October 27/November 3, 2014; Volume 28/Number 10
By Ken Ryan
Resilient flooring manufacturers are often credited for driving category growth to new heights through innovative products, from sheet vinyl to LVT. Behind the scenes, the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) is doing its part to further this pattern of innovation.
Through collective resources of its growing membership, RFCI takes on issues that are too big for any one company to address alone—those that are regulatory in nature or non-governmental such as the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).
Dean Thompson, president of RFCI, said the group is currently focused on two matters: issues management and advocacy. “We are engaged with federal and state agencies and non-governmental authorities on regulatory issues at all levels,” he explained.
RFCI proactively develops programs that facilitate bringing products to market. “This includes our four sustainability building blocks: FloorScore, the NSF/ANSI 332 Sustainability Standard for Resilient Flooring, industry-average environmental product declarations (EPDs) and the new product transparency declarations (PTDs). PTDs are now moving through the process to become an ASTM standard, and we anticipate the standard will come to fruition in spring 2015.”
PTDs have become a recent focus for RFCI as the issue of transparency grows, specifically as designers ask for more information about the ingredients in products. “It’s clear that the transparency issue is not going away,” said Bill Freeman, RFCI’s regulatory and technical consultant. “We started looking at it in 2012 to provide information we think architects and designers want, starting with PTDs that disclose ingredients, including those considered hazardous. We had interest from many industries to use the same type of format. We thought the best thing was to take it through the ANSI process.”
According to Thompson, key developments in 2014 include the continued dramatic growth of LVT, demonstrated by the industry’s record capital investment in both new and expanded manufacturing facilities. Of particular note, Mohawk and Shaw, two of the largest manufacturers, have joined ranks with RFCI.
LVT growth has expanded RFCI’s role significantly, particularly with members from the supply chain like HPS Schönox, PLI Pak-Lite and SELIT joining the group. Thompson called it “a very positive development that has broadened RFCI’s base.”
Advancing advocacy efforts
Bill Hall, counsel to RFCI, said the fundamental principles of advocacy in any government or non-government organization’s decision-making process involving vinyl flooring must be based on accurate information—sound, scientific principles, risk assessment and life cycle assessment. The group’s position has been that resilient flooring is not only a great choice for versatile, cost-effective flooring solutions—it is also a great choice for the environment as new innovations improve product recycling, indoor air quality, lower VOC emissions and contribute to a healthier planet.
He added there has been a focus by some to “tilt the playing field” against PVC products. “That is what we have dealt with most recently. We have to demonstrate that our products are safe and sustainable through precedent-setting sustainability programs the industry has put together.”
RFCI recently agreed to work with USGBC on improving LEED v4 with respect to product selection, along with other industry and non-industry groups. RFCI contends the materials section of LEED v4 is discriminatory toward vinyl products and uses programs which are not established by any consensus, including Red Lists, Cradle to Cradle and GreenScreen.
“They are people who arbitrarily decided what should and shouldn’t be used,” Hall said, contending an abscence of science. “Those organizations did not allow all impacted stakeholders to be involved in establishing those programs.”
Another issue for RFCI is the California Prop 65 warning for listing DINP (phthalate). A compliance date is scheduled for Dec. 20. “We are of strong belief that the presence of DINP is well below any safe harbor level and should not trigger a warning label for vinyl products,” Hall said.
To that end, RFCI is working with the American Chemistry Council, which has filed suit against the listing of DINP—a listing that, he said, relied on animal data that has no relevance to humans. “We are also dealing with the California green chemistry program, which is involved in selecting products on the priority list that will have to go through an evaluation process to determine if any ingredients have to be switched.” RFCI’s ultimate goal is to make sure California does not select vinyl flooring for that list.