Thinking Green: Flooring Materials

Thinking green needs to extend to all aspects of our design and life choices. So, as we move forward to change the flooring in our living spaces or designing them for others, we need to start thinking of what materials to use and why. Some ideas to think about as you are researching your flooring are:

• All carpet installed should meet the Carpet & Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus Program (The Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Plus Testing Program is an independent testing program that identifies carpets with low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
• All carpet cushion installed should meet the Carpet & Rug Institute’s Green Label Program (note there is no Plus, just the Green Label Program for carpet cushions).
• All carpet adhesives used on the interior of the building must meet SCAQMD Rule #1168.
• When researching carpet the test results of the carpet used should not be older than 2 years.
• When looking at wood floors look for woods that are certified in accordance with the Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) Principles and Criteria.

Here are some other things to consider:

Recycled content:

Approximately five billion pounds of carpet are replaced each year in the U.S. Much of the old carpet, along with plastic soda bottles and other textiles, can be woven into new carpet fibers. Recycled content carpet has a similar look, feel, and price as virgin fiber (typically polyester, nylon, and olefin) carpet, but takes advantage of post-consumer recycled materials. Recycled carpet can be made from recycled polyethelene terephthalate (PET) or from recovered textile fibers. PET plastic is usually found in plastic soda bottles. About 40 two-liter soda bottles are recycled per square yard of carpeting. The backing used for recycled content carpet is the same as traditional carpets. Recycled content carpet fiber is said to be more resilient and colorfast than virgin fiber carpet. Recycled carpet usually comes with the same warranties for colorfastness, static control, and resistance to stain, crushing, and matting as virgin synthetic fiber carpets. We need to increase the demand for building products that incorporate recycled content materials, thereby reducing impacts resulting from extraction and processing of virgin materials.

Rapidly renewable materials:

Rapidly renewable materials are considered to be an agricultural product that take 10 years or less to grow or raise, and can be harvested in an ongoing and sustainable fashion. You’re probably already familiar with bamboo, one of the most prevalent and well known rapidly renewable. Most conventional buildings and homes use large quantities of land and natural resources. Oak trees might take 30 years to grow, which makes them a finite resource. Rapidly renewable materials require less land and time to grow, making them more environmentally responsible. Bamboo is an excellent example of flooring that is a highly renewable resource, harvestable only four to six years after being planted. Its low moisture absorption properties make it ideal for humid climates and applications where moisture might pose a challenge for other types of flooring.

Regional Materials:

Buying regional materials helps support the use of indigenous resources and reducing the environmental impacts resulting from transportation. Buying regionally manufactured building materials supports the local economy, transportation costs are minimized, and the environmental impacts are minimized by reducing the distance between the point of extraction and the point of manufacture. An example of this is The Mohawk Group, which is the only carpet manufacturer in the world that produces carpet tile with a 500 mile radius of the New York Metro area (404 Anderson St., Glasgow, VA 24555), thus qualifying for the LEED 5.1 Regional Materials Credit, 20% of the buildings materials/products must be manufactured within a 500 mile radius.

There are manufactures that are working hard to make sustainability a big part of their products and company philosophy. The Mohawk Group is a good example of this. They created a LEED Plus Calculator with Eco Scorecard that is found on their website The LEED Plus Calculator, calculates the LEED carpet contribution of their product. This is a great tool as it will let you know what the product(s) is made of; gives you the product(s) specific documentation, as well as, what LEED points the product (s) will qualify for.

They also provide lunch and learn seminars to educate the industry that are a one hour power point presentation about Sustainable Interior Environments that also count as AIA & IIDA Accredited, with one learning credit earned. If you are interested in this lunch and learn seminar, contact Robert S. Martin at The Mohawk Group via email or call him at 917-282-5552. He is a LEED expert on Sustainable Interior Environments, so you can contact him if you also have any questions.

Links to Mohawk Group and the LEED Plus Calculator are available on my links.

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