State of Sustainability 2018: Health and wellness take center stage - Aug/Sep 18

By Darius Helm

Led by the introduction of LEED v4 five years ago with its focus on transparency and material disclosures, the sustainability movement started to shift its perspective. First came the waves of HPDs and Cradle to Cradle certifications, then Declare labels, and now healthy building declarations, centered on the human experience, have taken center stage. “What is your product doing for me?” is the new sustainability mantra.

Over the last couple of years, impacts on human health have become central to sustainability discussions and debates. For products like flooring, that means getting rid of chemicals of concern and demonstrating that products will enhance the health and wellness of the occupants of the space where the flooring is installed. Issues like embodied energy, recycled content, waste reduction and dematerialization now have to compete for attention with transparency declarations, social wellness programs and red-list-free ingredients.

To their credit, flooring manufacturers have been extremely responsive, diligently accumulating certifications and labels with the single-minded focus of Boy Scouts pursuing badges. It can be costly, particularly for the smaller producers, but it has become the new standard for competing in the commercial market, so for many players it’s a no-brainer. Wellness and healthy buildings are top of mind in the A&D community, and the movement is growing stronger every day.

It’s hard to knock products and processes and built environments that reduce risks of chemical exposure and maximize health and wellness. And it’s also worth noting that this trend in the movement has helped balance the three pillars of sustainability-environmental, economic and social-by elevating the social pillar. There’s more emphasis not just on wellness in the workplace but also the social welfare of everyone along the value chain, including suppliers from developing countries, where work conditions are often abysmal. There’s no question that workers both in the U.S. and overseas will benefit from this new, broader sense of responsibility in the production of materials and the construction of buildings and homes.

The issue at hand, though, is the sense that this sort of emphasis on human health and wellness really belongs a little further down the road. After all, it’s not like the green movement has solved the central problems and put civilization on the path to salvaging, securing and restoring the environment. Isn’t this whole thing about saving the world? And considering the enormity of that challenge and the massive stakes involved, does it make sense for resources to be channeled toward human wellness when that money could go to take another pound of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or to recapture and reuse another plastic carpet destined for the landfill?

At its core, the healthy building movement is a utopian ideal. And that’s not a bad thing, but it creates an image of happy, well-adjusted professionals operating under their maximum potential. They’re living the life, standing with perfect postures in front of floor to ceiling windows and looking out with clear eyes at meadows sustained by a perfect balance of birds and bees and little animals…while beyond the elegant tree line, Hothouse Earth rages with storms, fires and floods and collapsing eco-systems and simmering oceans choked with plastics.

Since 2014, Green Building & Design magazine has been giving out annual Women in Sustainability Leaderships Awards (WSLA) in recognition of women leaders making an impact in the field of sustainability. At Greenbuild 2017, Metroflor’s Rochelle Routman, who won a WSLA award in 2014 when she was Mohawk’s director of sustainability, spearheaded the creation of the WSLA Alumnae Group, which brings together past winners in a network that enables them to collaborate, specifically through mentorship, to empower even more women to take on leadership positions in sustainability.

“The members of the Alumnae Group are passionate and accomplished women who are true visionaries,” says Routman. “They are also well organized and committed. This is truly a global effort, as we now have alumnae members representing several nations.”

The inaugural WSLA Alumnae Summit will take place in Chicago on November 13, coinciding with Greenbuild as well as the fifth annual WSLA celebration.

To be fair, it’s worth noting that healthy building certifications include as subsets most of the key environmental considerations. For instance, the International Living Building Institute’s Living Building Challenge features seven petals, and three of them are centered squarely on issues fundamental to environmental sustainability: the Energy petal focuses on a single imperative, net positive energy; the Water petal’s imperative is net positive water; and the Materials petal includes imperatives like embodied carbon footprint, net positive waste and red-list-free materials. And the Well Building Standard looks at buildings through seven lenses, including air and water, which relate to emissions, material composition and other traditional environmental mandates.

New from the International Future Living Institute is Just, which focuses on social justice and equity. The Just program is a voluntary disclosure tool for organizations, covering operations, treatment of employees, financial and community investments, occupational safety and gender and ethnic diversity. Certification comes with what looks like an ingredient label, with Diversity, Worker Benefit, Equity, Local Benefit, Safety and Stewardship indicators.

The Multilayer Flooring Association has partnered with SCS Global Services to introduce a pilot certification for rigid LVT products. First MFA had to develop an ASTM standard for baseline product attributes, like rigidity, surface wear layer, performance attributes and backing types. ASTM standard F3261-17, the Standard Specification for Resilient Flooring in Modular Format with Rigid Polymeric Core, was released in December 2017.

The association then reached out to SCS Global Services, the California-based standards developer and third-party certifier that manages the FloorScore program. According to Harlan Stone, president of the MFA, “The MFA needed a standard to promote the industry at large, providing both manufacturers and end users with an agreed-upon standard for multilayer rigid polymer core flooring.”

The pilot program, announced in March, focuses on performance and sustainability, and its development leaned heavily on existing standards to create a consensus document, which includes prohibitions against ortho-phthalates and heavy metals, as well as indoor air quality standards.

Interface, the billion dollar global carpet tile producer that has been a beacon of sustainability for over 20 years, is probably best known for Mission Zero, its commitment to be environmentally neutral by 2020. And it is closing in on many of its goals. The firm’s 2017 EcoMetrics report cites reductions in greenhouse gas emission intensity by 96% from the 1996 baseline, and energy efficiency has improved 43%. All of the electricity at its global manufacturing sites is renewable, and in terms of total energy consumption at the sites, 88% is renewable. Water use intensity is down 88%. And the carbon footprint of Interface’s carpet tile product is down about 66%-a 6% year-over-year improvement, and close enough for the firm to use carbon credits to bridge the gap to make all of its products carbon neutral, which the firm announced at NeoCon earlier this summer. That includes its LVT, which is produced in South Korea. Now that Interface’s acquisition of Nora, the German rubber producer, is finalized, the firm will create new Mission Zero goals for that business.

In terms of recycling, the firm’s ReEntry program reclaimed 13 million pounds of PVC-backed carpet tile last year, up nearly 25% from 2016, for a cumulative total of 360 million pounds. And the Net-Works program it founded with the Zoological Society of London had a record-breaking year, shipping 163,000 pounds of recovered nylon 6 fishing nets to Aquafil to turn into new Econyl nylon. That’s over 50% of the total volume-317,000 pounds-since the program launched five years ago.

However, Interface is no longer viewing these gains as much through the Mission Zero lens as through Mission Climate Take Back, launched a couple of years ago. This new mission has a more fundamental and far-reaching eco-philosophy, including: using carbon as a resource; only taking from the environment what can be readily replaced; creating factories that function like forests and extending that concept across the built environment; and, perhaps most importantly, generating a range of strategies, tools and solutions to help plot a course through these uncharted waters. After all, Interface and other green leaders aren’t merely improving their own environmental profiles. Their ultimate value-and what actually moves the needle-is that they’re also providing a path for others to follow. That’s when real global change happens.

Interface is working with the Biomimicry Institute on the concept of “positive” buildings and factories, which should function like high performing eco-systems. It sounds arcane, and borderline quixotic, but there are actually practical strategies and steps that can make this achievable. You identify the factory, then identify and study a nearby high-performing eco-system. How much carbon per acre does the soil sequester? How much water does it filter? How much habitat does it provide for animals? Then you compare it to the factory and you look at design implementations to fill the gap. And while that gap may seem enormous, scientific breakthroughs are coming fast and furious.

Last year, Interface showcased Proof Positive, a carbon-negative carpet tile prototype based on the concept of sequestering carbon. It was more about the introduction of the concept, rather than an actual product, but Interface followed through last year with CircuitBac Green, a carpet tile backing sold in the European market that is actually carbon negative. It’s made of 80% recycled limestone filler and 17% bio-based plastics and natural oils, with only 3% virgin petrochemical content.

The firm anticipates major gains to come from carbon sequestration technologies, which involves capturing emitted carbon and using it as a material, for instance by adding it to calcium carbonate, a key ingredient in many flooring products.

Shaw Industries, which has long been a leader in sustainability in the flooring industry, has been focusing on raw materials and chemistry for several years, with Cradle to Cradle certifications now accounting for 88% of its product offering. The balance is largely from PVC products like LVT, sheet goods and rigid LVT products-whose chemistry prohibits Cradle to Cradle certification. However, the firm’s recent introduction of commercial resilient tiles made out of PET will add to the roster of C2C certifications.

The PET Resilient program, which will formally launch early next year with the Palette collection previewed at NeoCon, features product with 40% post-consumer content from drink bottles. (See Green Resilient, starting on page 48, for more coverage.)

In terms of materials and chemistries, Shaw’s efforts include working closely with both its supply chain and independent sustainability groups to ensure that the firm is focusing in all the right areas and that its suppliers are compliant. In some cases the firm has eliminated performance chemistries-for instance, it removed antimicrobial from a commercial carpet program when it determined that the product itself offered sufficient microbial protection.

In May of this year, Shaw announced that it had attained carbon neutrality on its commercial carpet operations, achieved through reducing energy consumptions, shifting to cleaner fuels and using renewable energy, including its 1 MW solar array at its Cartersville, Georgia carpet tile facility-with the balance met through the purchase of renewable energy credits. One major achievement was the installation of its Combined Heat & Power (CHP) cogeneration operation at its Columbia, South Carolina fiber facility. The CHP went into operation in May, and is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26,000 metric tons a year. According to the firm, this is equivalent to the emissions of nearly 5,500 passenger vehicles. The natural gas power plant generates electricity, with the waste heat providing steam for the fiber extrusion operation.

The firm has a range of 2030 goals that it is pursuing, including a 50% reduction in water intensity (water use per pound of finished product), currently at 34%. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions intensity, the firm has progressed from a baseline of 1.79 pounds of carbon to around 1.30 for 2017. Waste intensity is down to 2.87%, reflecting a 35% improvement. And in terms of energy intensity, the firm’s goal is a 40% improvement, and so far it’s at about 16%.

Mohawk Industries, the largest flooring company in the world, has a lot to grapple with when it comes to a streamlined sustainability strategy, with dozens of manufacturing operations scattered across the globe, producing carpet, area rugs, ceramic tile, stone, hardwood, laminates and resilient flooring. And as an acquisition-oriented firm, it’s steadily adding to its family. Right now it’s busy buying Australia’s Godfrey Hirst, a major carpet manufacturer.

In addition to focusing on transparency-it was an early adopter of Declare labels-the firm has been working on not just all three pillars of sustainability (environmental, economic and social) but on strategies and programs that weave them together. And these efforts are best illustrated through its Living Product Challenge projects. Last year, for instance, the Water Petal certification for its Lichen carpet tile was achieved through the installation of low-flow showerheads in dorms at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. So while Mohawk gets the petal-making it the first product to achieve Petal certification under the Living Product Challenge-Morehouse (and presumably the environment) get the environmental benefit and the college also accrues the economic benefit.

This year, the firm added five more Living Product Challenge products, including a woven broadloom and area rug, a pair of carpet tiles and its Pivot Point PVC-free resilient tile. And it’s earning the Energy Petals by installing Smartflower solar power units in ten disadvantaged communities near STEM schools over the next three years.

In June, Mohawk unveiled the first Smartflower at The Renaissance Collaborative in the Bronzeville community in south Chicago, partnering with Elevate Energy and Groundswell. Smartflowers are also being installed this year in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Eden, North Carolina.

Other attributes, including reduced water in product manufacture, backing systems with lower environmental footprints and high recycled content, and in the case of Pivot Point resilient, a PVC-free construction, help in the achievement of other petals. Pivot Point, made in South Korea, replaces PVC with a material made from calcium carbonate and a polyolefin, and it is fully recyclable-and according to the firm, it can be installed using traditional LVT adhesives.

Last year, Mohawk recycled more than 6.2 billion bottles-the firm is the nation’s biggest user of reclaimed PET drink bottles. And it reclaimed 20,000 tons of PVC material for use as backing in its Moduleo LVT, with over 50% recycled content, along with 42 million pounds of old tires that it turned into welcome mats. The firm has also reduced greenhouse gas and energy intensities by about 5% each since 2010.

As one of the largest global flooring manufacturers, Tarkett, like Mohawk, has a lot of moving parts to contend with. The firm, which is headquartered in France, has about 35 production facilities worldwide and procures over 3,000 distinct raw materials. It offers a broad portfolio of flooring products, from a range of broadloom and carpet tile constructions to LVT, rubber, sheet vinyl, linoleum, hardwood, laminate and artificial turf.

Tarkett’s sustainability program is organized through three pillars: designing for life, closing the loop, and driving collaboration. Designing for life is largely about green chemistries. For instance, it has a goal of VOCs on all products falling below 100 parts per million by 2020, and it’s already at 96%. And the firm has also assessed 96% of its raw materials. And it is replacing problematic chemistries, like fluorine-based anti-stain treatments.

The firm is also lowering the environmental footprint of its products. It has reduced greenhouse gas intensity by 9% since 2010, and 28% of its total global energy and electricity comes from renewable resources. Its operations in Ohio run on 100% renewable energy. And over two thirds of its global production sites use closed loop water systems (or don’t use water at all in manufacturing). Overall, 71% of its materials don’t contribute to resource scarcity because they’re abundant in nature, recycled or rapidly renewable.

In terms of closing the loop, the focus is on recycling, reuse and takeback programs. In some cases, this means cleaning and repurposing products like carpet tile. And to date it has recycled 160,000 tons of material into new product, which is 12% of the volume of purchased raw materials.

The “driving collaboration” pillar is about creating partnerships with customers, suppliers and even competitors to drive change. Its transparency program uses Material Health Statements, EPEA verified, which go beyond many transparency tools in the market because they assess not just hazards but more relevantly exposure and risks. It also has a range of Cradle to Cradle certifications. And about a month ago it announced Living Product Challenge certifications for its rubber tile and its carpet tile with Ethos (polyvinyl butyral) backing and Omnicoat technology.

Aquafil, a global leader in sustainable nylon 6 through its 100% recycled Econyl and, as of 2017, white-dyeable Econyl Pure, is wrapping up phase one of its new recycling operation located in Phoenix, Arizona. The facility has been operational since the spring with its carpet deconstruction and dry separation of ashes, and has plans to start phase two in the fall, featuring new equipment capable of wet separation and pelletization. The new machinery will wet clean the carpet and reduce contaminates to produce a nylon pellet with 95% purity. The pellets will then be shipped to its Slovenian depolymerization facility and turned into caprolactam to make new nylon 6.

The firm continues with its fishing net recycling program in Scandinavian countries, but it felt it needed to expand its reach into the carpet recycling industry. Currently, the firm’s Econyl fiber is made up of 50% post-consumer recycled materials from fishing nets, largely from Scandanavian commercial operations, and recycled carpet, and the other 50% is post-industrial waste from nylon 6 production.

Aquafil has also just started the first phase of its second recycling facility, this time in Sacramento, California, and it is expected to be up and running by the end of the year. The new facility, which is more or less a twin of the Phoenix operation, is slated to enter phase two by the second quarter of 2019. Both facilities are expected to yield about 35 million pounds of carpet per year. A third of that will be turned into nylon pellets. Post-consumer calcium carbonate will account for approximately 40% of the volume, and it can be used in the construction industry to make bricks. The carpet backing can be fully recovered and reengineered into plastic. The goal with both facilities is to generate very little waste.

Crossville recycled 23 million pounds of fired porcelain in 2017, bringing its nine-year total to 114 million pounds. In addition to its own porcelain, the company also recycles flawed or broken toilets through a partnership with Toto.

On the certification front, it was announced in May that Crossville’s new Retro 2.0 collection is a recipient of the International Living Future Institute’s Living Product Challenge Petal Certification in three categories: Place, Water, and Beauty.

The certifications were earned as follows: Place Petal-2/2 for meeting requirements that included responsible place and habitat impacts; Water Petal-1/1 for meeting requirements that included net positive for water; and Beauty Petal-3/3 for meeting requirements that included beauty and spirit, inspiration and education, and positive handprinting.

While the company has EPDs for all products it manufactures, it is exploring EPDs for its imported products, which include Laminam, glass tile, wall tile and a little porcelain. The company believes that EPDs are “a good internal process” that enables a company to learn more about itself.

When Metroflor entered the U.S. commercial market four years ago, it invested not just in a product line (Aspecta), but also in marketing, branding and sustainability. In the last couple of years, it has completed product specific EPDs for Aspecta, HPDs and 17 Declare labels of LVT products, which have been translated in five additional languages. The firm is now working on EPDs for Metroflor’s residential offerings.

Metroflor has also developed another product, called Naturescapes HPD. It’s a PVC-free heterogeneous sheet product that replaces PVC with an organically derived polyurethane composite. By weight, three quarters of its material is from bio-based and natural resources. Calcium carbonate makes up half the weight of the product, and another 25% comes from products like castor oil. It even uses FSC-certified décor paper. The elimination of PVC enabled the product to attain an LBC-Compliant Declare label and to become the first resilient flooring to achieve Petal certification under the Living Product Challenge.

The product, which is produced by Germany’s Windmöller GmbH, uses castor oil from India, where it’s produced, often in family farms, for use in everything from cosmetics to lubricants. And Metroflor also supports the subcontinent through the Wildlife Trust of India’s Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation Project as well as Journeyman International, which works with young professionals like architecture students to design and build schools, clinics and other social infrastructure projects in developing nations. Both add to the Petal certifications of Naturescapes.

Contributing to Naturescapes’ Living Product Challenge certification in the Equity Petal is the Just label, which is to social justice what Declare is to product ingredients. And Metroflor’s main manufacturing partner, China’s Elegant Home-Tech, has also received a Just label, the first for any Chinese factory.

Naturescapes HPD is sold through Shannon Specialty Floors under the Teknoflor brand. Shannon started in 1921 as a hardwood flooring firm, though these days it’s in the business of taking products to market, not manufacturing them. The firm has carried the Teknoflor brand for a couple of decades, and since 2014 has offered a PVC-free line of homogeneous sheet and heterogeneous tile, called Bare Naked, made by Finland’s Upofloor. Shannon has a strong focus in the healthcare market, as well as the education market.

Invista, the leading independent producer of the hollow-filament Antron commercial nylon 6,6 fiber, launched its most advanced adiponitrile (ADN) technology at its Butachimie facility in France in September 2017. The facility is a joint venture between Invista and Solvay, an international chemical group. Adiponitrile is a key ingredient in nylon 6,6, and the technological improvements have allowed Invista to reduce energy consumption, lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve product yields. The technology was first developed in its Orange, Texas facility where it has been monitoring its performance improvements since 2014. The company is in the process of wrapping up the final design phase for the $250 million ADN upgrade project at its Victoria, Texas site. Construction is slated to begin in the first quarter of 2019.

DuraTech, a topical soil resistance treatment, was introduced late in 2016 and marked Invista’s first step in going fluorine-free. Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) have been linked in animal studies to the disruption of normal endocrine activity as well as other health effects that lead to developmental problems. Currently, the company is working on integrating its DuraTech technology into its actual solution-dyed nylon fiber.

Mannington, a major multi-surface player in both the residential and commercial markets, has been focusing on materials and chemistries in the supply chain, driven by transparency concerns. The firm already has EPDs for its resilient and soft surface commercial offerings, along with HPDs for carpet, and it has a Declare label for its carpet tile with Revolve backing. Earlier this year, the firm introduced a PVC-free resilient tile, called Cirro, for which it plans on pursuing a Declare label, likely a Red List Free label.

Cirro, which is priced above LVT, has an acrylic polymer composition, and its construction is layered, like traditional LVT, with a print film and top coat. And it bonds with traditional LVT adhesive, a performance attribute that some other PVC-free products struggle with.

Mannington has a goal of 25% energy intensity reduction by 2018 from a 2007 baseline, and though it is approaching the mark, though it’s likely to miss that goal and end the year at around 17% to 18%. The firm has also made major strides with water use, which is down 30% since 2007. And it has a wetlands program around its operations, creating “riparian buffers,” which protect streams and wetlands from adjacent land uses.

The firm recently announced a $42 million investment to build a rubber flooring production facility in Calhoun, Georgia to supplement the production by its Burke business in California. The new operation should be up and running by early next year, and it will bring with it about 200 new jobs.

Armstrong Flooring, which produces a variety of hard surface flooring products for both the residential and commercial markets, has been working toward a range of 2024 goals, using 2014 as its baseline. In terms of water, it has now met its goal of a 25% reduction in water intensity. Energy reductions are much more challenging, and last year the firm reported a 3% reduction in energy intensity, but this year it’s at 14%. Energy audits, first in hardwood last year and in resilient this year, have enabled the firm to pore through its manufacturing operations and make small tweaks to processes (e.g. adjusting the pressure used in machinery, replacing air compressors) that combine to create measurable reductions.

At its facility in South Gate, California, the firm invested in a battery system that enables it to buy cleaner electricity from the grid at night, store it and use it to run operations during the day. Energy production is cleaner during low-demand hours, according to the firm, because capacity can be met with the state’s cleaner, more efficient sources, while higher demand hours need to pull energy from more power plants, including those that are dirtier and less efficient.

The firm has also passed the 100 million pound mark in the reclamation of post-consumer material through its On&On Recycling Program. The program recaptures all types of vinyl flooring, but it’s mostly VCT. Reclaimed VCT volume was up last year from 2016.

Bentley Mills reports that it is looking at PVC-free options for its LVT program. Currently, the LVT it sources from Europe and Asia is made with 30% post-industrial recycled content. Third party EPDs are available on the LVT line, as well as FloorScore certification.

Participating in the Department of Energy’s Better Plants program, Bentley Mills signed a declaration that by 2025 it will reduce its total energy intensity by 25%, with 2015 as a baseline. To date, the company is at 19.5%. The firm has reduced its water intensity by just over 10% year-over-year, and in a two-year period has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 16%.

The solar array at its facility in City of Industry, California was built in 1999 and is up for a complete revitalization of the system. Additionally, Bentley is looking at its interior lighting, water usage and natural gas usage, and is putting together a comprehensive program that’s going to significantly reduce these elements across the board. The company plans to start implementing these modifications at the end of 2018 and should be completed by early 2019.

Volume at the firm’s Fulfill carpet reclamation program was up 30% from 2016 to 2017. According to the firm, between 50% and 60% of its carpet clients follow up with inquiries about the reclamation program.

Ecore, which makes rubber flooring from recycled tires out of its facilities in Lancaster and York, Pennsylvania, is a net consumer of waste. Last year, it was negative by about 40,000 tons of waste, and this year it should be closer to 45,000 tons. Ecore makes products out of scrap truck tires-using the equivalent of about two million car tires a year. Truck tires include high quality bead wire that the firm used to send to scrap metal processors, but for the past year the firm has partnered with Indiana based Entech, which recycles the wire into a high value feedstock metal.

The firm also has programs with downstream partners to reclaim old product, which is processed and reused in new Ecore flooring. And it also recaptures production waste at its facilities, with the end result that only 0.5% of all the material it brings into the facility exits as waste.

Ecore is also looking at investing in battery systems like Tesla’s Powerpack to use off-peak cleaner energy to run its operations. The firm has also reduced operating costs by 7% over the last 36 months through a range of modifications, from increased labor productivity to reduced processing costs and energy consumption.

Milliken, which does most of its business in the commercial market with its broadloom and carpet tile offering, as well as LVT in the last few years, has announced plans to build a solar installation at its headquarters in Spartanburg, South Carolina. And it continues to develop its Re-Vision pyrolysis technology at its U.K. plant, which is designed to thermally release energy from waste materials while preserving the minerals. While progress has been slower than anticipated, the company indicates it is now in the process of establishing an infrastructure and has plans to expand into the U.S. in the future. The U.K. facility produces 40% recycled carpet materials and the remaining 60% is used as energy to run part of the plant.

From a 2010 baseline, Milliken has reduced (per unit) energy consumption by 24.7%, greenhouse gas emissions by 25.3% and water by 61.9%. The firm reports that it has sent zero process waste to the landfill since 1994.

Milliken has been working on third-party verification of its transparency labels, approaching all 52 of its suppliers and requesting information on ingredients down to 100 ppm. It then collaborated with a consultant to create an ingredient database that is compatible with GreenScreen, the Living Building Challenge Red List and the Cradle to Cradle list. It is worth noting that Milliken recently completed C2C certification for all of Milliken carpet products from its manufacturing facilities in the Americas, Asia and Australia. Also, it received Red List Free Declare labels, third-party verified, for all carpet tile products made in the Americas at the beginning of this year. Carpet made in Asia and Australia achieved the same level of certification in June 2018.

In 2017, Milliken became a founding member of the Well-Living Lab in Rochester, Minnesota, a collaboration between Delos, a wellness real estate and technology firm, and the Mayo Clinic. It is the first lab of its kind dedicated solely to the research and development of improving the health and well-being of individuals in the built environment.

Forbo, which is headquartered in Switzerland, is the leading global linoleum producer, and it also makes vinyl flooring, carpet tile, Flotex (a flocked nylon face on a vinyl base), entrance flooring and more. In the U.S. market, most of what it sells is linoleum.

The firm reports that it has reduced CO2 emissions by almost 40%, with much of that progress in the last few years. In its European operations, all of its electrical needs are supplied from renewable sources, and it’s considering doing the same in its U.S. offices.

Last year, the firm announced that its 2.5mm Marmoleum was all carbon neutral, and this year it has achieved the same for its 2mm program. Helping to achieve that designation is not just the bio-based content of the linoleum, but also the energy needed to manufacture it, which according to the firm is lower than the embodied energy in PVC products. All of Forbo’s products carry Declare labels, and its linoleum offerings are Red List Free.

Another major European resilient producer is Gerflor, which is based in France. The firm is best known as a manufacturer of a range of vinyl flooring products, most of them high performance commercial LVT and sheet goods, but it also has two big sports flooring businesses, Connor Sports, which makes hardwood flooring, and Sport Court, a producer of polypropylene tile. Both are zero waste operations, and Connor Sports is the only U.S. sport flooring firm operating under ISO 14001. Globally, Gerflor’s (non-sports) business is about 80% commercial, and in the U.S. it’s 100% commercial.

The big news at Gerflor is its purchase of Germany’s DLW in April of this year. DLW, a linoleum manufacturer, was formed in 1926 from three German producers dating back to 1882. Armstrong bought DLW in 1998 and relinquished it in 2015 to a Dutch holding company, which sold it to Gerflor. DLW also makes vinyl flooring.

Recognizing that the linoleum category hasn’t grown much in the last 20 years, the firm intends to invest in the business and compete with Forbo to revitalize the category. Linoleum is unique in the commercial flooring arena as the only bio-based resilient flooring, and Gerflor, which had been the exclusive distributor of DLW to France and the U.K. since 2012, already understands the business, including how it fits with Gerflor’s existing offerings. Germany is the largest consumer of linoleum, followed by the U.S.

Universal Fibers published its first corporate sustainability report in 2017. In addition, the company formulated and rolled out EnList, which is visually depicted as a compass with the four points representing the company’s commitments to environmental stewardship: L-lifecycle analysis; I-impact; S-social responsibility; T-transparency.

Universal Fibers launched its Thrive solution-dyed nylon 6,6 carpet fiber in 2017. Thrive consists of 75% recycled content using pre- and post-consumer material. At the time of launch, the product had 10% post-consumer content and 65% post-industrial content, but in conducting a lifecycle analysis of the product, Universal Fibers determined that the post-consumer content was actually having a negative impact, as it required an extremely energy-intensive process-in fact, five times more impactful than the post-industrial process. As a result, the company reduced the post-consumer content to 5% and increased the post-industrial content to 70%.

In addition, last year the company enlisted the help of students at Virginia Tech to do an analysis of its water consumption. Though the solution dyeing process isn’t water intensive, the company has still been able to reduce water consumption by 16%, implementing the suggestions of the students.

Also, the company is currently constructing a new plant in Poland, which is expected to come online in the first quarter of next year. The company is incorporating sustainable features, such as natural lighting, into the facility and is working to re-use items left over in the construction process.

Over the last four years, The Dixie Group’s Masland Contract has reduced its waste generation as a percent of total production volume by weight from 5.2% to 0.6%. In addition, in 2016 and 2017, 92% of Masland Contract’s manufacturing waste was diverted from the landfill, with 35% going to waste-to-energy. Starting in 2018, the plastics industry began repurposing some of that waste, and, in the first half of 2018, total diversion from the landfill was at 90%, with only 22% going to waste-to-energy.

In addition, between 2014 and 2017 Masland Contract reduced its direct greenhouse gases by 59.13% and indirect by 9%.

The company purchases wind power to offset 100% of the electricity used by its commercial manufacturing operations and uses lifecycle analysis, EPDs, HPDs, NSF 140 certifications and transparency registries like Mindful Materials to measure its progress.

In 2015, Dixie’s Masland Contract completed its conversion from wet-dyed to solution-dyed fiber. This switch, started in 2014, reduced its energy costs by 47% per square yard, with an 81% reduction in natural gas cost alone. Water usage was reduced from 15.1 gallons per square yard to half a gallon per square yard.

Because Engineered Floors launched less than a decade ago with state-of-the-art machinery and processes, it started its sustainability journey with greener and more efficient manufacturing than other mills. According to James Lesslie, Engineered Floors’ EVP of sales and marketing and president of the commercial division, a study revealed that the firm’s production model uses 87% less water and 37% less energy than standard carpet production. However, efficiency improvement could further lower the environmental footprint of an already sustainably focused business, J+J Flooring, the company’s commercial operation, acquired in 2016, as well as in the assets of Beaulieu, purchased last November.

J+J Flooring’s 2020 Vision lays out its sustainable objectives, some of which have already been met. Its goal of being zero waste to landfill in its production facilities was achieved in 2014, a first in the carpet industry. Over the course of 2016 and 2017, the firm recycled three million pounds of material, reusing 93,000 pounds and sending 710,000 pounds to waste-to-energy. In addition, the company has already met its objective of reducing energy intensity by 20% and increasing use of renewable energy to at least 10% of total energy consumption. In 2017, the company also checked its goal of 23% greenhouses gas reduction off the 2020 list. J+J still hopes to reduce water usage by 66% and increase recycled, bio-based or renewable content in its products to 33%.

As far as transparency tools, Engineered Floor uses EPDs and HPDs, is pursuing Declare labels, and lists its products with Mindful Materials. The company has also been working on re-establishing environmental documentation for the now-named EF Contract, formerly Bolyu Contract and Aqua Hospitality, much of which Beaulieu had let lapse.

Roppe, based in Ohio, targets the commercial market with a range of resilient products. The firm has recently published two EPDs and three HPDs, and it has also set 2025 goals for its manufacturing facilities, including 20% reductions in greenhouse gases, energy intensity and water use, along with a 25% reduction of waste to landfills. And its vinyl flooring uses bio-based plasticizers. Its rubber and vinyl products are all certified Gold under NSF-332. And its Impact rubber recycling program is continuing to make gains.

Another major LVT producer is Karndean, a British firm founded in 1973 with product made in Asia. The firm has three product platforms: a dryback LVT, a looselay LVT and Korlok, the firm’s rigid LVT. In addition to product-specific EPDs, the firm also has all of its products, including adhesives, FloorScore certified. And all of its product info is online with Mindful Materials. Also, its Asian manufacturing partnerships all use ISO-14001 environmental management standards.

UTT has replaced the coal fly ash in its chemistries with a product from Imerys Carbonates called ReMined. ReMined is made from recycled calcium carbonate that is diverted from the landfill and functions as pre-consumer recycled content.

The biggest positive impact on UTT’s sustainable footprint has been the use of Cargill’s BiOH as a partial displacement for the styrene-butadiene rubber, a switch that the company made eight years ago. The company explains that while it isn’t a major green story per square yard, it is significant when viewed through the accumulation over the course of a year.

In July, Ken Mitchell stepped into the lead role for the company, which opened with Doug Giles’ retirement. Mitchell has a background in chemistry, so one of his focuses is on exploring ways for the company to enhance its products and utilize its equipment in new ways.

Propex produces Artis, a woven polyester carpet tile backing made from post-consumer PET. Artis, depending on supply, is capable of using 100% post-consumer PET but is guaranteed to use 85%. Two of the company’s other backing systems, Polybac and Actionbac, are both polypropylene-based and are constructed with purchased recycled polypropylene.

The company has been using solution-dyed yarn, a process that requires very little water, for years. To help reduce overall energy costs in the manufacturing facilities, Propex is investing in the replacement of standard bulbs with LED bulbs as well as changing out motors with energy efficient versions.

In March 2018, Florim received an EPD for the porcelain products made at its Clarksville, Tennessee facility. The process took two and a half years to complete and required the company to change some of its machinery. For instance, the company installed a large vacuum to suck out dust created by the dry rectification line, which allowed it to eliminate water usage in the process. The company also implemented a more efficient spray dryer.

Florim regrinds all its scrap and rejected tile to use as content in new product. By the end of this year, the company will install a new, well-insulated kiln, which will be both more energy efficient than what it has now and require less natural gas.

Flexco, a commercial rubber and vinyl producer based in Tuscumbia, Alabama, has made significant progress toward its 2025 environmental goals, which are measured against a 2015 baseline. It’s already halfway toward its goal of reducing natural gas consumption by 20%. And it has surpassed its goal of 20% reduction in water intensity-it’s at 25% already-so it has stretched the goal by 10%. And it has done the same with its goal of 25% reduction in waste to landfill, having already made it to 32%.

Last year, the firm published HPDs for its rubber tile and sheet, as well as rubber stair treads, and five of its products attained Platinum NSF-332 certification.

Stonepeak Ceramics launched its new U.S.-made Plane 2.0 panel products at Coverings 2018. Manufacturing the gauged panels in the U.S. reduces delivery times and increases logistic efficiency and product sustainability.

The tile firm uses natural gas to fuel production in its Crossville, Tennessee facility. Everything used in production is recycled back into the process, including the water, which is stored in underground tanks and reused in specific areas of the production process. The water recycling system removes water from the slurry, and the mud that remains is reused in the tile production process. Limestone waste left over from the production process is donated to local farmers rather than dumped in landfills.

In addition, post-consumer glass and crushed scrap fired tile are used as a substitute for quartz, reducing the need for the raw material. The recycled content accounts for up to 35%. The reduction in raw material use also means less energy used in excavation and transportation, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Copyright 2018 Floor Focus 

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