Is There Soy in Your Cabinet?

An architect and contractor living in Asheville, NC, Joe Archibald has more more than 20 years of experience in residential construction. He operates Narwhal Design | Build, a craft-based design and construction firm with the intent to create a built environment that respects the natural condition, engages the people who use it and rewards those who participate in its construction.

By Joe Archibald

When it comes to choosing casework and millwork for a project, often the choice comes down solely to cost.

This can lead to casework with a limited lifespan, made of poor quality materials that off-gas formaldehyde and other chemicals.

Thankfully, there are many options for sustainably produced products and materials. To identify these products, often all that is required is to ask some simple questions of your casework or millwork supplier: What percentage of recycled content panel product do you use? What about water-based catalyzed lacquer? And how about your internal recycling program?

Let’s consider a standard set of kitchen cabinets, exploring the design and materials to see where opportunities exist to make sustainable choices.

Construction style

There are two basic cabinet construction methods: traditional face frame and frameless or European.

In frameless cabinets, the wood face frame is eliminated and the edge of the cabinet box is banded with one of several different types of thin (0.5mm to 3mm) edgebanding material—either PVC (polyvinyl chloride), ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), solid wood or wood veneer. Any style of door and drawer front can be used, and most frameless cabinets look nothing like the sleek modern designs the name might imply.