Resilient flooring has grown from 13% to over 20% of the flooring market on a square footage basis over the last decade. In the last five years, it has been the fastest growing category, fueled in part by its frequent specification in sensitive building environments such as homes, schools and hospitals. A few of its benefits are cleanliness, ease of maintenance, and resistance to bacterial and pathogen growth to which children and patients are particularly susceptible.
Vinyl, the chief material used in resilient flooring has a long history of safe use. It is highly durable—often lasting more than 25 years—reducing replacement costs, raw materials and energy required to manufacture products with shorter lifecycles.
In the last several years, there has been a great deal of focus on the environmental impacts of building materials, and resilient flooring has become more widely recognized as a sustainable selection. When talking with customers, retailers and contractors should be sure to point out the following when it comes to resilient flooring’s sustainability attributes.
From a sustainability perspective, resilient flooring is one of the most transparent products on the market today. Four tools are available to verify the environmental performance of resilient products:
• Product Transparency Declarations(PTDs). These were just introduced by the industry last month. PTDs disclose product ingredients and indicate if any are listed as hazards at specific exposure levels on the five most used regulatory lists in the U.S. If the product contains a chemical of concern, the PTD notes whether a warning label must be issued for the finished product.
• Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).These are the equivalent of a sustainability “nutrition label,” and provide a comprehensive disclosure of a product’s environmental impact over its lifecycle. An EPD documents environmental impacts from cradle to grave and offers a picture of effects on the atmosphere, water and earth. An EPD helps specifiers and purchasers assess environmental attributes, and facilitates product evaluation and comparison.
• NSF/ANSI 332 Sustainability Standard for Resilient Floor Coverings. This is a comprehensive, third-party certification. Products and manufacturing practices are evaluated by NSF International, an independent sustainability organization, and may be awarded certification at one of four levels: conformant, silver, gold and platinum—with conformant status meeting entry level criteria and platinum adhering to the most strenuous requirements.
• FloorScore. Developed by RFCI together with Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) FloorScore tests and certifies resilient flooring for compliance with indoor air quality emission requirements adopted in California. The FloorScore seal tells you the product has been independently certified by SCS to comply with emissions criteria of California’s Section 01350. Any product that meets these stringent standards is a product that will contribute to good indoor air quality.
Long Lifecycle and Recyclability
To truly understand a product’s environmental impact, its entire lifecycle should be evaluated. Vinyl resilient floors derive extreme durability from the inherent performance characteristics of vinyl. They will perform successfully for decades with minimal maintenance, and by eliminating replacement costs, raw materials and the energy required to manufacture shorter lifecycle products.
Resilient flooring has exceptional resistance to scratches, scuffs, stains and indentations. It will not chip, crack, warp or yellow like many natural surfaces. This long lifecycle helps make resilient flooring a sustainable selection.
Based on the environmental hierarchy of reduce-reuse-recycle, vinyl flooring performs exceptionally well.
In fact, more than one billion pounds of vinyl products are recycled annually. During the manufacture of vinyl resilient flooring, 99% of scrap (pre-consumer) material is recycled for use in finished vinyl products. In addition, many manufacturers reclaim used flooring (post-consumer) and recycle it. Mannington, Amtico, Tarkett, Roppe and Armstrong all take back their resilient flooring for recycling.
Many manufacturers also offer products that can be installed without adhesives, facilitating removal for recycling.
Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors, and poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can contribute to a variety of health problems such as headaches, dizziness and more serious long-term effects. FloorScore has become an accepted indicator of the indoor air quality associated with resilient flooring.
Developed by SCS in collaboration with RFCI, it is a voluntary, independent certification program that tests vinyl, linoleum, laminate, wood, ceramic and rubber flooring. The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) systems specifically cite FloorScore as an indicator of IAQ.
FloorScore also is recognized by environmental rating systems such as the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes, Collaborative for High Performance Schools, Green Guide for Health Care and EPA’s Tools for Schools.
Vinyl takes less energy to produce, pound for pound, than many competing materials, including other major plastics. Its principal raw material is chlorine derived from common salt—an abundant and inexpensive resource that displaces a significant amount of fossil fuel that would otherwise be required.
The most energy-efficient plastic, vinyl saves more than 34 million BTUs per 1,000 pounds manufactured compared to the highest energy-consuming plastic. In addition, vinyl has low thermal conductivity, so vinyl resilient flooring has excellent insulation properties and reduces the burden on air conditioning systems.
History of Safe Use
Resilient flooring offers numerous sustainable benefits, with many of them derived from the inherent performance characteristics of vinyl. Scientific studies from around the world support the long-term human health and safety advantages of vinyl products.
The material is popular not just for flooring but for a wide range of products including wallcovering, roofing, doors, windows, furniture, pipes and siding. Vinyl is the third largest-selling plastic. More than 12 billion pounds of vinyl are produced annually in North America.
And, used for more than a half century, vinyl is one of the most analyzed and tested materials. The manufacturing process for vinyl flooring poses minimal risk to workers and the environment.
Plasticizers used to make modern vinyl flooring have been thoroughly researched and tested, and there is no evidence of adverse human health effects when properly used in vinyl flooring. In fact, one of the same plasticizers used in flooring has been successfully used in vinyl medical products for 40 years.
To learn more about resileint flooring and its green benefits, visit RFCI’s new educational website, rfci.com.