A new, and somewhat controversial rating system, a keynote address by the former First Lady and Secretary of State, and a sense business is once again growing helped energize the approximately 28,000 people who came out to the City of Brotherly Love for the annual Greenbuild.

This was the first year Greenbuild was run under the ownership of Hanley Wood, which also owns Surfaces, but the show’s founding organization, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was still at the center of attention, especially with the launch of LEED v4, the newest version of the organization’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system.

While it is clear USGBC’s LEED program has revolutionized the marketplace in the 15 or so years it has been in existence, it is also clear as more evidence is gathered about green building practices and sustainability, there is more and more controversy with each passing program, be it a fully restructured one like LEED v4 or one of its many offshoot programs such as LEED for Homes.

The thing is, regardless of what one thinks of it, or of the numerous other green building programs out there, as Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, pointedly put it, “Green is here to stay; it is not a fad, it is the future.”

While the flooring industry certainly was not at the center of attention, it was at the center of showing why it is at the forefront of the green movement as manufacturers, associations and executives from every segment were not only represented they were busy showing and telling Greenbuild attendees how and why their products are green, sustainable and healthy for people and the environment.

Carpet mills such as Shaw Industries and Bentley were helping to educate attendees about the fact the new LEED now accepts products that have received the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification from the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute as a path toward credit opportunities.

Helping to promote this at the Shaw booth was world famous architect and designer William McDonough, who co-founded C2C based on the principle nothing should go to waste by assessing a product’s safety to humans and the environment and design for future life cycles.

Besides signing copies of his new book, “The Upcycle,” McDonough collaborated with Shaw’s Patcraft division on a new line called the Butterfly Effect, which he told Floor Trends “embodies the natural beauty and functionality of the butterfly wing, through pattern and color, durability and performance and through its positive environmental impact.”

Ralph Grogan, president and CEO of Bentley, which is the second carpet mill to have products C2C certified, said being based in California means “we’re different from other mills because we are in the state with the strictest environmental codes yet we continue to stay ahead.” He pointed out besides producing environmentally friendly products, it was the first company to have a manufacturing facility LEED certified, “and it’s an older building so it took a real effort to achieve this.”

Speaking of C2C, at the Tarkett booth, Diane Martel, vice president of sustainable strategies, noted how the company is the only hard surface flooring mill to have products C2C certified, while also explaining to attendees the company’s four pillars of sustainability—Good Materials; Resource Stewardship; People-friendly Spaces, and Reuse and Recycle.

She noted the atmosphere at his year’s show was “better than last year. There seems to be more a willingness to collaborate as people are discovering we need to work together and start playing nice.”

At Interface, John Wells, president and CEO, wasn’t at the show discussing products, but rather networks and how creating the right ones can have a positive impact on the world. He pointed to the company’s partnerships with Aquafil and communities in the Philippines to take used fishing nets, which are made of nylon 6,6 and recycle them back to fiber and into new carpets as an example. “We not only protecting the environment, but the money these communities are getting are being used for things such as sending kids to schools. So by creating a network we are have a positive impact on the world.”

Along those lines, DuPont said it was partnering with Universal Fibers. DuPont’s Maya Sethuraman said Universal will work with the company’s Sorona polymer, which is used to make Triexta fiber, on both the commercial side and residentially outside the U.S. Currently Mohawk has the exclusive residential rights in the U.S. and uses the fiber for its SmartStrand products. In addition, on the commercial side, she noted Mannington has become the second Sorona licensee in the U.S., and is introducing a line of carpet tiles with the innovative yarn.

In addition, the company partnered with Mohawk to host an event promoting their involvement with the International Living Future Institute. Rochelle Routman, Mohawk’s director of sustainability said in addition to incorporating the latest third-party labels, from environmental product declarations (EPDs) to health product declarations (HPDs), products will also have the Institute’s Declare label which gives further transparency as to what is in the product.


Transparency Time

It seems like at each Greenbuild there is a new, more advance method for looking at a product’s overall impact on health and the environment, and this year was no different as EPDs, HPDs, and product transparency declarations (PTDs) were among the litany of alphabet soup present this year.

Within that framework, Erin Istanbulluoglu, director of environmental and social stewardship for Tarkett’s new Tandus Centiva division, said Greenbuild was sort of a coming out event to showcase how these two environmentally conscious companies have come together under the Tarkett umbrella and together they are presenting a common message of transparency among the entire company. “Transparency is a big topic of discussion this year and Tandus Centiva is all for it. That’s why Tandus has EPDs and other environmental declarations on its carpet products and process, while Centiva not only has the same for its resilient goods, it was one of the companies that worked with the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) in creating its industry average EPD along with a PTD for the category.”

Bill Freeman, RFCI’s regulatory and technical consultant, said these and other initiatives by the organization and industry “will help show how resilient flooring is manufactured in a sustainable way and that it is a healthy choice for interior environments,” adding how its PTD actually incorporates the necessary items for an HPD.

Forbo’s Denise Waida-Scanish, said the company was not only all for transparency but was heavily pushing HPDs, which it believes is the “only” standard that provides full transparency. “Our foundation is science and everything is third-party verified.”

Science was the name of the game at Crossville, where Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing, was showcasing the company’s Hydrotect, a coating that harnesses the power of light, water and oxygen to help clean the air in a given space. “People want products that help both the building and the people in it be healthy. At this show it is all about science and proving what you say and we have a lot of data and studies to prove the efficiency of Hydrotect.”

In addition, she said Crossville was one of the companies to help pilot a program by the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) to do what the RFCI did in creating industry EPDs.

When it came to companies showcasing wood related products, from reclaimed to bamboo to cork and so forth, it was all about helping attendees understand how their products are verified sustainable and how they can help create a better living and working environment.

William Jopling, CEO of EcoTimber, maker of the Dasso brand among others, said the company was “trying to create more innovative samples to help educate attendees about the company’s various products and how they can not only contribute to LEED points but other green rating systems. “The audience here is very sophisticated, yet LEED v4 is still very confusing to them so we need to help them as much as possible understand our place in it.”

Recognizing this, Ken Bollella of Globus Cork, decided to let attendees educate themselves on the principles of cork. “We took a different approach this year. Instead of me telling them about cork, we set up a number of interactive experiences so they can learn for themselves. Cork is so unique it sells itself and this has been a very successful approach and they not only can see first-hand but they will remember this much better than if I was standing there telling them.”

Lorenzo Marquez, marketing vice president for Cosentino North America, called Greenbuild a “terrific experience. The attendees were extremely passionate about the products they were sourcing and very engaged with their own practices. As an exhibitor, we see a high return on investment in our participation, as Greenbuild attendees are key decision makers in their practices, who are ready to discuss business.”


First Lady Gives Thanks

During her keynote address Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and Secretary of State, told a packed crowd of over 10,000 at Temple University’s Licouras Center, “You have built a movement; thank you for making the public aware of sustainability.” She noted the green movement is not just about sustainable building practices, “it can create thousands of jobs here in the U.S.; it’s about helping to build a better future for our children.” She added this also leads to economic security, overall public health and well being, noting as Secretary of State one of her last actions was to make it where all U.S. embassies are to be built to meet the minimum of LEED Silver standards.

LEED, and green building in general is already transforming the industry, Clinton said during her keynote. “We can now measure reduced energy costs so we know this works. And over the last 20 years we’ve seen slow, steady progress. We know what to do and now we need to come together and push it to the next level.”

Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC’s president and CEO, said this can happen if the various factions, from the various green organizations to industry associations, non-government agencies and even governments come together and work toward the common good. “USGBC set out to create a better world,” and ended caught in the “muck of politics and special interests.”

Noting there is a silver lining around every storm cloud he added, “There is a still a lot of work ahead. And thanks to Hanley Wood, we will now have a Greenbuild in Brazil and Italy in 2014.”

Fedrizzi pressed attendees to go out and “persevere because there are more people who believe in sustainable building than not. If we link hands and not cross swords we can create a sustainable world.”

(Editor’s note: To see more photos from this year’s Greenbuild, see the digital edition of Floor Trendsat floortrendsmag.com.)