Greenbuild 2018: Material health was a big focus for flooring producers at the expo - Dec 2018

By Darius Helm

This year’s Greenbuild conference, held at Chicago’s McCormick Place, ran from November 14 to 16, with the expo portion taking place during the first two days. As always, the extensive education program was in high demand, but there was plenty of action on the show floor as well, with both products and programs reflecting the expansion of the movement from a focus on environmental sustainability to include health and wellness within the built environment-at work and at home.

In the U.S., 2018 has turned out to be a historic year for women in leadership, and that was true at Greenbuild too, with the conference framed by human rights lawyer Amal Clooney’s keynote speech at the opening plenary and San Juan, Puerto Rico mayor Carmen Cruz’s closing plenary presentation.

Clooney spoke about refugee crises, including the persecuted Yazidi refugees from northern Iraq, but the thrust of her talk was about the impending waves of refugees driven from their homelands by the repercussions of climate change and environmental degradation. “According to a World Bank report, in three of the world’s most vulnerable regions, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America, 143 million people could be displaced by climate impact by 2050,” Clooney told the crowd.

And on the evening before the opening of Greenbuild, a large group came together at the Thompson Hotel’s Nico Osteria for the fifth annual Women in Sustainability Leadership Awards. This year’s winners were: Jane Abernethy of Humanscale; Ranae Anderson of Universal Fibers; Jennifer Berthelot-Jelovic of A SustainAble Production; Dr. Christine Bruckner of M Moser Associates; Gina LaMotte of EcoRise; Yasmeen Lari of Heritage Foundation of Pakistan; Kimberly Lewis of USGBC; Sara Neff of Kilroy Realty Corporation; Kimberly Pittel of Ford Motor Company; Andrea Traber of Integral Group; and Alicia Daniels Uhlig of International Living Future Institute. 

In a booth at the entrance to the show, Mohawk’s George Bandy was on hand to talk about some of the biggest challenges facing the sustainability movement, including how to get things going on the residential side-for the second year in a row, the firm showcased its residential and commercial programs together in the space, including Airo 100% PET broadloom and Pivot Point, the firm’s PVC-free polyolefin resilient tile.

Environmental sustainability is driven by the commercial sector, with all the stakeholders increasingly engaged, but the American consumer has been harder to draw in and more systems-for instance, for recycling-need to be created to coax more involvement. Bandy points to established systems for the reclamation of other products, from refrigerators to mattresses, and asks whether operations like waste management can play a role.

Bandy was also honored at the show with a USGBC Leadership Award for his “years of experience in, and deep understanding of, sustainable business practices and corporate social responsibility.” Bandy’s approach to sustainability is notable for reaching out beyond the domain of Mohawk to benefit other institutions and communities with green “handprints,” like the ten Smartflower solar installations being rolled out to disadvantaged communities across America.

Shaw Industries hosted several education labs in a space at the front of the show floor, including an interesting and timely discussion on acoustics and their impact on human health and productivity-Shaw reports that noise is the top complaint in open office environments. The session included building and design developments for acoustical abatement, as well as how LEED and WELL approach the issue.

Shaw also offered a session on health and human sustainability in the built environment, arguably the strongest mega-trend in the commercial built environment; a talk on the mainstreaming of healthy and sustainable products; a deeper dive into health in the built environment; and a talk on Mindful Materials.

A handful of flooring producers had booths in the Mindful Materials pavilion. Mindful Materials is a platform for products with “aggregated information on human health and environmental impacts.” In other words, every listed product is accompanied by detailed information on material ingredients, EPD, VOC certifications-the full gamut-enabling specifiers to readily make product selections based on their specific priorities and needs. Mindful Materials is powered by the Origin material data hub developed by GIGA, an international operation focused on assessing the health performance of buildings. Mindful Materials is free to use and also free to list products.

Currently, there are 7,400 materials on the list, including over 2,500 flooring products. According to Rebecca Best, chief marketing officer at GIGA, that number is expected to jump to 25,000 in the next year. GIGA’s Origins data hub, comprised of 127,000 materials, is now integrated with Connect, Greenbuild’s online product gallery.

Interface had a booth in the Mindful Materials pavilion, with associates on hand to speak about the firm’s latest collaborative initiative, materialsCAN (Carbon Action Network), dedicated to advocacy on embodied carbon. Interface first brought the issue to the flooring industry at NeoCon 217 with a carbon-negative carpet tile prototype, Proof Positive, where the sequestered carbon outweighs the embodied carbon, and it quickly followed through with an actual product, introducing CircuitBac Green, a carbon-negative carpet tile backing currently sold in the European market.

Interface and A&D giant Gensler collaborated in the development of materialsCAN and partnered with businesses in the building industry seeking to prioritize embodied carbon in building materials: USG (wallboard), Skanska (construction), CertainTeed (insulation) and Armstrong (ceilings).

Skanska and Microsoft have already developed a tool to measure embodied carbon, the Embodied Carbon Calculator for Construction. It’s currently in beta testing, but once the final product is developed, it will be public and open sourced.

Mapei also had a space in the Mindful Materials pavilion. The global Italian firm, best known for its ceramic tile installation materials, lists 52 products with Mindful Materials across a range of categories, including adhesives, cementitious underlayments, mortar, epoxy coatings and self-leveling compounds.

Tarkett was in the Mindful Materials pavilion as well, where Dhruv Raina, Tarkett’s director of sustainability, discussed the importance of focusing on material composition and the advantages of platforms like Mindful Materials in streamlining the specification process. Tarkett has about 60 products listed, including dozens of Johnsonite products made of rubber, vinyl and linoleum, as well as carpet tile, Powerbond six-foot goods, VCT and sports flooring.

Tarkett recently introduced two green products to the European market, a Desso Axminster with a PVB (polyvinyl butyral) backing salvaged from windshields and ID Revolution, a resilient sheet and tile program using PVB instead of PVC-made of 83% recycled and bio-based material.

DriTac had a booth on the show floor, where it showcased a range of green adhesives for hardwood and resilient flooring, along with concrete moisture control systems and installation accessories. The firm unveiled Primer 3000, a single-component acrylic floor primer for interior use on a range of substrates, including concrete, wood, gypcrete and lightweight concrete. The product contains zero VOCs and zero solvents.

At the Vinyl Institute’s booth, a lot of the talk was about the progress of the VBSC (Vinyl Building and Sustainability Council), following its global indepth materiality analysis and its identification of six sustainability hotspots-waste management and recycling; user (consumer) health and safety; community health and safety; emissions to air; emissions to water; and bio-diversity and emissions to soil.

The global sustainability initiative was formally launched at the annual Vinyl360 meeting, held a couple of weeks before Greenbuild. The initiative will hopefully drive firms to participate by, among other things, annually disclosing contributions to recycling, health and safety, and emissions, with third-party verification.

CARE (Carpet America Recovery Effort) had one of the most interesting booths at Greenbuild, showing a range of products developed from post-consumer carpet. The big problem with recycling carpet over the last few years has been the lack of end-use markets for recycled materials, but in the last year or so, several ingenious products have been developed that should help stabilize the entire flooring reclamation industry.

On display were products for a range of end-uses. The collection included GeoHay for stormwater discharge and sediment control; Miura Board, a rugged material made of carpet polymers and other garbage, used mostly for industrial mats; Carpet Cycle’s Quiet-Tech acoustic bat insulation, made of up to 90% post-consumer material; Stone Miracle decorative color-body aggregate from recycled limestone; and Arropol, a urethane foam made of polyester polyol. Most of these products are already being sold in the market, while others are currently launching. And hopefully there’s much more to come.

Copyright 2018 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Mohawk Industries, Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, Armstrong Flooring, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Tarkett, Interface