Floors may not attract as much attention as walls, but flooring accounts for a large percentage of surface area in any building. Floor coverings may account for thousands of square feet of building surface, which means that everyone in a building is influenced by flooring choices.
The materials used to cover a floor can be a major influence on the indoor air quality. Some coverings emit harmful chemicals, a process called off-gassing, and even with the best maintenance, flooring degrades over time and the building’s inhabitants inhale whatever chemicals the floor coverings give off.
But before it hits the ground, flooring materials have an even larger environmental impact through the manufacturing process. At the beginning of their life, some flooring options consume large quantities of energy and raw materials, as they may be formed using glues, resin, and adhesives that are both toxic and unrecyclable.
So how can a business owner increase the quality of the indoor environment while minimizing damage to the natural environment? How do you save the planet without breaking the bank? The answer is simple: go green and consider installing sustainable flooring.
In this case study, we describe our experience with a local retailer that provides earth friendly baby products to environmentally conscious families. When the client moved to a new and larger location, they wanted sustainable flooring that would reflect their earth-friendly philosophy. But what makes a flooring option green? And how do you choose the option that’s best for both business and the planet?
To help them meet their goals, Commercial Flooring & Interior Concepts, Inc. guided the selection process.
First, they considered the basics for any flooring installation:
- Maintenance and cleaning
- Design elements
To consider green flooring options, they added a few additional criteria to the list:
To meet these criteria, the flooring had to meet certain standards.
Green flooring options start with materials that are easily renewed like bamboo, wood or cork. These plant-based materials come to maturity in a few years, which is a fraction of the time to harvest when compared to the decades that are required for hardwood flooring.
Some flooring materials can be salvaged from existing structures and recycled, which benefits the environment by keeping useful waste from the landfill.
Sustainable flooring uses minimal amounts of energy and chemicals in the manufacturing process. In general, the less a material is processed, the better. In terms of manufacturing, stone, wood and bamboo require the least amount of processing, while cork, ceramic tile, linoleum, rubber, carpets and rugs require significantly more. It’s also essential that the manufacturing process doesn’t include any toxic compounds, which can give off residue that can impact the indoor environment, making sustainable materials less desirable.
Shipping, Handling and Installation:
Shipping a flooring material over great distances increases its total environmental impact, when factoring in gas emissions from transportation. Using materials that originate within 500 miles of their ultimate destination helps to keep the environmental impact low.
Installation may require cutting, sanding, sealing and/or adhesive application which may affect indoor air quality. Water-based adhesives are generally better for the indoor environment.
Use and Maintenance:
Maintenance and durability are important concerns for all commercial flooring materials. Regular maintenance of many conventional flooring materials can expose workers to harmful chemicals, and as these floors wear and age they may degrade the indoor environment. It’s important to consider materials that respond well to maintenance without impacting indoor air quality.
Replacement / Recycling:
Finally, there are environmental considerations when flooring needs to be replaced. Synthetic flooring materials that don’t decay will fill our landfills for centuries to come, but recyclable materials can be turned into foam padding, re-used as aggregate or used to generate energy.
Ultimately, the owners chose ‘dasso’ by Ecotimber, an ecologically sustainable bamboo flooring product. This tough, beautiful flooring wears like iron and will have them breathing easy for years to come.
For more information on installing sustainable flooring or the benefits of exploring green flooring options, click below!