New Products, Practices, Sustainability Tools and Certifications Build Solid Green Record for Resilient Flooring
The resilient flooring category and LVT in particular, continues to be the fastest growing segment in the floor covering industry. Resilient flooring has long been recognized for sophisticated aesthetics, long-term performance, versatility and value. And over the last several years, the category’s reputation as a sustainable flooring selection has grown.
Manufacturers have made great strides in sustainable technologies and products, including bio-based materials, recycled content, low VOCs, and water and energy conservation. The industry also has made a priority of bringing transparency to product ingredients, environmental impacts and manufacturing practices.
The Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) has helped develop a suite of sustainability tools and certifications including Product Transparency Declarations (PTDs), Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), NSF/ANSI 332 Sustainability Assessment Standard for Resilient Floor Coverings, and FloorScore.
Resilient flooring is among the most widely used flooring types in commercial and residential construction. Options abound for products made of vinyl, linoleum, rubber and even cork. Specifiers and customers are always looking for products with sustainable features, and resilient flooring manufacturers continue to drive initiatives that lower environmental impacts and bring transparency to products and practices.
In alphabetical order, here are just a few:
•Armstrong publishes EPDs for its flooring products that are available on its website. Its BioBased tile is made of 85% limestone and 10% pre-consumer recycled content. Its Raffia VCT contains post-consumer recycled content and 85% limestone and can be recycled into new VCT products through Armstrong’s recycling program.
•Gerflor plans to launch a back-to-school CEU on demystifying the transition from LEED 2009 to LEED v4. It also includes educational content on EPDs and energy consumption. Gerflor offers industry average EPDs for its homogeneous and heterogeneous flooring.
•IVC’s 454-panel solar energy system produces enough energy to fully power its fleet of electric lift trucks. The company also taps energy from wind turbines to produce LVT that includes up to 50% recycled post-industrial material.
•Mannington and Amtico continue to emphasize domestic manufacturing to reduce fuel use, create products with a smaller carbon footprint and bring economic sustainability to local communities. The efforts have produced a 30% increase since 2013 in jobs at its Georgia facilities in Madison and Conyers, with more than 200 additional jobs to be added by the end of 2014.
•Metroflor just announced certification of its Aspecta LVT to the Platinum level of NSF/ANSI 332. Platinum is the highest level of achievement recognized under the standard.
•Tandus Centiva introduced at this year’s NeoCon a product line of LVT called Venue. It is 100% recyclable through the Tandus Centiva ReStart program, contains 30% pre-consumer recycled content and is FloorScore certified.
•Tarkett embraces a Cradle to Cradle approach by eco-designing vinyl flooring with extremely low VOC emissions, optimizing resources such as raw materials, energy and water during production, and maintaining its ReStart reclamation and recycling program. The company offers its own transparency tool called an Environmental Health Statement that is aligned with its Cradle to Cradle emphasis.
PTD: The Latest Tool
PTD is the latest of several sustainability tools available to specifiers and customers that provides transparency to product ingredients and manufacturing practices. A PTD discloses product ingredients and identifies any ingredients that are listed as hazards at specific exposure levels on the five most used and credible regulatory lists.
A PTD indicates whether there should be concern over human exposure to a chemical ingredient in the product and specifies if a warning label is required for the product.
Though PTD was initiated by RFCI, the tool can be used for all types of building products. PTDs have been made available to product manufacturers inside and outside the flooring industry. Many inquiries have been received from manufacturers of other building materials, and RFCI has responded to help them use the tool to provide information on product ingredients and their potential health impacts.
The PTD tool is now going through a consensus-based process that allows stakeholders from all building product industries to participate in its refinement and development into a standard. ASTM, a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of international voluntary consensus standards, is managing this process. Balloting on the first draft ended on Feb. 10, and the second ballot ended on July 7. The next ballot will be issued after revisions are made to the latest draft document.
More than 200 members of ASTM E 60 Committee on Sustainability have participated in the voting with an over 70% approval rating for the PTD. There have been many good recommendations for improving the standard, and these are being addressed.
When the process is completed, the PTD tool will become an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard. This new standard will provide a useful tool for manufacturers to provide in-depth information on building products currently being requested by specifiers.
EPDs Work Like a Nutrition Label
The resilient flooring industry also has embraced the concept of EPDs and published five industry average EPDs covering the most widely used resilient flooring products. The equivalent of a sustainability “nutrition label,” an EPD is a comprehensive disclosure of a product’s lifecycle-based environmental impacts. It documents environmental impacts from cradle to grave.
An EPD helps specifiers and purchasers assess lifecycle impacts and environmental attributes of a building product and facilitates product evaluation using factual data that is objective and transparent.
The resilient flooring EPDs are industry average, meaning they report the industry average data for each product type, which was calculated by averaging together lifecycle inventory data from the participating manufacturers in each product type.
They are ISO 14025 Type III, third-party certified EPDs, which are recognized for contributing credits in LEED v4’s Material and Resources Credit 2. Released in August 2013, the industry-average EPDs cover five types of resilient flooring: Vinyl tile, including LVT; VCT; homogeneous vinyl; heterogeneous vinyl, and rubber.
The development process spanned more than a year and included participation by 12 major resilient flooring manufacturers. Industry average EPDs are available at rfci.com.
In addition to industry average EPDs, some manufacturers have developed EPDs for specific product types they produce. These are voluntarily developed by manufacturers but are verified by independent third parties to provide factual, comparable information regarding environmental performance.
Another tool available to specifiers and building owners is NSF/ANSI 332. The standard provides a thorough communication of information that is verifiable, accurate, and not misleading about environmental and social aspects associated with the production and use of resilient floor covering products. It establishes a consistent approach to the evaluation and determination of environmentally preferable and sustainable resilient floor coverings.
NSF International, an independent, not-for-profit standards organization, was responsible for the development of the standard, which has been approved by ANSI. NSF/ANSI 332 uses a point-based system in which manufacturers achieve one of four levels of certification: Conformant, Silver, Gold and Platinum—with conformant status meeting entry level criteria and the platinum level achieving the highest number of credits. Products are evaluated against the standard using six key criteria: Product design, product manufacturing, long-term value, end-of-life management, corporate governance and innovation.
The standard was released in March 2010 and is now being used by many manufacturers to certify the sustainability attributes of resilient flooring.
Retailers should look for NSF/ANSI 332 certification on manufacturers’ labels and product literature and point this out to customers. NSF/ANSI 332 covers all types of resilient flooring products including VCT, sheet vinyl, vinyl tile, rubber sheet, rubber tile, linoleum sheet, linoleum tile, polymeric flooring, resilient wall base and resilient stair treads.
FloorScore Certifies IAQ
A primary concern for indoor air quality (IAQ) is the emission level of specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by building products. FloorScore is a voluntary, independent certification program that tests resilient flooring and adhesive products and certifies they meet specific VOC emission requirements. The program was developed by RFCI in collaboration with Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), an internationally recognized third-party evaluation, testing and certification organization.
FloorScore certification indicates a product has been independently certified by SCS to comply with the VOC emissions criteria of the California Department of Public Health Standard Practice for the Testing of VOC Emissions, often referred to as California Section 01350. Flooring products earning this certification have also undergone on-site audits at the manufacturing facility and yearly surveillance audits, and met requirements for product retesting, product record keeping and a documented quality control plan.
FloorScore is included as a requirement for VOC emissions for hard surface flooring and adhesives by most green building systems, including U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system, Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes, ASHRAE Standard 189, National Green Building Standard, Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) and International Green Building Code (IgCC).
Look for the FloorScore seal on product packaging. The major resilient flooring manufacturers that market in North America certify their products under the FloorScore program. A list of FloorScore-certified products is available at rfci.com.
As products with sustainability claims inundate the building interiors market, sustainability tools and certifications become increasingly important as they allow specifiers and purchasers to make better-informed decisions. Architects, designers, specifiers and building owners are increasingly concerned about the health of building occupants in the indoor environment. And green building programs such as LEED and Green Globes are requiring more transparency in the materials used and their potential health impacts.
The resilient flooring industry has responded with sustainability tools such as PTDs and EPDs and certifications such as NSF/ANSI 332 and FloorScore. These provide transparency to product ingredients and environmental impacts and ensure sustainability information is factual, comparable and based on established scientific principles, practices and standards. These tools and certifications can be used in any combination to assess environmental attributes and impacts and facilitate product evaluation using factual data that is objective and transparent.
Dean Thompson is president of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI), a non-profit industry trade association that represents the major manufacturers of resilient flooring marketed throughout North America. RFCI helps lead industry sustainability efforts including PTDs and EPDs, NSF/ANSI 332 and the FloorScore certification for indoor air emissions. For more information on resilient flooring and its sustainability, visit rfci.com or call (706) 882-3833.