as durable as concrete. For every square foot of oyster and concrete countertop Christopher Building Company manufactures Bill Christopher says the company donates $1 to the North Carolina Coastal Federation. Like the dynamic of an oyster roast Becca says everyone tends to gather around the kitchen island when guests drop by.

The way it is set up people just come in and sit here and Im always cooking she says. Its breakfast lunch and dinner over here. 

Polished concrete countertops frame the rest of the kitchen with a color pop of sea foam green from the Viking oven and electric range.

I just loved the look of the concrete with the thicker faade showing and it is such a cool product Becca says.

Above the range transparent subway tiles form the backsplash. Energy Star appliances were also used along with low VOC paint throughout the entire home.

Looking through the kitchen windows the close proximity of trees and the neighboring creek illustrates how this home coexists with nature.



Green-Eyed Lady

Repurposed for a Greener Future


On  a double lot near Cape Fear Country Club designed by John Oxenfeld and Haywood Newkirk in the late 1960s for the Schwartz family this three-level home stands out from its neighbors. Doctors Michael Yarnoz and Charmaine Lewis purchased the home to remodel in 2009. A trip to the Sapona Green Building Center and three phases of renovations later the home has been converted into what is one of the greenest homes in the Cape Fear region.

The homeowners paid special attention to the conservation of water with the installation of all low-flow faucets throughout the house because Charmaine served for a year as a volunteer medical director in a Haitian clinic.

Water is my pet peeve she says. There is nothing better to teach you about appreciating the fact that water flows from a faucet than dragging your own dirty water from a depleted river bed and filtering it yourself before dumping it on your head to simulate a shower.

The original kosher kitchen underwent a transformation with the cooktop moving from the center island to the side the removal of a large portion of the wall behind the sink to provide a view into the dining room and the conversion of a portion of the cabinetry to open shelving.

The majority of the original cabinetry remained intact and was refinished indicating the homeowners wishes to preserve as much of the original design as possible.

Three pendant lights were also added over the center island but are rarely turned on during the day because of the abundance of indirect natural light that pours into the kitchen.

Other changes made in the kitchen were the installation of large porcelain floor tiles made of 60-percent recycled materials Caesarstone quartz countertops and a glass-tiled backsplash made from 100-percent post-consumer recycled materials.

A heat induction cooktop replaced the second kosher sink. The existing water line was utilized for a pot filler installed above the cooktop for convenience.

From Louisiana Charmaine says she grew up with a family of cooks who hold food in high regard but never took to it herself before having children. Supplied with veggies from their outdoor garden the kitchen is now the most used room in the house.

This is a hardworking space she says. We even made our own baby food because as doctors we are so aware of the stuff that goes into food. But of course kids dont like everything; you should see them eat pizza because one of them eats all the olives passes it down and another eats all the pepperoni and the last eats all the bread and cheese.



All the World is Green

Creating  Green Homes


The availability and price of environmentally friendly kitchen and home features are the main hurdles facing the widespread implementation of green building but Jay DeChesere says I am pleased with the rate that the various industries are responding to the needs not only with their products but with how they are being produced. 

However one concern he has for the green building movement is what he calls greenwashing or the overstatement of the environmental values of the materials used in a product without mentioning that the process used to create it was not environmentally sound.

For the future of green building and specifically green kitchens DeChesere says the expansion of Energy Star and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications will help move the industry forward.

This system tends to educate the design community and encourage the production community to respond in environmentally sound ways he says. This cannot help but move green technology to the forefront. Hopefully it will create more jobs costs will come down and it will become the mainstream.



Jay DeCheseres Green Kitchen Features



The following is a list of some of the critical green features available to homeowners now and that DeChesere has included in past kitchen projects.


– Bamboo cabinets

Low VOC water-based wood finishes and low VOC paint

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) lumber for cabinet boxes

Concrete countertops

100 percent post-consumer backsplashes and accents using salvaged materials like sea glass

Low-flow faucets

LED lighting rather than fluorescent or halogen

Compost bins