Resilient segment continues to strive for sustainability
Nov. 4/11 2013; Volume 27/number 14
By Louis Iannaco
Hicksville, N.Y.‑With the recent vote to adopt LEED v4 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which will officially set sail during the upcoming Greenbuild conference in Philadelphia, the resilient segment fared better than had previous drafts passed, even if the industry believes it is not perfect.
According to Dean Thompson, RFCI’s president, LEED v4 has many positive aspects of which RFCI is fully supportive. In fact, he noted, projects can use resilient flooring to receive credit under parts of at least four credits: MR Credits 2, 3, 4 and EQ Credit 2.
“Our concern is primarily limited to part of one credit—Option 2 of MR Credit 4—that unjustifiably excludes flexible vinyl flooring,” he said. “The issue we have with LEED MR Credit 4, Option 2 is that it’s a material avoidance credit suggesting products that meet its requirements have superior environmental and human health benefits to products—such as vinyl flooring—which are excluded. This is false and misleading.
“Option 2 excludes products simply because they contain any of thousands of ‘red listed’ ingredients,” he said. “It ignores the fact persons using a product like vinyl flooring will not be harmfully exposed to any of the targeted ingredients. USGBC concluded in 2007 after a five-year study that the oversimplified red list approach used by MR Credit 4 is likely to steer consumers toward products that may, in fact, have worse impacts over their life cycles.”
Indeed, he noted, the authoritative BEES life cycle assessment methodology developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology concludes that “vinyl flooring generally has a lower environmental and human health impact over the course of its life cycle than other flooring alternatives.”
Product transparency declarations (PTDs) address the informational needs of architects, designers and specifiers by disclosing intentionally added ingredients, including heavy metals, Thompson said, acknowledging ingredients on six authoritative lists, and indicating whether the ingredient level triggers an exposure warning notification based on content in the building material or product.
The lists referenced in a PTD include the International Agency on the Research of Cancer Terminology, National Toxicology Program, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, California Proposition 65, Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory and REACH Substances of Very High Concern. “PTDs go a step beyond health product declarations in that they indicate whether there is a concern over human exposure to a product ingredient in a building material requiring a warning label.”
The PTD concept was developed by RFCI to meet the needs of the specifier community for resilient flooring, “but PTDs can used be for all types of building materials,” Thompson said. “PTDs are published voluntarily by product manufacturers, are verified with the signature of a responsible company official and do not require the high cost of third-party certification. PTDs represent a step forward in marrying ingredient disclosure with exposure disclosure.”
While the RFCI takes the advocacy lead for resilient manufacturers, each is doing their part to further sustainability initiatives.
Armstrong’s VCT recycling program has gained momentum in the marketplace. “It has leveraged the experience and lessons learned from our 15 years of operating a post-consumer ceiling tile recycling program,” said Amy Costello, environmental sustainability manager. Together, these two programs have taken back more than 17.8 million square feet of old ceiling and flooring tiles during 2012, she said. “That’s the equivalent of more than 8,400 tons or roughly 2,542 dumpsters full of construction debris that did not end up in landfills.”
Armstrong as a company is committed to providing a comprehensive closed-loop VCT recycling program that reduces environmental impacts and provides an easy end of life solution. Highlights of the program includes three regional recycling facilities in California, Illinois and Mississippi; free freight from job site to the nearest Armstrong plant for recycling; it accepts not only Armstrong VCT but also other qualifying manufacturers’ VCT products; energy reduction and fewer greenhouse emissions.
According to Jonathan Train, vice president, the company believes in thinking beyond the horizon. “This is why we created our Green4Life (G4L) program to bring awareness to reclaim, recycle and reuse. Our commitment to being ‘green conscious’ begins with our luxury vinyl tiles and planks being manufactured in ISO 14001/9001 energy-efficient facilities, and most of our products are recyclable.
The products in the company’s G4L program are produced using up to 50% post-consumer/post-industrial recycled material. “Being earth friendly is in our name,” he said. “One key point our customers know is most of our G4L products are made either from recycled material or are able to be recycled at the end of their lifespan.”
The company takes a broad look at waste streams that are the largest contributions to landfills and works to incorporate them into its manufacturing, according to Dave Kitts, vice president, environment. Every year, thousands of tons of post-consumer carpet VCT and gypsum from drywall are diverted from America’s landfills and recycled into Mannington products.
“We have recycled on average 15 tons per month of post-consumer drywall waste into VCT since 2006,” he explained. “We even reclaim carpet and recycle it into resilient sheet.”
Smart product design and investment in technology enabled Mannington to launch the industry’s first VCT n2 VCT recycling program, Kitts noted. Partnerships with regional reclamation companies keep the program’s environmental footprint small and the new products cost neutral to customers. “As a result, our Progressions, Brushwork, ColorPoint and SolidPoint products contain post-consumer recycled content, standard, with no increase in price.”
Next month, Mannington is launching Enlighten, a new polyolefin/rubber composite homogeneous sheet. Made in the U.S., Enlighten brings together Mannington performance with an innovative formulation that includes no vinyl, 5% post-consumer recycled materials and 4% renewable resources, Kitts said. “All with the same durability and performance as other Mannington homogeneous resilient sheet flooring.
The polyolefin/rubber formulation is designed to give greater comfort underfoot and reduces noise in high traffic commercial applications,” noted Al Boulogne, senior director, commercial sheet and Main Street. “The palette of 11 colors, suited for high performance projects, offers a real option for projects where non-vinyl flooring is desired.”
It’s been a busy year at Tandus Centiva, noted Erin Dempsey Istanbulluoglu, director of environmental & social stewardship. “We’ve been working to join our companies and, through that, our talent resources are growing. It is opening new conversations on synergies, materials and recycling that will lead to shared benefits.”
As a Tarkett company, “we are dedicated to closed-loop, circular design, which for us has four pillars,” she explained, “good materials, resource stewardship, people-friendly spaces and reuse/recycling. These also represent the various product phases within the life cycle: supply chain, manufacturing, use and end-of-use.
This year, the company has moved its Centiva Contour backing production to its sister facility Nafco, also in Florence, Ala. “This allowed us to save fuel and resources for transporting goods and bring the processing of recycled material to Florence,” Dempsey Istanbulluoglu said. “We’re proud to be manufacturing in the U.S. This supports the local economy and reduces the fuel to get finished goods to our customers.”
Tandus Centiva also participated this year in the development of the recently released, industry average type III EPD for vinyl tile, “allowing us to better communicate environmental life cycle impacts to our customers,” she said.
The company recently saw its Contour and Victory series products achieve NSF-332 Gold certification. “Through third-party certifications such as NSF-332 and also FloorScore and Greenguard, we continue to validate our environmental claims,” she said.