As the son of a middle-income Baby Boomer born just after the Great Depression, Alexander Degelman learned not to take resources for granted at an early age.
“I recall getting my hands smacked for not turning off the lights when I left a room,” says Degelman, recalling his nurturing years in rural Georgia and the life lessons passed down from his mother.
“My mom is a Baby Boomer, and she was born before the good era, in a time when the South was just coming out of The Great Depression,” Degelman says.
Water, fuel and energy were not to be squandered, even at a time when a gallon of gas costs pennies, not fistfuls of dollars.
The message stuck and carried Degelman through his college years at the Art Institute of Colorado. That’s where he incorporated his family’s thriftiness and moved toward green construction and interior design well before most people knew about carbon footprints.
Degelman’s enviro-friendly creations will soon be on display across the Front Range. His passion for recycling will be an essential part of four restaurants slotted to open near the Denver Tech Center, Thornton, Boulder and Uptown Denver.
Degelman runs the interior design process for Bamboo Asian Fusion, a green restaurant concept that fuses Korean, Vietnamese and Southeast Indian dishes. The first Bamboo Asian Fusion opened last month near the Denver Tech Center. The other three will open in 2009.
And the veggies won’t be the only green items inside.
The restaurant will be 70 percent green, meaning 70 percent of the materials used will be from recycled products or materials that don’t harm the environment.
“We have bought recycled material for almost every part of the project,” he says. “The only thing we could not recycle was the artwork.”
The new project will rise at the site of a former Tin Star Restaurant. That gave Degelman the chance to recycle old restaurant materials.
“I have taken all the existing furniture in the facility, refurbished it and reused it,” he says. “We’ve refurbished everything with low volatile organic compound paint.” (Low VOC materials reduce the amount of harmful gasses released into the environment.)
Similar environmental-friendly chemical treatments are used on the restaurant’s floors. Low voltage lighting is used throughout the establishment. Privacy panels in restrooms and between tables are made from a plastic material derived from recycled Coke bottles.
Even the design blueprints are made from recycled paper.
Degelman sees his efforts as part of a growing trend for commercial and residential designers.
“These kinds of designs can make people feel they are doing their part for the environment,” he says.
He’ll even refuse work if it doesn’t meet his environmental standards.
“I would pass up a job if the client did not want to be green,” he says. “Money is important, but I don’t want to sell myself out.”
His last environmentally incorrect project occurred in 2002. It involved the use of rare woods as part of an interior job in Vail.
“The owners spent $62,000 on one of the kitchens I worked on,” he says. “They used extinct wood in the house. That is sort of like buying ivory.”
The need to be green is part of Degelman’s home as well. He has added an attic fan and cut slots in his floors to draw cool air from his basement. He replaced his large lush lawn with a vegetable garden. Solar panels are in his future. The American desire to one up everyone, especially neighbors, is a wasteful and environmentally poor outlook, he says.
Degelman fell victim to the quest to outdo his neighbors when he first moved to Henderson, a community just outside of Northglenn.
“We had an impeccable lawn and felt we had to keep up with the Joneses,” he says. “We used up a lot of water and only bought the best. Many people want to have the best, but they don’t even think about where the items come from or what resources are used to build it.”
He woke up to the error of those ways when a neighbor left a huge trailer of unwanted debris during a remodeling project.
“It was just a lot of waste,” Degelman says. “I want to save resources. (Americans) are blowing through everything so quick. If we don’t stop, there won’t be anything left in two generations.”
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