|Turk Kauffman Architecture AIA||
While our primary business is architecture and design, we at Turk Kauffman Architecture are committed to maintaining healthy environments for people while preserving natural ecosystems. To these ends, we consider the health impacts, footprints, and embodied energy of our design decisions.
For remodels, we appropriate resources already on site: repurpose doors, windows, and studs; for new construction, remodels and additions we give preference to local resources; use solar power; and optimize day lighting and natural heating, cooling, and ventilation.
Through the judicious use of technology, low-tech solutions, thoughtful orientation and siting, non-toxic building materials and methods, and small building footprints, we make healthy, sustainable choices available to our clients while reducing long-term energy requirements.
ASK AND TELL
Knowing what is in a product determines its ecological impact and informs our choices. In developing each project's unique specification, our firm practices an 'ask and tell' policy whereby we query manufacturers and installers about ingredients and components. Distinguishing the truly sustainable and healthy resources from among the multitude of 'green' options available is the goal.
We have found it is often easier to ascertain what is absent from a product than what is actually in it. However, we will relentlessly sift through data and crunch through metric system conversions (many healthier products come from the Europe Union) in our quest for full disclosure.
THE LATEST IN ECOLOGICAL PRODUCTS
Our firm specifies both time-tested standbys like cork, low-VOC paint, and natural wood as well as newer safer products, such as compressed whole-bamboo flooring, wood laminates and cementitious siding. A new generation of LED lighting is finding its way into our current projects as well.
We may include custom, locally sourced, minimally-processed woods, like the reclaimed cypress and walnut casework, recycled 2 x 4s and reclaimed pine ceilings of Seadrift I, according to the client's budget and taste.
Beyond energy and resource efficiency, material ecology demands continual reassessment to determine not only what resources are 'seasonal' (locally available and abundant) at any given point in time, but what is in them and whether or not the ingredients are safe for children and sensitive populations. Because new products enter the marketplace all the time and even familiar products may change their formulations, research is ongoing. And for each new project, our palette expands.
MSDS & HIGHER STANDARDS
When researching manufactured products, one of the first things we check is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). We then cross reference the disclosed ingredients with the safety standards outlined in the CalGreen Building Code and the more extensive SINlist.
A growing list of nearly four hundred chemicals, the comprehensive SIN (Substitute It Now) list supplies up-to-date information on chemicals regulated under the European REACH protocol.
Our firm applies SIN data directly to buildings. As a result, projects that come out of our office frequently exceed the standards of the California State CalGreen Building Code and voluntary LEED requirements for indoor air quality and material safety.
LABORATORY TESTING & REMEDIATION
When encountering situations that require remediation, we send samples to a lab to test for specific compounds. We find targeted materials testing to confirm or negate a hypothesis more cost effect and accurate than air quality sampling. Once we establish that a product contains a toxic substance that exceeds recommended safety thresholds, we help clients orchestrate its safe removal while identifying acceptable replacement options.
SUPPORT FOR MATERIAL ECOLOGY
Our firm relies on the groundwork laid by non-profit organizations such as the Healthy Building Network and the Environmental Working Group that publicize research about everyday toxins and help us identify where in a building they might be found. Their findings on the negative health impacts of groups of chemicals limit and define the pool of materials from which we draw. Because of their work, we exclude polyvinyl chloride (PVC), phthalates, flame retardants, antibacterials such as triclosan, and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs)--unfortunately all ubiquitous in environments designed for children--from our projects.
The selection of purportedly safer materials is growing. The U.S. construction industry is, however slowly, transitioning to more healthy products and practices. While policy makers and trade organizations continue to debate the safety of compounds commonly found in buildings, we anticipate of a time when testing of all new chemicals and harmful substance disclosures by manufacturers are commonplace. Until then, we will take the extra steps to support material ecology in the architecture we create.
Research & Resources
In the 1990s, we created elementary school computer carrels that double as group work stations. The tabletop surface is made from unfinished recycled wood doors; the back wall and demountable partitions are sealed and painted formaldehyde-free fibreboard. (Thornhill School, Oakland with Alfred Bay and Lisa Sullivan).
We rely on the following resources and tools:
The Environmental Working Group
The Healthy Building Network
SINlist (Substitute It Now)
Materials Matter by Kenneth Geiser (MIT Press, 2001)
Environmental Health Network
Healthy School Flooring Project
A local West Marin residential project reused and relocated a pair of horizontal sliding aluminum windows from elsewhere on site to create an all-new square composition at the room's end wall. This west wall, once belonging a bathroom, now opens the bedroom to natural afternoon daylight and a new linear slot garden.