Sustainability and Design Trends in Hardwood, Cork and Bamboo
Consumers looking to keep the planet healthy and green may have questions in regards to a flooring product’s overall sustainability. It is important to note all flooring categories can claim environmental attributes that make them greener, as manufacturers across the industry have evolved their products and processes to create as small a footprint as possible.
Floor Trend sasked several manufacturers of hardwood, cork and bamboo to share what their companies are doing to create environmentally friendly products. Since sustainability is important but still not the most important concern for residential consumers, executives were also asked to weigh in on the design trends they are seeing. (Editor’s note: Companies are listed in alphabetical order to avoid favoritism.)
Armstrong/HomerWood. According to Sara Babinski, principal designer, scraped hardwoods are still hot. However, consumers are slowly moving away from exotics back to domestics. “The visuals of choice are typically domestic species we know and love —oak, hickory, walnut and birch. The knots, mineral streaks and graining are in demand.”
On the sustainability side, Armstrong uses “99.9% of the wood we process, so nothing is wasted,” noted Milton Goodwin, vice president, product management-hardwood. “Armstrong’s responsible forest management strategy requires we employ practices that protect the communities and environments where we extract, process and manufacture wood and wood products.” The company is also a member of Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers, which administers the Verified Sustainable program.
The HomerWood brand also practices sustainability, according to Wendy Wescoat, marketing manager. “HomerWood’s hardwood products are manufactured using wood sourced locally from the Appalachian mountain region. Our floors are produced with zero waste and are CARB II compliant with zero off-gassing, no urea formaldehyde and no volatile organic compounds (VOCs).”
Boa-Franc. Luc Robitaille, vice presidnet of marketing for Boa-Franc, maker of the Mirage Floors brand, is seeing consumers gravitate toward wood floors with character marks and color variations. “Hickory and white oak are certainly among the hot species which fit this trend and so are our Handcrafted Oak and Aged Maple from the Sweet Memories Collection.”
The company is also serious about sustainability, he added. “Mirage Lock is made of HDF containing wood that is from 100% pre-consumer recycled fibers, and fully complies with CARB. Mirage Engineered products are also CARB compliant. Our Nanolinx finishes, including the Nanolinx Commercial finish, release no VOC or formaldehyde. Mirage also offers a variety of products that can help earn LEED credits. We have Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified products and we ensure full compliance with the Lacey Act as well.”
Lauzon. Nathalie Lambert, director of marketing, said customers are looking for low gloss or matte finishes. “Softly textured matte surfaces have practical benefits as they help conceal wear and tear.”
Regarding sustainability, Lambert added: “Lauzon applies best-in-class sustainable practices in the management of its forests. In keeping with high environmental standards, Lauzon has been converting its wood residue into highly efficient, clean-burning wood pellets. In the fall of 2012, the company invested in groundbreaking scanning technology that brings greater automation and precision to the wood-cutting process. It allows Lauzon to convert previously used wood into flooring products.”
Mannington. According to Dan Natkin, director of laminate and hardwood business, hardwood planks are trending toward wide widths. “3- and 5-inch are standard, and now everything is migrating to wider than 5-inches.” He also sees the color palette moving from chocolate browns to natural and gray tones.
Mannington is “proud of its sustainability efforts,” he added, including as one of the original members of the National Wood Flooring Association’s (NWFA) Responsible Procurement Program (RPP), practicing “continuous in-sourcing” and seeking out “improved product yields and investments to drive better usage of the raw materials.”
Mohawk. Tammy Perez, senior brand manager, said the look of scraped hardwoods is changing. “Hardwood design trends are evolving from the heavy scrape to the subtle wire-brush texture that is so versatile.”
The majority of Mohawk’s hardwood are LEED-certified and domestically produced, with FSC-certified products available. Additionally, all Mohawk hardwood products are Lacey Act compliant. she added, “Mohawk’s domestically produced engineered hardwood products are manufactured using PureBond Technology, which eliminates additional formaldehyde emissions associated with urea formaldehyde adhesives. Mohawk also reclaims wood from torn-down buildings and converts it into premium floors.”
Mullican. Brian Greenwell, vice president of sales and marketing, said consumers are not only looking for wider planks, but longer ones as well. “A number of our solid and engineered collections offer planks available in 4-, 5- and 7-inch widths. Mullican’s San Marco and Ponte Vedra collections feature the industry’s first random 6-foot planks.”
Mullican is one of the original members of NWFA’s RPP program, and voluntarily participates in Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers’ Verified Sustainable program, he noted. Additionally, in 2012 the company shifted much of its engineered manufacturing from Asia to a renovated facility in Johnson City, Tenn. “This decision served to eliminate a substantial portion of overseas shipping, which in turn reduces our global footprint.”
Mullican also recycles manufacturing waste byproducts at all four of its plants. “We make kiln sticks out of our edgings and sell the dust to other manufacturers who use it to make particle board. The waste and dust can also be ground and used as boiler fuel or fuel pellets. Absolutely nothing goes to waste.”
PG Model. Dominique Lauze, territory manager, commented, “We see the market changing and accepting a lot more characters in the grading. They want the floor to look as natural as real wood.”
The company has been FSC-certified since 2005. Among its other sustainability efforts, “we have partnered with Scierie Dion in 2010, one of the most efficient sawmills in Quebec. This strategic move helps us to better control our lumber needs, and helps us get over 80% of our lumber needs within an 80-mile radius. We recycle 100% of recyclable material in all our plants and offices. The VOC emissions for our prefinished polyurethane products are 10 times under the GS-11 standards.”
Preverco. Hardwood is being used more to help accent a room, said Etienne Chabot, vice president of marketing. This is leading to a wide range of new looks. “Some of our customers want dual tones, brushed textures or our unique wave texture.”
Chabot said hardwood is sustainable and renewable by its very nature. “On top of this, Preverco supports the following initiatives: FSC, SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification). We also recover all wood debris from the manufacturing of our products to heat our plant during winter and heat our dryers the whole year.”
Shaw. “We’ve noticed the pendulum has begun to swing back toward lighter colors including sun-bleached blondes as well as driftwood-inspired gray-browns found in white oak, walnut and maple although darker woods such as hickory are still very much in use,” said Emily Kiker Morrow, director of color, style and design.
All of Shaw’s hardwood products are Cradle to Cradle certified and meet GreenGuard certification for good indoor air quality. “In the hardwood manufacturing process, Shaw has taken a very aggressive approach to reducing waste and improving yields,” stated David Wilkerson, corporate director of sustainability and product stewardship. “One of the ways Shaw has been able to reduce waste is by utilizing technology and automation to streamline the manufacturing process where it makes the most sense.”
Cork and Bamboo’s Green Story
Cork and bamboo each have their own unique sustainability story. To that end, Floor Trendsspoke with a few leading manufactures to get their take on being green.
Amorim. While not technically a hardwood, cork is certainly a relative, with the material harvested directly from the bark of the cork oak tree. Similar to hardwood, consumers of cork are looking for wider, longer planks. “We introduced our new 48-inch-long cork plank visuals in 2011 (36-inch was the previous standard). During this same timeframe we increased the width of the planks from 41/4- to 51/2-inches wide,” remarked Tim Tompkins, national marketing director.
In regards to sustainability, he noted, “In addition to all our flooring products being GreenGuard and LEED certified, our latest innovation involves a technological breakthrough in urethane finish technology that increases the strength and durability of the Wicanders Artcomfort product line. This solvent-free and formaldehyde-free urethane technology also excludes monomer emissions.”
Teragren. Bamboo is, at best, a distant cousin of hardwood. While routinely confused as a hardwood product, bamboo is in fact a tall, woody grass. Caitlyn Kari, marketing communications manager, said bamboo consumers are looking for lighter colors and a range of textures.
For sustainability, she added, “Working with bamboo, a rapidly renewable material with high levels of carbon sequestration, our products are already very sustainable to begin with. To extend that we have been diving into alternative finish options, such as our new Visions and Vantage II lines that feature a high-performance oil finish that is VOC-free.”
Wellmade. Steve Wagner, director of sales and marketing, sees natural color grades with distinctive color variations a growing trend in bamboo flooring. “Wellmade has also released the Old Growth Series, featuring character-driven reclaimed visuals printed on a bamboo substrate.”
He added, “As a member of the grass family, bamboo is harvested at maturity every five to seven years. Bamboo regenerates naturally, without replanting and in the case of strand woven flooring, almost the entire stalk is used from tip to trunk. In addition to solid strand flooring, Wellmade also produces engineered strand using plantation grown Eucalyptus for a more eco-friendly and sustainable plywood base.”