Greenbuild 2008 - January 2009

By Darius Helm

For all of those committed to a sustainable future, nothing could be more encouraging than the size of this year’s Greenbuild show. Even with the bulk of exhibitors and attendees knowing full well that 2009 is going to be a very tough year, they were out in force, prepared to do business. It’s the clearest signal yet of the mainstreaming of sustainability—a movement is now a revolution.

A quick look at the numbers reveals that the U.S. Green Building Council’s trade show, held November 18 to 21 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, has become a juggernaut. Attendee numbers were up 25% from 2007 to 28,224—and they were up over 100% from the 13,329 attendees at the 2006 show in Denver. People from all 50 states and from 85 countries in six continents (Antarctica has yet to embrace the wave) attended the show.

There were 807 exhibitors, up a whopping 68% from the 2007 convention in Chicago—with something like 300 exhibitors still on a waiting list. Going forward, it looks like the USGBC’s biggest challenge will be finding large enough venues. The first Greenbuild show was held in Austin, Texas in 2002, with 4,189 attendees and 220 booths. Next year, the show will be in Phoenix.

This year, Greenbuild’s keynote speaker was Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Tutu praised America’s green movement, calling those in attendance “the cat’s whiskers,” and expressed confidence in the future of sustainability under the incoming U.S. administration.

The trade show floor was busy, with many exhibitors reporting that customers stopping by their booths were more often than not hunting for solutions for specific projects, rather than window-shopping. This year’s attendees seemed more knowledgeable than ever before.

Though many of the exhibitors expect momentum to slow somewhat due to both the recession and the falling price of hydrocarbons, the hope is that initiatives from the new administration will neutralize these negative factors.

Dozens of flooring companies attended the show, including all of the big commercial carpet mills, along with producers of resilient flooring, hardwood, cork, bamboo, linoleum, rubber, ceramic tile and raised access flooring. Fiber and backings producers also exhibited at the show.

Dow Chemical’s flooring program was headlined by the firm’s Lomax technology for latex backings. Through a partnership with the city of Dalton, Georgia and the EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program, Dow developed a pipeline for landfill methane that produces 200 billion BTUs per year. The program will reduce CO2 emissions by about 25 million pounds a year, which is the equivalent of 2,300 fewer cars on the road.

The renewable energy from the landfill is used for the production of latex binder for carpet backings, and already four mills have signed on to the program—J&J Industries, Masland Contract, Blue Ridge and Atlas—and more partners will be announced in the coming months.

Dow’s Hypod Polyolefin Dispersions allow carpet manufacturers to apply thermoplastic backings on carpet tile, broadloom and artificial turf instead of traditional latex, using the same coating equipment. The thermoplastic backings also use less material than latex, which is a thermoset. Hypod is the first family of products using BlueWave technology that allows for the creation of customized binder and emulsion solutions.

Universal Textile Technologies (UTT), long a green leader in the carpet backings industry, showcased its EnviroCel and BioCel urethane backings with a host of green attributes, including soy based polyols, polyester recycled from soda bottles, and Celeram coal fly ash. BioCel, the commercial carpet product, offers up to 80% bio-based and recycled content. EnviroCel products have a bio-based and recycled content ranging from 55% to 85% of the total backing weight.

Several EnviroCel products feature UTT’s Extruded Fiberization technology, introduced in 2007, that binds secondary backings to polyurethane with only three to five ounces of chemistry. Not only does it use less material than traditional latex systems, by a factor of ten, but it performs better. (For more on UTT and Dow, see The Backing Business on page 45.)

Mohawk was at the show with a number of new programs covering a range of approaches to sustainability. Over the last year, the firm has continued to fine-tune its thermoplastic fully recyclable Encycle backing as well as its GreenWorks reclamation center in Calhoun, Georgia.

New at Mohawk is the LEED Plus Calculator, a product developed in partnership with EcoScorecard to provide users with an automatic way of calculating how much different Mohawk products contribute to points for LEED and other green rating systems. The program eliminates the incredible amount of sifting through specs that bog down specifiers. All you do is pick products, yardage, the zip code of the project, and the relevant ratings systems. In the blink of an eye, the results appear. The LEED Plus Calculator is available for all of Mohawk’s commercial and hospitality brands.

Another compelling new Mohawk offering is Drag and Fly, a web based application for the design and specification process that allows designers to drag high resolution carpet tile images into 3D renderings and computer aided drawings for cutting edge visual representations of carpet choices in specific projects. The program saves a lot of time and money, and puts more tools than ever in the designers’ hands. For now, Drag and Fly works with Lees and Karastan Contract, with Bigelow Commercial to follow.

This year, Shaw Industries came to Greenbuild with one space that represented all its brands in both the commercial and residential market sectors. The company’s sustainability message was represented in three pillars: environmental excellence in the area of reduced energy, water usage and landfill waste; social responsibility through philanthropic interaction with the community and diversity awareness among company employees; and product design, which addresses cradle to cradle products, reduction in the use of natural resources and a continued focus on improving indoor air quality. 

Recent news within Shaw’s commercial business includes the expansion of its environmental guarantee to include Canada, Mexico and port cities around the world. With this program, Shaw will take back any EcoWorx backed commercial carpet (with certain minimums) and convert it into new carpet. In addition, Shaw continues to be committed to its nationwide reclamation network, with a goal of reclaiming 300 million pounds of post consumer carpet.

At Greenbuild, InterfaceFlor launched, a new web community to discuss sustainability, disseminate knowledge and network. The goal is that the site will be a destination for those seeking information on a broad range of environmental issues. The site includes news, social networking, peer to peer interactions, and educational material.

Other big news at InterfaceFlor comes out of its reclamation program. The ReEntry 2.0 process has had a huge impact on the firm’s carpet reclamation. From 1994 to June 2007, the firm’s ReEntry program diverted about 80 million pounds of carpet from landfills. Since then, more than 80 million pounds have been diverted, for a total of 167 million pounds.

InterfaceFlor’s Convert carpet tile features post consumer nylon 6,6 gathered in the ReEntry 2.0 program. Convert has a minimum post consumer content of 32% and a minimum total recycled content (including post industrial content) of 65%. Depending on styles and colors, total recycled content can go as high as 72%.

Bentley Prince Street, InterfaceFlor’s sister mill on the West Coast, was at Greenbuild showcasing its sustainable programs, some of which are shared with InterfaceFlor under parent company Interface Inc., and some of which have been developed independently. 

The firm’s environmental electricity use is supplied entirely by renewable energy, in part through the purchase of Green-e certified renewable energy certificates derived from wind and biomass, and in part through its own solar array in City of Industry, California. 

The California mill is the first carpet manufacturing facility to achieve a LEED-EB silver rating. One of the firm’s most compelling new programs is Contact Release, a backing system using FreeLay technology to install broadloom without adhesives or tackstrip. Like InterfaceFlor’s TacTiles, Contact Release radically reduces adhesive use and installation time, and it makes carpet removal a cinch.

Bentley Prince Street is also a partner of ANEW, a 501(c)(3) non profit organization that repurposes furniture, fixtures and equipment to schools, communities in need, non profit organizations and public agencies. ANEW ( was founded in 2005 by architect Rose Tourje and since then has diverted over 900 tons of product from landfills. Bentley Prince Street, ANEW’s biggest sponsor, assesses carpet from dismantled built environments and if it can’t be reused, the firm reclaims it through ReEntry 2.0.

Milliken Carpet, another green leader, announced that all of its commercial and hospitality carpet, both broadloom and tile, are now certified either gold or platinum in the NSF 140 carpet sustainability standard. 

The firm has a range of programs that contribute to lowering its total environmental footprint. Leonardo Academy has certified Milliken & Company, the parent firm, as carbon negative, and all of the firm’s carpet products are carbon neutral. Milliken achieves this in part due to company owned hydroelectric generation, forest reserves, and two landfill methane programs.

Tandus is now able to offer its customers the ability to purchase modular and six foot carpet that is carbon-free certified, thanks to a program set up through, a leading non-profit organization dedicated to fighting climate change. And according to Tandus, having 5% of a building’s material classified as carbon-free can earn an additional LEED innovation point.

Tandus has expanded its ethos backing program, which uses PVB, a non-chlorinated plastic reclaimed from safety glass. Originally developed for six foot goods in 2004, ethos is now available on modular products.

A new development at Tandus is its ErgoStep Backing, a bio-based cushion using Cargill’s BiOH polyol with a 100% post consumer recycled polyester felt back. ErgoStep works with broadloom systems.

This year, J&J/Invision doubled the size of its exhibit space and came with news of a new recyclable PVC-free modular backing system called eKo. Nexus, the company’s current PVC based modular backing, is still available but the firm plans to phase out all PVC backings over time. J&J/Invision also announced its recent ISO-14001 certification for the firm’s Georgia facilities. The privately owned company continues to promote its R4 sample reclamation program, through which the company takes back any and every sample, regardless of the manufacturer.

Nylon producer Antron went to great lengths this year to ensure its Greenbuild booth had the lowest possible environmental impact. As Invista’s commercial nylon carpet fiber brand, its focus was on carpet, and all the carpet on display was used carpet taken from commercial buildings in the Boston area. In addition the booth furniture was used and locally sourced, there was no lighting, printed signage or electricity, and all of the employee travel associated with staffing the booth was offset through the use of purchased carbon credits.

Even though the carpet in Antron’s booth was used and ranged in age from eight to over 30 years old, it was still in usable condition, bolstering Invista’s key lifecycle message that branded fiber lasts longer, is not replaced as frequently and therefore has a smaller environmental footprint across the life of the product.

This year, Mannington chose to double the size of its booth and combine its commercial and residential messages, as well as offer information on its new Burke rubber products from its acquisition last June. Even with seven manufacturing facilities, Mannington is a net user of waste based on the levels of recycled materials it is able to put back into its products, along with the efficiency of its manufacturing processes. And from a green energy standpoint, new solar panels have been added to its Salem, New Jersey plant to offset its demand for electric power. 

On the social side of sustainability, Mannington, along with its owner Keith Campbell, has long been recognized for its philanthropic generosity. Part of its display was devoted to highlighting a few of the many charitable initiatives that Mannington supports.

Armstrong was at the show to talk about a range of green hard surface programs, including its Migrations BBT tile, StrataMax loose lay vinyl, and linoleum. Following linoleum’s patent in 1863, Armstrong was the first company to produce linoleum in the U.S. Operations began in 1909, so 2009 is the 100th anniversary of Armstrong’s greenest product. In 1974, linoleum production was shifted to Armstrong’s facility in Germany.

Armstrong has come out with two improvements to its linoleum offering. One is S-761, a seam sealer than doesn’t need heat and that literally bonds linoleum sheets togther, creating a more monolithic look. Another is NaturCote, a high performance coating that greatly reduces the vulnerability of linoleum to harsh chemical cleaners. 

LG Floors, which makes its LVT and sheet goods in South Korea, is one of the few manufacturers of vinyl flooring that makes product with post consumer content. In theory, vinyl is an excellent candidate for cradle to cradle recycling, since it’s both thermoplastic and extremely durable. However, the biggest barrier has been reclamation, largely because adhesive removal makes reclamation a technical nightmare, never mind cost prohibitive. LG Floors avoids this problem because vinyl floors installed in South Korea are generally spot glued, so there’s not so much adhesive to deal with. 

The firm takes back both residential and commercial vinyl and reuses it, along with post industrial content, to create arguably the most sustainable vinyl offering on the market. 

At Greenbuild, Johnsonite focused on the concept of Balanced Choice. In every commercial project, the sustainability objectives are unique to the project. From LEED accreditation to recycled content, maintenance and indoor air quality, there are key sustainability drivers that need to be balanced with other business and space considerations. Johnsonite’s Balanced Choice offers a portfolio of solutions and services that meet these diverse needs both in materials (linoleum, rubber and vinyl) and in other developing environmental factors. By offering this broad portfolio that is integrated and color coordinated, a specifier and end-user are ensured that they are receiving the most objective consultation and suggested solutions from their chosen brand, balancing environmental, aesthetic and productivity objectives.

Amtico, another resilient producer, offers its Georgia made Stratica flooring for environmental consideration. The product, made from a high performance polymer that emits virtually zero VOCs, is largely specified in the healthcare and education markets, where it’s a popular alternative to PVC flooring. Stratica comes in 54 stone and wood look SKUs, in both plank and tile shapes.

Ecore, formerly known as EcoSurfaces, exhibited its rubber flooring at the show. Rubber flooring derives its environmental profile from a range of qualities—it’s a low maintenance product, it has a long lifecycle, and it often contains bio-based material in the form of natural rubber. Ecore takes it one step further with high post consumer recycled content derived from used tires. 

Most of Ecore’s designs have a black foundation with small chips in different colorations and designs. The black material is 100% recycled tires, while the colored chips are made of post industrial EPDM, so the almost entirely black tiles are nearly all post consumer content while mostly colored tiles are higher in post industrial content. Ecore showcased new designs, including diamonds and squares, called EcoShapes that can be installed in various ways to create a range of custom patterns.

Nora Systems, a rubber producer with manufacturing in Germany, makes its products from a blend of natural and synthetic rubber, and it has a reputation for high performance products. Earlier this year the firm came out with Nora Dryfix, a tape system for flooring installation that greatly reduces installation time and down time, virtually eliminates VOCs during installation, and also greatly reduces adhesive use. As with TacTiles and FreeLay, both carpet products, Nora’s Dryfix also greatly reduces the time and mess of flooring removal.

CBC (America) Corp. showcased both its Toli and Ceres resilient brands. Ceres offers a range of products, including PVC free resilient plank flooring called Sequoia, as well as Wels Sheet, its PVC free sheet goods. Ceres also offers a range of cork flooring, which qualifies as a renewable resource product, and recycled rubber flooring made from recycled tires with additional post industrial and post consumer content from other sources.

Toli, which has been sold in the U.S. for 20 years, has a number of prominent brands, including Linotesta, Lightwood and Lightstone. One of its greenest products is LL300 vinyl tile, which has a 65% recycled content made of both post industrial and post consumer waste. The firm’s FasolPlus entry level VET features 50% post consumer content.

While bamboo flooring is fundamentally green, since it’s a grass that’s harvested every few years, few are as green as Smith & Fong’s Plyboo offering, which has had 30% of its flooring products FSC certified over the last year and anticipates certification of all its flooring within the next three or four years. 

The firm also offers PlybooPure, made with a urea formaldehyde-free manufacturing process, and Durapalm coconut palm flooring, which is made from palm trees than are no longer productive on a coconut plantation. Durapalm is also urea formaldehyde-free.

Capri Cork, whose cork flooring products are designed and manufactured in Italy, made its debut at Greenbuild this year.  Aside from the rapidly renewable and waste stream by-product recycling features associated with cork, Capri Cork’s low VOC finishes, adhesives and cleaning products provide even more reasons for designers to consider its cork and cork/rubber flooring products in their next green building projects.  Not only is the surface soft and durable but it also can contribute to the project’s total LEED points.  Primary applications for cork flooring are higher education, restaurants, fitness spas, healthcare, daycare, and some corporate environments.

Tennessee based Crossville, known for its stylish commercial porcelain tiles, was at the show with its Color Blox EC tile with 20% post industrial content, as well as Echo Recycled Glass and the EcoCycle tile series.

Echo Recycled Glass comes in 15 colors and three finishes—clear, frosted and iridescent. Recycled content, which is mostly post industrial, ranges from 10% to 100%, depending on the color. In the EcoCycle series, introduced in 2007, 40% of the content of the tile comes from materials left over from the manufacturing process.

Tate, which has a 65% share of the U.S. raised access flooring market, has developed a number of partnerships with floorcovering firms like Nora and Shaw, which provide modular flooring that matches perfectly with the 2’x2’ raised access tiles. The sustainable profile of Tate’s products is based not as much on the 35% post industrial and post consumer content and 75% recyclability as it is on the efficiency of the systems using the space created by the raised access flooring.

Power, data and air conditioning can all be routed through the floor and can be reconfigured without waste. And because power runs under the floor, expenses like saturating rooms with power outlets are eliminated.

Flooring installed on top of raised access flooring must have some inherent flexibility, so carpet tile, rubber and vinyl can be ideal. Tate even works with a terrazzo tile with resins in it that provide the necessary flex.

Viridity Inc.’s EcoScorecard debuted at Greenbuild 2007 with just two flooring clients, Armstrong and J&J Industries. EcoScorecard is a live program that calculates contributions to LEED points and other rating systems for manufacturers’ products. The user friendly system requires only a minimum input of data to perform all the requisite calculations, thereby reducing blood pressures throughout the entire specifier community. A PDF is automatically created in the format required by the rating systems.

This year, some major flooring firms have partnered with EcoScorecard, including all of Mohawk’s commercial brands, Tarkett’s Azrock, Shaw’s commercial and hospitality brands, and Beaulieu’s Cambridge and Bolyu brands. With every manufacturer that signs on, the EcoScorecard product becomes an increasingly valuable tool for designers and other specifiers. Also, EcoScorecard is developing plug-ins to allow building information modeling systems like SketchUp and Autodesk products.




Copyright 2009 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Armstrong Flooring, Interface, Mannington Mills, LG Hausys, Crossville, Karastan, The Dixie Group, Tarkett, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, Mohawk Industries, Masland Carpets & Rugs, Beaulieu International Group