Mannington Commercial’s Audio Spectra flooring is the result of a collaboration with architectural firm HOK.

Rubber floors are evolving. Manufacturers say architects, designers, contractors and end-users are viewing rubber not only as a safe and durable flooring material for commercial interiors, but as a surface that offers greater design flexibility. They also note that advances in manufacturing technology have made the products greener than ever before.

Jeff Collum, CBC Flooring’s director of flooring, said in his 12 years in the rubber flooring industry, he has seen improvements to processes and designs on a continual basis. Because of these advancements, he said the rubber flooring segment is poised to grow substantially.

His company recently entered a partnership with Indelval Rubber, an Argentina-based manufacturer of rubber sheet and tile flooring, to bring the company’s products to the United States. “We felt that rubber needed more options and more product availability, and Indelval offers some new and refreshing looks, great quality and has unique technology,” Collum said.

Indelval Rubber Flooring from CBC Flooring.

He said he was also pleased with Indelval’s commitment to being green. “CBC Flooring only offers products with substantial green advantages, from our flooring and through our accessories and adhesives.” He added sustainability “is one of the most important criteria we consider in all product selections and marketing.”

While he sees rubber growing as more customers embrace the material for its sustainability and design, Collum also said petroleum costs could pose a threat to rubber affordability. “Cost increases must be controllable. Oil prices have an immediate impact on manufacturing costs.”

Zack Zehner, Mannington vp commercial hard surfaces, said he also sees the segment growing. “We are seeing continuous growth in the category, and expect it to continue.” He noted that high performance, low maintenance and low environmental impact are key drivers of the growth, along with an increase in design-driven rubber products. “Rubber is no longer just an institutional product,” he explained. “It is aesthetically pleasing.”

Distinct Designs Rubber Tile & Sheet from Flexco.

Natalie Jones, Mannington’s vp commercial brand development and creative product, said the company is working on getting its rubber flooring third-party certified for sustainability. Zehner added the company is looking to add industrial post-consumer recycled content into its wall base.

Flexco, which recently earned FloorScore certification for most of its products, is also refining its wall base line. “Flexco has given our wall base color palette a makeover this year,” noted Melissa Quick, Flexco’s marketing coordinator. “We wanted to make sure we have the colors to meet the demands of the market versus having a lot of colors that we really weren’t sure about.”

Mondo flooring installed at Tampa General Hospital.

The company has also expanded the color line in its SpexTones rubber flooring to include more neutral and subtle colors for the healthcare industry. “Rubber flooring is gaining ground as a front runner in the healthcare community due to the popularity of the qualities and performance – so what better time to evaluate our colors for that market?” Quick said.

Jeff Krejsa, Johnsonite’s vp marketing, said colors and textures inspired by organic materials are a growing trend in the rubber segment. He points to his company’s Folio collection, featuring raised silhouettes of leaves and branches, as an example.

“The texture can be used alone or as accents to create something unique. These particular designs also bring an organic look to the space, which is very popular in healthcare and hospitality,” he said.

Krejsa added advances in technology have led to adding rapidly renewable resources to the product to help end-users meet LEED targets for construction. “Cork is common, which we use. But not so common are walnut shells, which we also use.”

Roppe offers a range of new Corner Blocks.

Most of Johnsonite’s products are FloorScore certified, he added, and are just one part of the company’s sustainability efforts. “For example, we capture raw material excess, scrap and off-spec product and reuse them in the manufacturing process. We use high-efficiency dust collectors to capture and reuse dust particulate. And we use a closed-loop system for our cooling water and waste effluents,” Krejsa said, listing some of the company’s green manufacturing processes.

Latasha Pittman, Mondo’s director of communications & marketing, said the sustainable attributes of rubber flooring are definitely influencing the product’s design, including the company’s new Idea! line. “Design trends right now are inspired by nature both in color and design. The colors are earth-tones, greens and neutrals, with patterns pertaining to nature incorporated within the flooring.”

As for sustainability efforts, Mondo ensures its manufacturing processes release no toxic gases, all trimmings and waste are recycled, and the water used for cooling is in a closed-loop system. Additionally, the rubber flooring products are recyclable.

An installation of Johnsonite’s Mesto Configurations product.

“With the company’s new Product Reclamation Program, customers can return their used flooring to Mondo so they can be recycled for use in future Mondo sport and commercial products,” Pittman noted.

Roppe, which has received FloorScore certification for most of its products, recently expanded its IMPACT rubber recycling program. Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring Partnership, a commercial flooring network that represents more than 170 independent flooring contractors in North America, said it will implement the IMPACT program immediately.

“We introduced our new IMPACT recycling program last year and have diverted over 1,100 tons of waste into municipal mulches, additives to athletic fields and many other new products that are currently being developed,” noted Dee Dee Brickner, Roppe’s marketing coordinator.

Additionally, Roppe has modified its production techniques and compounds used in manufacturing to meet or exceed green requirements. “LEED Green Building Certification is continuing to determine the finishes being used in our New Construction and Commercial Interior projects,” Brickner said.

She added that as long as there are a wide array of appealing colors and options in rubber flooring and wall base, architects and designers will continue to flock to the material for green projects. “The key is continued design and coloration development,” Brickner noted. “Products such as cork infused into the tile also give the standard rubber floor an added dimension of texture that is unexpected, but well received, by designers and end-users.”