Safe AND Sound
The home-as-haven trend has created a demand for products
that enhance both physical and spiritual well-being.
By John Filippelli
While the phrase “one if by land, two if by sea” may initially
conjure images of military revolutions, these days the old saying
is more suited to a revolution of a different sort: incorporating
safe products into kitchen and bath design.
After all, growing consumer awareness and the home-as-haven
trend have created a demand for products that benefit both physical
and spiritual well being through the purification of the home
especially the water and air, according to kitchen and bath
designers and manufacturers.
Rick Millard, v.p./sales and marketing design for Comfort
Designs Bathware, a Division of the Praxis Cos., based in Savannah,
TN, explains: “Everything from houses and cars to bathroom products
really should be easier to use, create less hassle and be cleaner.
[In the kitchen and bath industry], something that doesn’t promote
disease or that [works to actively prevent] the spreading of
disease is going to be in high demand.”
Billy Henry, president of Microban Americas, a Division of
Microban International, Ltd., agrees: “Clearly consumers are more
aware of the issues that can be created by stain- and odor-causing
microbes found throughout the home,” a factor that many kitchen and
bath professionals see playing into consumers’ product choices.
“Just beyond each faucet and shower fixture and the pipes that
feed them is bacteria. Some of these germs, such as cryptosporidium
and legionella, are quite toxic. However, there are sensible and
cost-effective ways [for your clients] to rid their homes of these
unwanted guests,” adds John Vastyan, a journalist whose work
focuses on the plumbing and mechanical and radiant heat industries,
and who is president of Manheim, PA-based Common Ground.
For instance, Vastyan cites reverse osmosis water treatment;
point-of-use, thermostatic protection valves with constant
circulation for comfort, safety and health; and radiant heat and
ground source heat pumps as necessary elements to ensure a truly
Likewise, Vastyan sees a growing interest in products that
promote energy conservation in the kitchen and the bath everything
from energy efficient appliances to ground source heating and
radiant floor heating.
Indeed, the focus on a safe home environment is increasingly
impacting product design at all levels.
Tim O’Connor, director of Sterling Brand Marketing, a subsidiary
of Kohler, WI-based Kohler Co., notes that his company has
developed products that reflect just how broad the range has become
for safe products for the home.
“Our shower doors are constructed of tempered glass, so if a
door were to shatter, you would not have any sharp, jagged edges,”
he reports. He also points to the firm’s most recent offering of
stainless steel kitchen sinks that feature a rolled outer rim,
eliminating any potential for sharp edges.”
Air quality, too, is a concern for many homeowners, according to
Karen Collins of Broan-NuTone LLC, in Hartford, WI, who cites a
growing interest in the company’s whole-house HEPA filtration
Steve Coven, president of Chicago-based Napco, a distributor of
chemicals, coatings, equipment and supplies to the refinishing
industry. “Indoor air quality is an important consideration for
contractors and builders as well, as they oversee a project’s
progress,” he stresses.
Whether it is reverse osmosis water treatment, air quality
considerations, anti-bacteria protection or anti-scald devices, one
thing is apparent: Consumers are thirsty for products that not only
make drinking water and air safer, but make their homes safer, as
Henry believes consumers are
currently seeking products engineered with antimicrobial protection
that guards against bacteria, mold and mildew. “Products engineered
with Microban antimicrobial protection can be found all around the
home, and especially in the kitchen and bathroom,” Henry says.
“When used in conjunction with normal cleaning practices, these
products provide an added level of cleanliness protection.”
To that end, he cites Aqua Glass bathtubs, CorStone sinks made
of Lucite acrylic, Parabond flooring adhesives, Laticrete grouts
and tile installation products and Dap caulks as examples of
products that offer antimicrobial protection.
For Kevin Holmberg, fabricator for Quality Encounters in Port
Angeles, WA, these types
of residential considerations are actually developing from
“We believe infection control in the work place and the home
will become a major focal point in the upcoming five to 10 years,”
he says, citing a report from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, which notes that 88,000 hospital patients die from
nosocomial infections annually.
Vastyan adds that these types of statistics have had a direct
effect on consumers’ re-evaluation of what they need from their
homes. This is most evident in the mature client, he believes.
“As our aging population moves eagerly toward products and
technology that enhance our healthier lifestyle, ensure safety and
help us to be good stewards of the natural resources we’ve been
given, [we find ourselves developing a] keener attention to risks
to ourselves, to our loved ones and to the environment,” he
Up in the air
According to Coven, air quality
is a key component toward creating a safer home especially when
considering the various air pollutants present every day, and
especially prevalent during remodeling projects things such as
drywall dust, paint fumes, mold spores and asbestos.
“We’re seeing anything that will clean the air and create a
healthier environment [as being of prime importance to design
professionals and homeowners]. People seem to be very conscious of
odor and dust and the like in the house,” Coven notes.
Coven believes that products that rid work sites of such
pollutants such as his company’s TINY GIANT exhaust system are one
way to combat the problem, especially during remodeling
“In remodeling, people are generally living at the home
throughout the entire process,” he explains. “Therefore, we were
looking for a way to make the environment more pleasant for the
homeowner and safer for the worker, as well as creating a way to
help the professional worker market his services.”
In addition, Henry notes that the new DuPont air filtration
products with Microban protection are just launching into the
market and have been met with very strong demand.
Major Avignon, president of Carson, CA-based Water, Inc., adds:
“We’re seeing increased interest in air switches from a safety and
Vastyan adds that insisting on specifying and installing carbon
monoxide detectors is one thing kitchen and bath dealers can do
that can amount to a life-saving decision helping to protect their
clients from the dangers of exposure to the colorless, odorless,
toxic gas. “There are many different types and brands of carbon
monoxide detectors available on the market,” he reports. “Mainly,
they operate on household current or batteries. Detectors using
household current typically use a solid-state sensor that purges
itself and resamples for carbon monoxide periodically.”
Coven concurs: “I definitely see this trend [toward awareness of
air quality] continuing. ‘Clean’ is a big deal, [and] breathing
healthier air has [positive] long-term health effects.”
Reverse osmosis, according
to Vastyan, is the most recognized and efficient way to filter
impurities that are normally found in drinking water.
“Current concerns for water right now seem to be arsenic,
chromium 6, nitrates, mercury and MTBE. These are all removed by
reverse osmosis,” he points out.
Avignon agrees: “People seem to have a growing concern about the
quality of water being delivered into their homes. However, the
cost to society to make all of the water available the quality of
bottled water is simply an impossibility.”
Nevertheless, he adds: “People are coming to realize that they
can install in their home a drinking water system that will cost
less than a dollar a day to operate and will provide their family
with bottled-quality water.”
According to Vastyan, there are a variety of suitable water
filtration systems available. Among them are sediment, which
removes suspended particles, dirt and rust; granular-activated
carbon (GAC), which acts as an absorber and reduces volatile
organic chemicals such as chlorine and pesticides; and carbon
block, which acts similarly to GAC, but offers the added benefit of
reducing particle matter.
Avignon describes another development that has occurred as a
result of this issue. “Our customers are becoming more selective as
to different finishes and looks for their accessory drinking water
faucets. In addition, our customers are including other products
that we market that use our filtered water, such as instant hots,
undersink chillers and plumbed-in coffeemakers.”
Vastyan points out that there are
potential pitfalls when developing safe products for the home,
especially when it comes to the bathroom.
“Over the past decade, there’s been a push toward lowering home
plumbing system hot water temperatures in the U.S. from the
previous ‘standard’ of 140ÞF to a safer setting of
120ÞF,” he explains.
“The motive is to create safer temperatures at both the tap and
shower. The second reason is energy savings,” he reports.
But, he suggests, more energy dollars are being used because
larger volumes of temperate water are needed to achieve the same
comfort levels when bathing. In fact, the solution itself poses a
Catch-22 scenario, he believes.
“Decreasing the hot water temperature in a delivery system
reduces the danger of scalding, but increases the risk of bacteria
growth. Increase the hot water temperature and just the opposite
occurs,” he observes.
Therefore, he cites mixing valves used at the heat source, such
as thermostatic and pressure-balance mixing valves, as keys to
“With a properly designed delivery system and a temperature- and
pressure-sensing shower valve (type t/p) at the point-of-use the
sink valves both risks are virtually eliminated,” Vastyan
Adds Rick Reles, v.p./marketing for Global Faucets, a Kohler,
WI-based subsidiary of Kohler Co., “We see thermostatics [being
installed into homes] all over Europe, for example.”
Keith Kometer, marketing manager for North American Faucets,
also based in Kohler, WI, adds another perspective: “The biggest
thing is that people want to have it, but they don’t want something
that calls it out. For instance, in showers, we offer
high-temperature limit tops and anti-scalding in all of our
valving, and all of this is [installed] behind the wall.”
Vastyan notes that ground source heating is another smart choice
for homeowners concerned with home comfort and energy
“[Energy efficient water heaters] are especially attractive to
electric utilities because they reduce the cost of heating
electrically and eliminate electric resistant heat strips for
supplemental heating,” he remarks.
Vastyan concludes by suggesting radiant floor heating as well,
which he notes will offer higher energy efficiency than forced air,
no interference with room function and the ability to operate on
any number of energy sources, including fuel oil, gas, electric,
solar, ground source and solid fuels.
Green design or environmentally
conscious design also plays a key role in the development of safe
products, Avignon says. While the kitchen and bath industry is
increasingly seeing this come up in terms of sustainable products,
cabinet finishes and the like, it is also highly relevant when it
comes to products that conserve water.
“The issue of ‘green’ design comes up most notably with the
wasting of water especially in the West,” he notes.
O’Connor agrees, adding: “Consideration is given to green
products, but most of the things that you are seeing today are
focused on toilets and using less water.”
Says Reles: “[Green design] has an impact on our area of
product, especially with flow-restricted showerheads and products
that work with less water. We have to engineer that into
To that end, O’Connor points out two Kohler products that
reflect this trend.
“Kohler offers two toilets that can realize significant water
savings,” he offers. “These include the Cimarron Comfort Height
toilet, which is a gravity-fed model that flushes 1.4 gallons of
water, and the San Raphael Power Lite dual-flush toilet, which has
been modified to flush with either 1.0 or 1.4 gallons of
In terms of conservation, Vastyan notes that an interesting
movement, spearheaded by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory
(NREL), has developed as a result of the popularity of green
“The NREL, a group of forward-thinking builders, hopes to
introduce the concept of Zero Energy Buildings. This concept
focuses on building homes that produce as much energy as they
consume,” he explains.
In fact, he notes, several builders have already built concept
homes, and home buyer interest is high. “Tapping solar energy is
key, and so is the use of high-efficiency appliances,” he adds.
Says Millard, “If I can select products that meet my needs and
are green, I am going to get the green ones before I get the ones
that aren’t.” He adds that, for those seeking to develop the next
“safe” product, there’s a very basic formula: “The easier you make
it on the home builders, the faster it gets out there in big
O’Connor concurs: “The reality is that we need to incorporate
safety features within the overall product that will not change the
look and design, but make sure the features are inherent in the
product and that they work for everybody.” KBDN