Efficient Design with Green Bathrooms

By Erik Braunitzer, and courtesy of Douglas Elliman Real Estate Company, agents for NYC Rentals.

For better or for worse, humanity’s relationship with bathrooms is a necessary part of life. A poorly designed bath can be a major source of water waste and a hazard to indoor air quality. However, by incorporating efficient design ideas and eco-friendly products in the renovation process, you can create a green bathroom that is both functional and fashionable.

Water is one of earth’s most precious resources and the unlimited consumption of water poses a serious threat to the survival of every life-form on the planet. Since nearly every fixture in the bathroom is connected to or affected by water use, it is paramount that these items be chosen with care.

Efficient Design with Green Bathrooms
Efficient Design with Green Bathrooms

Replacing leaky faucets and shower heads are obvious ways to reduce water waste, but their replacements must be thoughtfully selected. Low-flow shower heads and faucets reduce the amount of water used yet provide sufficient water pressure that does not compromise cleanliness.

In a typical residence, toilets account for nearly 30% of a household’s water usage. The installation of dual-flush toilets may conserve more than 10,000 gallons of water per year. Dual-flush mechanisms simply give the user the option to adjust the amount of water used for every flush. Toilets may be purchased with the dual-flush mechanism built-in or it may be installed in an existing toilet for less than $100. The low-flow toilet is another product that has been used successfully to reduce water usage.

Frequent water usage in such close confines can foster the growth of mold and mildew on bathroom surfaces, particularly if adequate ventilation is not provided. Employing energy efficient exhaust fans can assist in successfully combatting this common problem. Exhaust fan systems should be installed with timer switches for automatic shut-off to conserve electricity that may be lost when someone neglects to turn it off. Heat-exchange ventilators are designed to help maintain a comfortable temperature in the bathroom by utilizing warm air from within the bathroom to heat cold air being circulated from outside.

Much is being said about VOCs, or volatile organic compounds and how they contribute to poor indoor air quality. Many bathroom renovation projects include painting surfaces, replacing flooring and the resurfacing of tubs and basins. Unfortunately, many paints, adhesives and other vinyl products contain VOCs capable of releasing harmful emissions into the air.

There are several ways to reduce the toxic impact often associated with home improvement products. Try installing ceramic or recycled glass tiles and using non-toxic cement. Choose low VOC paints or adhesive products when repainting or resurfacing countertops. Select cabinetry and countertops partially made from recycled products and use finishes that are formaldehyde-free.

A green bathroom renovation project should be topped off with eco-friendly lighting choices to illuminate your newly-beautified space. LED lights have a 15 to 20 year life span and use less electricity than incandescent bulbs. Solar light tubes are also an excellent way to bring sunlight into interior bathrooms that cannot accommodate window placement. Sunlight may also inhibit mold growth on bathroom surfaces when used in conjunction with exhaust fans.

One downside of bathroom renovations is that such projects often generate significant amounts of construction debris. Nearly 50% of the trash hauled off to already overflowing landfills comes from construction debris. Rather than dragging usable leftover fixtures out to the curb for trash pick-up, why not donate them for reuse or recycling? Making your bathroom renovation green from start to finish may set off a chain reaction of green- living acts in your community!

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