by Matthew Spieler
While the carpet industry gets the bulk of the headlines when it comes to environmental stories, it doesn’t mean the rest of the flooring industry is standing by and watching. The resilient category, for instance, has plenty to offer in the way of eco-friendly programs, from incorporating various types of post-consumer materials into products to using alternative energy sources to power factories, the industry is leading by example and architects and designers in general are taking notice.
“The A&D community is learning more and more about resilient flooring each year,” noted William Freeman, technical consultant for the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI). “Resilient flooring, long valued for its durability and aesthetics, also is becoming better known as a sustainable flooring selection, due in large part to the wide-spread adoption of FloorScore and ANSI/NSF 332.”
Officially launched in 2005, FloorScore, tests and certifies hard surface flooring products for compliance against the country’s strictest indoor air quality (IAQ) emission requirements which come from California. The state actually recognizes products that have been FloorScore certified as does the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for hard surface flooring products as an alternative compliance path to achieve credit in its Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating systems, saying non-carpet floor products must be FloorScore certified.
NSF 332 was developed two years ago to promote sustainability practices in the manufacture of resilient flooring and also bring more transparency and clarity to the sustainability process. It is a third-party, independent accreditation that specifiers and consumers can use to make informed purchasing decisions.
Erin Dempsey, public relations, environment and strategy for Centiva, said FloorScore “was the first significant third-party environmental certification for resilient flooring and the program has grown. It has built recognition in the marketplace and is becoming an expectation of resilient flooring rather than a benefit. We fully support the FloorScore program and its importance.”
With regard to NSF 332, she noted, “Our Contour and Victory products have been certified to the silver level and we are working on certifying our Event Series. This program is the next step in understanding the environmental contributions of products as it considers emissions and content, but takes many other factors into consideration.”
Mannington’s Dave Kitts, vice president, environment, said, “FloorScore has become a huge success, and a robust in-door air quality system for hard surface flooring, Mannington has 54 products certified; in the product category as a whole there are 86. NSF 332 is growing in familiarity, as anticipated, and as it does more manufacturers are joining in and certifying products.”
Third party certifications, he added, “help navigate the ever-shifting (and too-often opaque) world of environmental marketing claims. So we have invested in environmentally preferable product certifications for products and ISO 14001 certification for our manufacturing process.”
Dominic Rice, vice president and general manager, Armstrong Commercial Flooring, noted, “There is increasing awareness of the sustainability of resilient flooring…from initiatives/certifications such as NSF 332 and Floor-Score.”
NSF he added, “Provides transparency and an objective standard for customers to assess a product’s relative sustainability.” And both 332 and FloorScore “help avoid greenwashing, which is why we need to continue to have them, especially NSF 332, included in project specifications.”
Amanda Utz, marketing director for Amtico, agrees the A&D community does recognize FloorScore and “they do use it. [But], we feel NSF 332 is still new—awareness levels are increasing but it is not as prevalent as FloorScore. As more companies begin to certify their products, this will help drive awareness of 332 and what this means to the A&D community.”
When it comes to certifications, Diane Martel, Tarkett’s vice president of environmental planning and strategy, said, “There are so many green certification programs out there that it’s easy to be overwhelmed. [That’s why] we are dedicated to working with only the most well-known and comprehensive certification boards. Receiving third-party environmental benchmarks and recognition, including the flooring industry’s first NSF 332 Platinum recognition, along with Bio-Preferred, and FloorScore, reflect our rapid progress and ongoing commitment to sustainability and provide credibility to our efforts.”
In addition to NSF 332, she said products are manufactured in ISO 9001 and 14001 facilities, and are certified under FloorScore. “Our linoleum is currently Cradle 2 Cradle silver and Bio-Preferred labeled and is undergoing certification under the NSF 332 standard.”
Recycling, energy innovation
Beyond these third-party certifications, Dean Thompson, RFCI’s president, noted resilient manufacturers “are some of the most forward-thinking innovators in the floor covering industry, and they have invested significant resources to drive resilient flooring to new levels of sustainability.”
Mannington’s Dave Kitts, vice president, environment, pointed out, “Steven Chu, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, said Mannington ‘is among the vanguard of forward-thinking American companies as a leader in industrial energy efficiency’ when he named us one of 50 founding leaders in the Department of Energy’s Save Energy Now program.”
He added in recent years Mannington has become known for “innovative and progressive” environmental initiatives such as incorporating waste streams into new products. “We continue to invest [in this area]. We take a broad look at waste streams that are the largest contributors to landfills, and work to incorporate them into our manufacturing. Every year, thousands of tons of post-consumer carpet, VCT and drywall are recycled into Mannington products. We also ‘design for forever,’ creating products that are known for durability but also planning, from day one, for smart end of life reclamation and use. By designing for durability, we make flooring that lasts longer with less maintenance. By designing with reclamation in mind, we manufacture products that feed our closed-loop recycling programs—even working across platforms, for example, incorporating post-consumer carpet into sheet flooring. With our acquisitions of Burke and Amtico, we are working to use waste streams across platforms—incorporating recycled sheet product into tile and wall base, plus post-consumer tile into resilient sheet.”
On the residential side, David Sheehan, Manning-ton’s resilient vice president, said the company recycles post-consumer items such as phonebooks and magazines into all its felt products “and there is no premium charged for it.”
Recycling of post-consumer materials has become a major initiative for many manufacturers. Amtico launched a post-consumer recycling program last October. Like most companies, it already recycled its post-industrial scrap, trim and so on. Utz said the post-consumer material gathered through the new recycling program will be incorporated into product backing and increased as waste stream permits.
“Previously installed flooring, uninstalled material and samples are accepted,” she ex-plained. “Flooring that cannot be recycled due to adhesive or screed contamination is downcycled to other products such as floor mats, plastic wood and traffic cones via collaborations with several recycling partners.”
At Tarkett, Martel said some of its most progressive ideas come from employees. “One example is from the company’s Farnham, Quebec plant in Canada where a maintenance associate suggested the company use the cooling tower water to feed the air drying unit. “This closed-loop initiative resulted in a reduction of the plant’s water consumption by more than 60%.”
And at its Houston facility, she explained the company introduced a Smart Trucking program developed to further reduce gas emissions and fuel usage. “At the end of 2011, we exceeded several of our key performance indicator goals, reducing water by 25.4% and waste by 9%.”
Xavier Steyaert, IVC’s CEO, said the company has incorporated many environmentally friendly initiatives into its new Dalton facility. “IVC utilizes a solar energy system with 454 solar panels that produces enough energy to annually power 10 homes. Even our electric lift trucks are powered by solar energy.”
In addition, “The high efficiency chiller plant used to cool our manufacturing facility has been recognized as one of the most advanced in the state of Georgia,” he noted. “And our factory is able to reclaim heat energy and recycle it back into our production process. Thanks to IVC’s clean air flow and careful choice of raw materials, our facility’s emissions are 250% lower than industry standards.”
Besides launching a VCT reclamation program, reducing its fresh water usage and greenhouse gas emissions, Rice said Armstrong “took the lead in the building products industry by introducing Migrations Bio-Based Flooring Tile (BBT) for commercial applications. BBT contains BioStride, a breakthrough patent-pending polymer developed from rapidly renewable materials grown in the U.S. Migrations BBT reduces reliance on petroleum and fossil fuels…[and] greatly expands the availability and affordability of biobased technology to the largest product category in the hard surface commercial flooring market.”