State of Sustainability 2016 - Aug/Sep 16

By Darius Helm and Calista Sprague

Sustainability is here to stay. No one can convincingly argue against that. It’s already woven into the built environment. It has guided the commercial market toward an understanding of lifecycle assessment, and of how to make it profitable. Green materials are increasingly designed to protect both human health and the environment. Everyone may not yet be on board, but the industry as a whole has pushed off from the shore. 

It’s natural at this stage in the journey to ask some obvious questions. How do we gauge success? How many certifications are enough? Is there such a thing as too much transparency, and who draws the line? How much progress has been made so far? And what impact are the industry’s collective efforts having on the climate problem?

Unfortunately, nobody currently has the answer to any of those critical questions, except perhaps that true success cannot be claimed when the climate and environment are still on the decline. Also, there is data out there that quantifies the specific impact of, for instance, green buildings and renewable energy. Calculations can show how much carbon is sequestered by a given product, or even by the totality of every product manufactured by a specific firm or across a category. But they can’t show where the journey ends, or even how things will look 20 years from now.

How many green carpets does it take to stop a glacier from melting? Not enough, Interface has determined. To secure the planet for future generations, Interface has decided that, first, manufacturers need to go beyond neutral to a more regenerative role and, second, that true change means taking the movement beyond one’s walls, as advocates and messengers. It’s what the leading environmental thinkers are saying, too, like Paul Hawken, who envisions manufacturers using CO2 as a product ingredient. (Kemp Harr’s interview with Hawken starts on page 15.)

Over the last couple of years, there has been a subtle development in the focus of sustainability. Human health, which at first was mostly addressed through indoor air quality, has been expanded to include a range of other impacts, from the hazard and risk of material ingredients to daylighting, acoustics and softer, more welcoming environments to balance out the open plan office.

The human experience of the built environment has ascended quickly to become a top priority in the A&D community. Many have started using the Well Building Standard by the International Well Building Institute as a way of measuring and certifying how various aspects of buildings and the built environment impact human health. And that will eventually yield another question: When is a building healthy enough?

This focus on human health and wellness is worth watching because it signals a shift toward the social pillar of sustainability—sustainability’s three pillars are ecology, economy and social equity. And perhaps the hardest one to define, never mind achieve, is social equity. Hopefully, it won’t engender a shift in focus away from environmental challenges.

When it comes to sustainability models, a leading example in the flooring industry is the Net-Works program, an initiative led by Interface and the Zoological Society of London. The basic structure of the program is to identify subsistence fishing communities and pay them to retrieve their used nylon nets, which in turn are funneled to Aquafil to turn into new nylon 6 carpet fiber. 

It’s not that this program is turning the world on its head or visibly impacting the environment. It’s still too small to even have a significant impact on Aquafil’s recycled nylon supply. Instead, its appeal is in the elegance of the program and how it so readily integrates all three pillars of sustainability. It gives the fishing villages another badly needed source of income, it removes hazards from the ocean environment, it recaptures and reuses synthetic material—and it’s economically viable for everyone up and down the chain.

Over the last four years, the Net-Works model has been introduced into 27 communities in the Philippines and Cameroon. So far, 100 tons of nylon nets have been reclaimed. 

According to a GlobalScan Report, “55,000 people have benefited from a healthier environment. Over 600 families have been given access to finance through community banks [created by Net-Works].”

With the model now fairly streamlined, the team behind Net-Works is ready to move beyond the pilot phase to scale it up, and it recently announced a 2020 goal of providing access to finance for 10,000 families, protect a billion square meters of ocean and create a healthier environment for one million people.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is the organization behind LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a third-party verification system that provides certification for green building projects. Among many other sustainability 

initiatives, USGBC has been busy preparing for LEED v4, introduced at Greenbuild 2013, to go into full effect. The sun sets on LEED 2009 at the end of October. 

“LEED was developed with a philosophy that recognizes that buildings function more like living, breathing organisms,” explains Rachel Gilbert, USGBC media and communications specialist. “Modern buildings are a collection of systems working together in order to help the building perform. LEED v4 represents the most innovative approach to integrating these systems in order to ensure optimal standards in human health and environmental sustainability.” 

The key changes in the new version of certification include a greater emphasis on indoor air quality, as well as an emphasis on the effects of building materials on human health and the environment; credit for smart grid digital systems, which increase energy savings; and a new whole-building approach to the evaluation of water efficiency. When it comes to flooring, material transparency has had the biggest impact.

Another area of focus for USGBC is the new LEED Dynamic Plaque, which constantly monitors a building’s energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience, and displays near real-time scores on a digital plaque. “The Performance Score is helping to drive the green building market to a new era of accountability and data transparency,” says Gilbert.

The green building movement started with a singular focus: to decrease the impacts of buildings on the natural environment. In recent years, however, concerns have shifted to also include the effects of the built environment on human health and wellbeing. Critics of LEED have complained that too much weight has been placed on the percentage of recycled content in building materials rather than their effect on building occupants. This shift of focus has given rise to conversations about VOCs, orthophthalates, asthma and allergy irritants, and scads other health related topics. 

In response to these discussions, the USGBC recently announced a new LEED pilot credit, Building Material Human Hazard and Exposure Assessment. “It encourages project teams and manufacturers to assess human health-related exposure scenarios for products during their installation and use,” explains Gilbert. 

A second pilot program, called the Integrative Process for Health Promotion, provides teams with a comprehensive system to consider a project’s health impacts, offering points for improved air quality, for example. 

Gilbert says that U.S. buildings produce nearly 40% of national CO2 emissions, and consume more energy and water than both the industrial and transportation sectors. LEED certified buildings, however, produce 34% less CO2 emissions and also consume 25% less energy and 11% less water. In addition, LEED buildings have diverted more than 80 million tons of waste from landfills. 

LEED buildings also contribute to economic sustainability. According to the USGBC, between 2015 and 2018, LEED-certified buildings in the U.S. are estimated to generate $1.2 billion in energy savings, $149.5 million in water savings, $715.2 million in maintenance savings and $54.2 million in waste savings. In addition to benefiting the planet, these savings boost the bottom line of building owners.

Savings are not relegated to large commercial properties, Gilbert points out. For example, installing water-efficient fixtures in just one out of every 100 American homes could eliminate approximately 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to removing 15,000 cars from the road for a year—a considerable savings. In addition, homeowners would benefit financially in terms of substantially lower water bills. 

The USGBC is gearing up for the Greenbuild event to be held in Los Angeles, October 5 through 7, with the theme, Iconic Green. California’s Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and USGBC’s outgoing CEO Rick Fedrizzi will kick off Greenbuild as the opening plenary speakers. And the closing plenary remarks will be made by famed architect Bjarke Ingels, founding partner of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), and incoming USGBC CEO Mahesh Ramanujam.

In addition to the networking opportunities, inspirational speakers and educational workshops, as well as the exhibits on the show floor, attendees will have the chance to tour some of Los Angeles’ greenest buildings.

Interface, the world’s leading carpet tile producer, has recently made great strides in renewable energy. Five years ago, about 60% of the firm’s energy use came from renewables, and now it’s at 84% globally—96% in the U.S. and 100% in Europe, with Asia and Australia lagging behind. The recent gains have come from directed biogas—purified landfill methane. Over a decade ago, the firm started using methane from the LaGrange landfill, but it wasn’t enough. Then last year, the firm signed a five-year contract with a remote biogas producer pumping directed biogas into the pipeline network that Interface uses, pushing up the firm’s U.S. renewable energy use to 96%. 

Interface has also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 92%, water usage by 87% and energy intensity (energy used per unit of manufactured product) by 45%. All of these gains are part of the firm’s Mission Zero to be environmentally neutral by 2020. And the new renewable energy strategies have put the firm in a position to meet that goal. One of the biggest challenges that remains in the next four years relates to product takeback, which is difficult in the current environment.

At this year’s NeoCon show in Chicago, Interface announced a new mission, Mission Climate Take Back. Once the firm realized that it would likely achieve its Mission Zero goals, its sustainability team started to see that its vision was restricted to what went on within its own walls—its current model was nearing its limit in terms of its impact on the global environment. And it wasn’t enough. No matter how much Interface would grow in the future, its contribution to sustaining the environment was fundamentally circumscribed.

So it developed Mission Climate Take Back to enable it to have a greater impact on the overall climate crisis. The Mission focuses on four key areas: only taking in what can be replaced; using carbon as a resource and building block; restoring nature’s proven ability to cool (including building factories to function like forests, regeneratively); and leading the “Industrial Re-revolution,” which means developing real solutions that it would implement internally and along its supply chains, and, most importantly, publishing that information as blueprints for others on the same path to follow.

To some, this may sound cocky, but it’s hard to dispute the reasoning. For manufacturers truly dedicated to restoring the environment, it’s the next logical step. Whether it’s attainable is another matter. But if Interface reaches Mission Zero by 2020, more people might start considering this philosophy.

In June, Universal Fibers unveiled Thrive nylon 6,6, with 65% post-industrial content and 10% post-consumer content. It’s the greenest nylon 6,6 on the market. The firm decided to back up its analysis that Thrive’s CO2 impact is less than half of traditional fiber by developing a lifecycle assessment, so it turned to WAP Sustainable Consulting. And then it developed and published an EPD on it, guided by WAP and peer reviewed by UL.

Universal Fibers has also renewed its GreenCircle multi-attribute certification for its Bristol, Virginia facility and attained brand-new GreenCircle certification for its facility in China, Taicang Universal Fibers. All of Universal Fibers’ products are solution dyed, and it’s looking at further ways of reducing its water use. And it’s also keeping its eye on nylon 6,10, which is over 60% bio-based, but it’s pricier, and with the low cost of oil, there’s no market currently for bio-adipic acid. 

Shaw Industries has been working hard on its mission to reduce its overall environmental footprint. Waste intensity, for instance, fell to 1.59% compared to 2.18% last year—measured as the percentage of pounds of landfilled waste for every pound of finished product. And greenhouse gas intensity fell to 1.45 from 1.59 in 2014 (pounds of CO2 per pound of finished product).

Shaw made the most progress with energy use. It met its Department of Energy program goal of reducing energy by 25% by 2017 two years early, so the firm raised the bar by moving the baseline from 2011 to 2009, and also moved the baseline for waste to 2009. Also, the firm added new goals around carbon, adopting Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon intensity reduction goals (Scope 1 is direct emissions and Scope 2 is indirect), aiming to reduce emissions intensity by 40% from a 2010 baseline by 2030. Shaw’s one megawatt solar array in Cartersville, Georgia, which went online in 2014, has helped lower the firm’s carbon footprint.

Shaw’s other 2030 goals include reducing water intensity by 50%, energy intensity by 40%, and waste to landfill and hazardous waste by 100%. Volumes for reclaimed and recycled carpet were down significantly in 2015, largely due to the shuttering of Evergreen Augusta, to 73.4 million pounds, compared to 113.7 million pounds in 2014 and 74.6 million pounds in 2013.

By the time Evergreen Augusta was shut down, the new recycling facility, Evergreen Ringgold, was up and running. However, it took a few months to tweak the operation, and now it’s running 24/7, processing reclaimed nylon 6 and nylon 6,6. Unlike with Evergreen Augusta, which depolymerized nylon 6 and turned it into new carpet fiber, Evergreen Ringgold, a $20 million investment, does not polymerize. Its reclaimed nylon is targeting the engineered plastics market.

Shaw has EPDs for most of its residential and commercial carpet, and HPDs on all EcoWorx carpet tiles and most of the rest of its commercial carpet portfolio. And EcoWorx also uses Declare labels.

Mohawk Industries, the world’s largest flooring firm with over $8 billion in annual sales, is steadily faced with the unenviable task of integrating and calculating all aspects of environmental attributes from its steady stream of acquisitions into its overall sustainability strategies and goals for 2020. And that can be particularly difficult when it comes to calculating 2010 baseline use of energy, water, etc. It’s a big enough task to integrate data from firms with historical records like Marazzi, but it’s another thing altogether to quantify entities like IVC US, which didn’t exist in 2010. 

Mohawk’s 2020 goals are for 25% intensity reductions across all categories, and the firm has made gains in most areas. It has made the most progress with waste-to-landfill intensity, where it has already reached its goal, due to both its focus on process efficiency as well as its Zero Manufacturing Waste to Landfill program, which has been expanded to 44 sites. Last year, recycled operational waste and purchased recycled material yielded a total landfill diversion of 7.4 billion pounds.

Mohawk has almost reached its goal for water intensity as well. The firm still has a ways to go with greenhouse gas intensity, which is down nearly 10% from the baseline, with significant progress in the last year. Energy intensity is another matter. So far, it’s down less than 2% from 2010.

Much of the focus at Mohawk these days is on transparency, including use of Declare labels—in fact, according to the firm, it has more Red List-free products than any of the other flooring producers. 

Earlier this summer, Mohawk hired George Bandy Jr. as vice president of sustainability. Bandy spent the last 16 years with Interface, most recently as vice president of sustainability.

Also, Mohawk recently converted its old residential product showroom in Dalton, Georgia to a design studio, called Light Lab, for its commercial team, working with the school of interior design at SCAD Atlanta via a class competition. The project took on the Living Building Challenge from the International Living Future Institute to gain Petal Certification for five Petals: Materials, Beauty, Site, Equity and Health.

Forbo is a leading force in sustainability for the flooring industry, actively measuring and reducing its environmental impacts since 2000. In 2011, it set a goal to reduce its environmental footprint 25% by 2015. After four years of painstaking lifecycle assessment and the adoption of new practices, the already green company reduced its footprint by 23.1%, and in the process reduced CO2 emissions by a whopping 37.7%.

As an example, in the case of Marmoleum, assessment started with flax farmers in Canada (the source of linseed oil), looking at everything from tilling practices and fertilizing to reduction of tractor passes for fewer CO2 emissions. Detailed assessments were completed for every supplier and every step of manufacturing, all the way to the environmental impacts of transporting the Marmoleum to a job site and installation. The company similarly combed through every product category, every facility and every part of its operations.

The company annual sustainability report details how Marmoleum is actually better than carbon neutral. Essentially, the amount of carbon sequestered by the linoleum’s rapidly renewable raw materials is greater than the carbon emitted during production—in part due to renewable energy contributions—and transportation.

Healthy indoor environments are also important to Forbo. In designing flooring, the company considers everything from safety and hygiene to indoor air emissions, asthma and allergy triggers, light reflectance, acoustics and maintenance.

Aquafil, the Italian fiber producer behind Econyl, the solution-dyed nylon 6 fiber with 100% recycled content, has been running its carpet shearing operation in Cartersville, Georgia for about 18 months. Recovered fiber goes to Slovenia for depolymerization, and the bulk of it makes its way back to Cartersville for re-extrusion.

Econyl not only goes into carpet fiber, but it’s increasingly attracting prominent apparel brands as well. Econyl is currently being used to make swimwear for Speedo and jeans for Levi’s, and now Adidas is using Econyl for new sneaker and swimwear lines.

Shearing is a great strategy for producing a clean stream of fiber, but Aquafil is still looking for partners to handle the carcass (backing, binder and residual face fiber). And it’s also studying technologies beyond shearing for ingredient separation and recovery.

Last year, Bentley Mills, which produces commercial broadloom and carpet tile in southern California, was recognized by the Department of Energy for its energy reduction programs, along with eight other companies. Bentley reached its 2020 reduction goal in 2014. Also, its solar array accounts for 10% to 15% of the energy it gets from the grid. 

The firm reports that around 25% of its clients use its Fulfill reclamation program, through which Bentley recovers the existing carpet that it is replacing, coordinating regionally with recycling operations. And the firm’s entire product line is cradle to cradle certified. In 2014, its manufacturing facility was certified LEED EB Gold.

France’s Tarkett, which serves the U.S. market with a wide range of commercial and residential products, came out with its annual CSR (corporate social responsibility) report earlier this summer, which includes its environmental progress, along with a worldwide GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) report that incorporates Desso, the European commercial carpet producers acquired in December 2014. 

The CSR outlines the firm’s 2020 objectives, including a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from a 2010 baseline, a product offering that is 100% phthalate free, 100% of manufacturing sites with closed-loop water systems, and more. Last year, the firm reduced water intensity to 3.32 liters, a 7% decrease over 2014. Energy intensity is down 4% over 2014, and 2015 greenhouse gas emission intensity is down 2% from 2014. Also, recycled materials that reduce the use of virgin resources accounted for 4.9% of the total last year, an increase of 47% from the 2010 baseline.

In terms of recycling and reuse, the firm has a goal of doubling its worldwide volume by 2020 over the 2010 baseline. However, in 2015, an extremely challenging year for recycling of any kind, recycled volumes fell 27% and industrial waste going to landfill was up significantly.

The most recent green news from Tarkett involves a proprietary coating for the back of Ethos modular carpet. Ethos, which is polyvinyl butyral retrieved from safety glass, is used instead of PVC. Called Omnicoat, the patent-pending technology allows for installation over “adverse or minimally prepared” substrates that feature adhesive and other problematic materials, as long as the floor is fairly smooth and free of adhesive ridges, as well as mold and mildew. Used with TandusTape+, the product goes down without any of the traditional complications, including concrete moisture testing.

Like the other major carpet mills serving both the residential and commercial markets, the Dixie Group has company-wide programs for issues like energy, water and waste reduction, but the bigger focus is on its commercial brands. For instance, in the last couple of years Masland Contract has generated EPDs and HPDs for its commercial lines, which were also just recertified NSF 140 Gold.

The firm purchases renewable energy credits for 100% of its Alabama manufacturing operations and administrative offices. Masland Contract also works with CARE members to take back its PVC-backed carpet tile.

Mannington is in the midst of the arduous process of analyzing and reevaluating its management and performance capabilities to find the best path forward to the next level of sustainability, and that includes finding ways of measuring the value of the various certifications and assessments to clients and stakeholders, as well as the efficacies of those tools in reducing environmental impacts and enhancing human health. Mannington already has EPDs and HPDs for its commercial portfolio, as well as takeback and recycling programs for both carpet and resilient flooring.

The firm also has waste, water and energy reduction programs, with slow and steady gains, though its acquisitions of Burke and Amtico have made progress more challenging. Its energy goal with the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings, Better Plants program calls for a 25% reduction in energy use over ten years, from a baseline of 2008.

Armstrong Flooring has a long history of sustainability, stretching back to 1906 when Thomas Armstrong funneled piles of its cork waste into linoleum production. And 110 years later, Armstrong is still funneling its production waste into new material. For many years, approximately 250 tons per year of waste from the sheet vinyl plant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was shipped to the Illinois plant for recycling into new product. Now waste can simply be sent across the street to the company’s new LVT plant for use in production, cutting down environmental impacts related to long distance transport.

The VCT reclamation program and the new LVT reclamation program, called On and On, that launched last year, have now diverted more than 25 million pounds of material from landfills. Its own LVT also qualifies for the recycling program.

Armstrong recently reset energy, water and waste reduction goals for all its plants, working toward a combined target of an additional 25% reduction by 2024 from a baseline of 2014.

Last summer, Armstrong Flooring received the 2015 Los Angeles Green Leadership Award for its recycling and waste reduction initiatives at its South Gate, California facility. In 2014, the plant recycled more than 450 tons of reclaimed materials, including 50 tons from the state. It also became a zero process waste facility, diverting all its production waste from the landfill. 

One hard surface producer with an eye on its environmental footprint is US Floors, which was best known for its fashion forward portfolio of cork, bamboo and hardwood flooring before it came out with Coretec, the original WPC (wood polymer composite) flooring. Its bamboo and cork floors qualify as rapidly renewable materials, and its Navarre and Castle Combe hardwood lines are FSC-certified. The firm has had FSC Chain of Custody certification for eight years.

US Floors, which serves the commercial market as USF Contract, also has the largest privately owned solar power generation in Georgia, with arrays on two facilities in Dalton generating a combined 509 kilowatts of power—enough to power more than 50 homes, according to the firm.

Gerflor, the French vinyl flooring manufacturer, will release EPDs for its heterogeneous and homogeneous sheet flooring as well as its LVT in the next few weeks. In the U.S. market, the firm sells commercial and sports flooring. In 2014, the firm bought Connor Sports, a U.S. producer of hardwood, vinyl and poured urethane sports flooring originally founded in 1872.

Gerflor has manufacturing in the U.S., Europe, China and Saudi Arabia, and all of its facilities are ISO 14001 certified. The firm recycles 100% of manufacturing waste, and in Europe it also incorporates post-consumer content, compliant with REACH, the EU regulations governing safe chemical use in manufacturing. Annually, 270,000 square feet of flooring material is recycled through Gerflor’s Second Life program, along with 15,000 tons of manufacturing waste.

Invista, the leading independent producer of nylon 6,6, continues to work on developing bio-based ingredients, like bio-adipic acid, for the creation of its fibers, though it’s still a ways from a solution. 

One of Invista’s goals is to reduce energy use—a 20% reduction by 2020 from a 2010 baseline—and to reduce the environmental impact of the energy it does use. For instance, in its main U.S. facility in Camden, South Carolina, it has switched its coal-fired boilers to run on natural gas.

J+J Flooring, which was acquired by Engineered Floors earlier this year, attained certification via GreenCircle last year as a Zero Waste to Landfill manufacturer, and it’s currently being recertified. The firm also has EPDs and HPDs on all products. It participates in Google’s Portico healthy materials database and it’s pursuing the Declare label program. And 50% of its electricity comes from renewable sources. 

J+J works with CARE for reclamation of its carpet, but in the case of Kinetex, a product mostly made of PET, the firm will be taking that back internally—Kinetex hasn’t been on the market long enough to make its way into the waste stream. 

Crossville, which makes porcelain tile in Tennessee, recycled a whopping 16.9 million pounds of fired porcelain last year from its Tile Take-Back program and its recycling partnership with Toto USA, which makes toilets. Though the program only started in 2011, Crossville has already recycled well over 70 million pounds of material.

The firm is currently finalizing the second edition of its GRI- based corporate sustainability report, and it has also gone one step beyond the category EPD announced by TCNA last year, coming out with an EPD for its own products.

Metroflor has only been in the commercial market for a couple of years, but it has been diligent in building a sustainability program since that time. Its first commercial LVT, Aspecta 5, attained NSF 332 Platinum in 2014 and added an HPD last year that is currently being updated to the new HPD version. And it has also attained NSF 332 Gold on both Aspecta 1, a thinner product, along with Aspecta 10, the firm’s rigid LVT. HPDs are also being created for these products.

All three products come from Metroflor’s Chinese partners, with whom the firm has close relationships—it has programs for housing and daycare, and for the education of workers’ children. In Calhoun, Georgia, the firm’s call center is a LEED NC Platinum building, and the Design and Innovation Center is Green Globes certified. And its distribution center, also in Calhoun, gets a portion of its energy from its solar panel array.

In July, Metroflor brought in Rochelle Routman, LEED AP, O+M, as its first chief sustainability officer. Routman, who was previously with Mohawk, has been working on sustainability and the environment for three decades. In 2014, Green Building & Design magazine named her as one of the Top 10 Most Powerful Women Sustainability Leaders.

Milliken, which recently added a substantial LVT program to its offering, has been focused on transparency, increasing recycled content in products and publishing its second annual sustainability report. The firm reports that it’s nearly halfway toward its goal of reducing emissions by 20% from a 2010 baseline. Its energy use is down 13.6% and waste is down 13.1%, both with targets of 20% by 2020. And water use is down nearly 50%.

The firm also has EPDs for all of its products globally, both carpet and resilient, along with Declare labels. Last year, Milliken increased recycled content on its carpet tiles by adding post-industrial calcium carbonate. 

Until a couple of years ago, the entire company, Milliken & Company, which also produces specialty chemicals and performance materials, had been certified carbon negative through Leonardo Academy, and its flooring division has sent zero process waste to landfill since 1992. Though it still meets the criteria, Milliken doesn’t get it certified anymore, choosing to shift its focus toward third party certification on transparency.

A couple of years ago, Ecore responded to a rise in requests for EPDs and HPDs from architects by creating the documents for the majority of its products. The EPDs were done first, and this June the HPDs were completed.

Currently, Ecore is working on a new initiative called Mindful Materials, a program that offers architects and designers a summary of a company’s environmental labels and certifications for a given product. Originally, companies had to fill out a form for each project, but now Mindful Materials has developed a database so a company can upload a spreadsheet with all its products, have it reviewed and verified, and then make it available through Mindful Materials for architects to access. Ecore has submitted its information and is currently in the review process.

Ecore is best known for its recycling program, diverting 800,000 truck tires from landfills each year to grind into material for rubber flooring. It also partners with Nike Grind, incorporating rubber from post-industrial waste and post-consumer shoes in its products.

Roppe works closely with its supply chain to ensure social, financial and environmental responsibility. Its new sheet rubber product, called Envire, was formulated with no Red List chemicals and a second Red List-free product will be announced later this year. The company is also in the process of preparing EPDs for its cove base, stair treads and floor tiles. 

Nora Systems, a German company with U.S. headquarters in Salem, New Hampshire, is a global producer of rubber flooring. All of the manufacturing is done in Weinheim, Germany, with product made of both synthetic and natural rubber.

Last year, Tim Cole was brought in as vice president of marketing and to lead the firm’s sustainability program. Cole previously had a long tenure with Forbo and has also been involved with the USGBC. The firm is currently working on finalizing a sustainability strategy based around, among other things, creating safer spaces—noise reduction, ease of maintenance, slip resistance, low emissions, and more. Nora’s biggest market is healthcare, followed by education, then industry and life sciences.

The firm is also focusing on overall environmental strategies, like reducing energy use, water and waste. The new sustainability program will be implemented and communicated at the beginning of next year.

Tricycle, which started producing high-resolution, color-accurate paper samples for commercial carpet producers in 2002, has more recently turned its attention to LVT. In terms of sustainability, what Tricycle brings to the table is dematerialization. Through 2009, the firm eliminated the use of an estimated $30 million in material. 

Around that time, the shift to digital occurred. These days, 80% of its samples are digital, with simulations generated through a streamlined, automated process that gets clients what they need at breakneck speed. Back in 2009, the firm was doing about 5,000 simulations a month and now it’s closer to 20,000. 

Carpet still makes up the bulk of sampling, and its main clients are the big mills. One of the earliest adopters, Tandus Centiva, also goes to Tricycle for LVT sampling. And the firm is targeting a lot of mid-sized and independent LVT players right now.

In early July, as a charter member of the Biobased Product Coalition, Universal Textile Technologies (UTT) met with Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture, and other government officials to discuss bio-based initiatives as well as training and educational programs.

UTT, a producer of polyurethane backings with bio-based and recycled content, is currently working on the development of a new polyurethane attached cushion for residential carpet, slated for launch by the end of the year. The firm is also working with the United Soybean Board to implement a continuing education program for architects.

Flexco set an ambitious goal of 25% reductions in energy intensity, as well as greenhouse gas emissions and water and energy usage, by 2025. Last year the company made great strides, reducing scrap waste and saving water and energy, putting it on track to not only reach its goal but even to exceed it. Both EPDs and Material Sourcing for Flexco products were published this summer.

With regard to sustainability, CBC Flooring focuses a great deal on making products that are maintenance free. In addition to costing owners an average of $1.25 per square foot, maintenance comes with environmental costs. A resilient floor that requires waxing or finishing, for example, must be stripped, using more water, and the waste water contains stripping chemicals that must be discarded somehow. 

A product of CBC’s Halo brand, Halo Free is a PVC-free tile made of PET. According to the firm, Taber tests show that PET wears 70% better than vinyl. The 15-year warranty for Halo Free is 50% longer than for LVT products. 

CBC’s new Toli Mature Select, a sheet vinyl introduced this spring, features a patented ClearGuard wearlayer for a never-wax product. Not only does the wearlayer protect longer than a traditional sheet vinyl, but the vinyl underneath also contains a proprietary additive that prevents dulling. 

CBC also recently completed HPDs for its product offerings across all its brands. 

The Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) played a central role in the recent decision by California’s Office of Environmental Health and Hazard (OEHHA) to grant a Safe Use Determination (SUD) under Prop 65 for the most commonly used phthalate in vinyl flooring, DINP.

DINP was added to Prop 65 at the end of 2013, and within the year the RFCI filed the SUD application, which also served to protect the industry from opportunistic lawsuits. The SUD application requires that the applicants pay for all costs incurred in considering the request, which totaled over $250,000. The bulk of that came from producing additional exposure data through third-party laboratory testing.

OEHHA’s SUD was based on proof that vinyl flooring products are made up of no more than 18.9% DINP by weight, the “safe harbor” limit. In fact, phthalate use was well below that limit.

Though the trend in vinyl flooring is toward alternate plasticizers, the determination does keep the door open for those that still use DINP, and it could also impact reclamation and recycling strategies for flooring producers that want to recycle vinyl flooring.

Copyright 2016 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Crossville, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Masland Carpets & Rugs, Armstrong Flooring, Marazzi USA, Engineered Floors, LLC, Roppe, Interface, Mohawk Industries, The Dixie Group, Metroflor Luxury Vinyl Tile, Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, Mannington Mills, Tarkett, HMTX