Greenbuild Review

By Darius Helm and Kemp Harr


This year’s Greenbuild was held in Toronto’s Metro Toronto Convention Center, October 4 to 7. The U.S. Green Building Council’s tenth annual conference and expo featured more than 800 exhibiting companies and drew over 23,000 attendees. Next year’s conference will be held in San Francisco in mid November.

As expected, it was a smaller show than last year—down from 1,000 exhibiting companies and about 27,000 attendees—due to increased costs of travel and freight transportation to Canada, as well as restrictions on travel for GSA employees. Of the 1,700 booths, 20% were from Canadian companies. According to the USGBC, the exhibition hall was sold out.

The opening plenary celebration at the Air Canada Centre featured speeches from a range of prominent figures, including Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times, along with a panel moderated by Cokie Roberts and featuring Friedman, former Canadian prime minister Kim Campbell, and anthropologist Paul Farmer. Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO of USGBC, closed the plenary session by envisioning a time in the future, 2037, when the USGBC would close its doors (because its mission was finally accomplished). The evening was topped off with a performance by one of the hottest bands around—Maroon 5.

It’s worth noting that several of the biggest floorcovering manufacturers did not exhibit, firms like Mohawk, Tandus, Bentley Prince Street, Milliken, Armstrong and Mannington, mostly citing budget considerations. Privately, however, some pointed out that it’s not a great show for exhibitors; it’s more of a conference. The education program is really the big draw, and the sessions are always packed. Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of the exhibitors standing around and scanning the horizon for their next potential customer.

To the USGBC’s credit, this year there were dedicated expo hall hours—from noon to 4 pm on October 5 and from noon to 2:30 pm on October 6—when there were few or no sessions or activities, and the halls were in fact busier during those hours. However, if the USGBC wants Greenbuild to be a manufacturer’s show, like NeoCon and Coverings, it’s going to have to come up with more ways of increasing the value of exhibiting. If not, in the long run many of the most progressive manufacturers may end up finding more effective ways of getting out their message and supporting the green movement.

The close of the show brought its own headaches, as people flying out of Toronto ran into a union protest with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. Instead of an outright strike, airport security personnel slowed down the passenger screening process to protest changes made to shift assignments. With the ensuing long lines, many people missed their return flights to the U.S. and some even had to stay additional days in Toronto before they could get rebooked on another flight.

Shaw used Greenbuild as a launching platform for its Lock-Dots, small circles of plastic film with adhesive on both sides, designed to replace liquid adhesive when installing modular carpet. Lock-Dots are applied at intervals to the back of each carpet tile and, should the carpet need to be moved or repositioned, they are designed to release from the floor but stay on the back of the carpet. At the end of use, Lock-Dots can be recycled along with the carpet tile. 

Shaw had a prominent position throughout the show, with hanging banners informing attendees that the expo carpet would be converted to new carpet after the show through the firm’s Evergreen Nylon Recycling facility.

This year, InterfaceFlor’s theme was “The Complete Picture,” and attendees were invited to take cards with partial pictures (a sailboat, a flag, part of a building) and fill in the rest—as a creative way of explaining the benefits of transparency achieved through environmental product declarations (EPDs). By the end of next year EPDs will be available on all InterfaceFlor products globally. InterfaceFlor also had the most prominent booth at the show, thanks to a large hanging sign illuminated by LEDs; personnel on hand pointed out that running the large sign accrued a smaller environmental footprint than running a hair dryer or a digital flat screen. 

Over the summer, Ray Anderson, founder of Interface and one of the green movement’s original visionaries, passed away at the age of 77. As a tribute, InterfaceFlor was handing out copies of Anderson’s keynote speech delivered at the first Greenbuild meeting in 1995.

Forbo’s key message at Greenbuild was the natural, bio-based ingredients that are used to produce its linoleum flooring product line. On display in the middle of the exhibit was a cross-section of Forbo’s Marmoleum tiles, showing the wide range of colors, patterns and textures, flanked by Flotex nylon flocked tiles and the Coral entrance system around the border. 

Johnsonite’s focus at Greenbuild this year included products with bio-based ingredients, new certifications and an emphasis on its ReStart take-back program. Johnsonite is Tarkett’s commercial brand. The firm showcased its Eco-Natural collection, 24” synthetic rubber tile with walnut shells or cork chips added as a bio-based filler. 

Johnsonite is also working on third party certification for multi-attribute criteria that includes raw materials, recycled content, durability and indoor air quality. The firm has also ramped up its ReStart recycling program, which reclaims used resilient flooring material and grinds it up for use in new products.

DuPont Sorona was at the show to discuss Sorona, which features 37% renewable content derived from animal feed corn—the firm extracts the sugar from the corn and the balance, which is full of nutrients, is put back into the feed stream. According to the firm, Sorona production uses 30% to 40% less fossil fuel in production than nylon 6 or 6,6 production. Sorona is a thermoplastic that can be remelted into new fiber, and the firm had samples on hand with 5% recycled content.  

Carpet Cycle, an early pioneer of carpet collection and recycling, recently opened a new location in Toronto. The company, which was founded in New Jersey in 1999, processes 750 tons of carpet monthly at its New Jersey facility. Rather than only accept carpet that is delivered to it, the company operates a tear-out business, using three specialized riding machines to remove carpet from commercial spaces. 

Carpet Cycle sells sheared fiber to a variety of markets. Nylon 6 is converted back into fiber; Applied Thermoplastic Resources of Cartersville, Georgia buys the sheared nylon 6,6 fluff to mold into pellets for engineered resin; polypropylene used to make injected molded custom parts; and polyester is currently used in waste to energy, though the company is seeking other end uses for that material. 

Crossville announced that it is the first U.S. tile manufacturer to attain third party certification (through Scientific Certification Systems) for its waste recycling processes—all tile produced by Crossville now contains certified recycled content. The firm is also a net consumer of waste, using more waste than it generates.

Crossville also highlighted its partnership with Toto, a plumbing product manufacturer, which has helped generate post-industrial recycled content of at least 4% on all of its porcelain products.  Crossville’s Tile Take-Back program is also gaining traction, and the firm is currently anticipating a delivery of 100,000 square feet of used tile from an Illinois mall. 

The theme of Centiva’s booth this year was about getting back to facts, cutting out traditional marketing to focus on the important elements of the message. To that end, the company touted the fact that some of its products are 100% recyclable and that all of them have recycled content. It also promoted its new line of homogenous Victory products that are 100% phthalate free; it’s the only U.S. firm to produce phthalate-free vinyl flooring. Centiva is now a part of Tarkett, but is run as an independent unit. 

J+J/Invision’s main message at the show was about water reclamation. Every year, the firm has been sending about 45 million gallons of dark dyehouse effluent water to the Dalton wastewater facility, but now it’s installing a three-stage filtration system, the final stage of which is a reverse osmosis process, and when the dyed wastewater comes out of the system it has less color than the incoming drinking water. The system will allow reuse of 20 to 25 million gallons a year, and the reclaimed water is also warmer than the incoming water, so it uses less energy to bring it to a boil for use in the facility. J&J is the first carpet mill to use the system, which is manufactured by Aqua-Chem.

Gerflor, which produces vinyl flooring in Germany and France, recently introduced to the North American market a homogeneous sheet vinyl called Mipolam Simbioz that replaces phthalate content with a bio-based plasticizer derived from grain (like corn and wheat), creating the first sheet vinyl that is 20% bio-based.

Beaulieu Canada was at the show, and the focus was on TacFast, the polypropylene floating substrate that forms the foundation for Beaulieu broadloom or tile. To use this system, the carpet is backed with a soft loop fabric that attaches to the tiny hooks on the face of the TacFast LocPlate substrate (kind of like Velcro). The system is designed to make installation and removal simple and adhesive free.

Earlier this year, the hallways of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre were installed with TacFast systems and Beaulieu broadloom, for a total of over 100,000 square feet.

Tate Access Floors came out with a brilliant innovation called EcoCore. The firm took the standard raised access product, a steel panel with a cement mixture inside of it, and inserted into it wax micro-encapsulated beads filled with a phase-change petroleum based material that melts at 75º Fahrenheit. When office temperatures hit 75º, the energy is absorbed into the panel rather than heating up the air in the office, thereby reducing the use of energy to bring down office temperatures.

Invista’s focus at the show was on its First Life philosophy, which centers on the long lifecycle of its product. The firm is concerned that current and impending standards and assessments, like environmental product declarations, are more focused on cradle to gate than cradle to grave—meaning that they don’t measure the relative impact of long lifecycle products against short lifecycle products. 

Expanko, which makes cork and rubber flooring, showcased its XCR4 flooring, a blend of recycled cork and rubber, which is now available in sheet goods for seamless installations. It comes in 591/2” and 491/2” widths and should be a big hit in the education and healthcare markets. 

Roppe was at the show to talk about a range of programs, including Impact, which turns reclaimed Roppe flooring into various industrial materials, like mulch and pavers. To date, the program has diverted from landfills over 7,300 tons of rubber. The firm also showcased Tuflex, a sports flooring made from recycled tires, ranging from 85% to 95% post-consumer content. It comes in square or interlocking tiles. 

Lonseal, a producer of vinyl sheet goods, was on hand to tout its green products, the greenest of which is Loneco, featuring at least 50% post-industrial recycled content. The content comes from scrap PVC, jute, wood and textiles. There’s recycled content in both the top layer and the backing. 

Uvolve Floor Coatings, a subsidiary of DSM, a Dutch firm, came to Greenbuild to showcase its UV curable floor system that can be used on top of any hard surface or resilient flooring, though it’s largely used over concrete in a pigmented form. The coating cures just about instantly with the application of UV light. The firm is also focusing on targeting terrazzo and VCT applications with a high gloss or matte clear system.

USF Contract’s Cork Décor takes cork performance to the next level, featuring a transparent vinyl finish that protects the top surface and increases the slip coefficient. The line features 18 designs. Also on display were the firm’s Citadel and Bretagne engineered hardwood lines, which are 100% FSC certified. Bretagne is a wide plank product made of northern European white oak. Citadel takes the same product through a thermal modification process, creating the weathering and cracking of reclaimed wood.

StonePeak’s booth featured products with the firm’s Active technology, which uses titanium dioxide (thermally adhered to the surface during the production process) as a catalyst that breaks down bacteria and particles in the presence of light and moisture. Active technology is used on lighter color ranges, since titanium dioxide is white, and it’s available on floor and wall tiles as well as outdoor cladding, which reduces smog. The firm also has a range of products, like the Cottage series, with up to 98% recycled content, largely from post-industrial internal waste.

Quebec based hardwood producer Lauzon previewed a product for the contract market, an FSC certified hardwood hybrid with a 0.6 mm veneer and an HDF core. The line comes in red oak, hard maple, black walnut, hickory and white ash. Random lengths go from 12” to 7’.

Mondo, a rubber flooring producer best known for its sports products, took a space at Greenbuild to talk about its flooring, which is mostly made from natural rubber. A wide range of the firm’s sports products, as well as backings on many commercial products, feature post-industrial recycled content. A couple of its sports products also feature post-consumer content from PET drink bottles. Mondo’s products are manufactured in Montreal.

Refin, an Italian porcelain tile producer, uses TV glass collected through Remedia, an Italian recycling company, in the production of its Murcio line. Murcio, a color-body porcelain with a crema marfil look, features 20% post-consumer recycled content. There’s also a new line called Wood2 with 10% post-consumer content from TV glass and 20% post-industrial content. The textured color-body wood tiles come in 24” and 18” squares.

Teragren, the bamboo producer headquartered in Bainbridge Island, Washington, offers both traditional and strand bamboo products, and its traditional products are available with FSC certification. The firm’s Portfolio 5” wide strand bamboo products come in a range of colors and textures, and they feature a modified Välinge 2G click system, eliminating the need for adhesives.

Lyptus, a eucalyptus hardwood manufactured by Weyerhaeuser, is the fastest growing hardwood flooring around—it takes 15 years to harvest—and over the last few years the firm has been focusing on broadening its designs. The latest product, the Aged Brazilian Lyptus series, is a distressed 5” plank in two colors. Lyptus is marketed in North America by Global Market Partners.

New at Smith & Fong, the high style bamboo producer, is Plyboo Dex, a strand bamboo decking distinguished by sets of narrow linear grooves for a crisp tailored look. Also new is Plyboo Fit, a 1/4” or 1/8” underlayment with 93% recycled content from reclaimed car tires.

Preverco, a hardwood producer based in Quebec, rolled out its Wave Texture line of handscraped hardwood in dramatic single or double tones. Most of the firm’s offerings are available with FSC certification for a 25¢ per foot premium. The firm’s engineered hardwoods feature a Välinge 5G locking system for adhesive-free installations.

Bamboo Hardwoods, a 15-year-old Seattle based firm, offers a full range of bamboo constructions, and all the products are FSC certified. The firm’s builder grade bamboo features a glueless click system.

Florida Tile makes over 80% of its product at its Kentucky facility, and over 40% of the Kentucky product content is post-industrial recycled content—mostly recycled ceramic from internal waste. The firm also recycles wastewater and recaptures excess heat for reuse in the facility. In the last couple of years the firm donated over five million pounds of lower grade product to utilitarian projects in third world countries.

MP Global, which manufactures in Nebraska, makes a range of underlayments, most of which feature 90% to 100% recycled content. Its new TileQu!ck, which is 100% recycled, is an adhesive film for wall tiles and back splashes that allows for immediate grouting. The firm’s biggest seller is Quiet Walk for use under laminate and engineered hardwood floating floors.

Bostik, which produces flooring installation materials for residential and commercial projects, offers a line of eco-friendly products for a range of applications. One of the most recent products is Green Fusion, a urethane based adhesive with low VOCs and no solvents. Also, Bostik Dimension is a grout with 70% to 80% recycled content from post-consumer glass.

DriTac produces a range of green wood and vinyl flooring adhesives that are VOC and solvent free. The line includes all-in-one adhesive systems. The firm believes the future lies in products that are also isocyanate free, like its MS polymer products—including DriTac 7700, designed for hardwood installation. The firm also showcased its new Eco 5500 adhesive for vinyl and rubber, as well as DriTac 5000, a transitional pressure sensitive adhesive for luxury vinyl that sets within about a week, allowing products to acclimate and therefore be more stable.

Also at the show was To Market, an international sales and marketing organization representing a range of commercial products. The firm’s offering includes several floating floors, like Atmosphere, an interlocking tile made of EPDM and recycled rubber. Ozoloc is a luxury vinyl tile and plank with overlapping edges with adhesive for floating floor installations—it features some great wood looks. Ozogrip is a luxury vinyl tile with a fiberglass non-skid back that works on most subfloors. 


Copyright 2011 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Stonepeak Ceramics, Bostik, Beaulieu International Group, Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, Roppe, Mannington Mills, Mohawk Industries, Crossville, Coverings, Armstrong Flooring, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Interface, Tarkett