Flooring for Good

More often than not, the most obvious solution to a problem lies right under our nose. Or in the case of this flooring story, right under our feet. We look at how the flooring industry, and carpet tiles in particular, contribute greatly to the well-being and sustainability quotient of an interior space.


Flooring, the Sustainable Champions


The flooring industry and carpet tiles, in particular, are those silent sustainability champions you probably just didn’t know about. They’ve been in the game for a while, making a huge impact across supply chains. In 1994, when Interface declared its mission to eliminate any negative impact on the environment, they set forth a new precedent for what sustainability goals should look like. They’ve since launched several initiatives and product lines aligned with their sustainability mission, such as Mission Zero or the NetWorks Program. In 2015, Interface reduced their carbon footprint per square metre of produced carpet by 98 percent, and water usage by 93 percent, since 1996, all while growing the business. Their European manufacturing facilities operate on 95 percent renewable energy and send zero waste to landfills across Europe.

“A new focus emerged through founder Ray Anderson’s vision, and that was to radically redesign processes and products to actually pioneer new technology and systems to reduce waste and harmful emissions, all the while increasing the use of renewable materials and energy sources” says Matt Hall, Regional Director of Interface Middle East.

Below: Carpets by Interface

Another leading carpet manufacturer, Shaw Contract, has taken significant steps in the same directions. They have been pioneers in the Cradle to Cradle model from a carpet tile perspective, and were the first manufacturer to earn the rigorous Cradle to Cradle certification with their modular carpet, PVC-free EcoWorx, in 1999. The latest Shaw Industries Group 2017 Sustainability Report released in August 2018, notes that almost 90 percent of the products the company manufactured in 2017 were Cradle to Cradle Certified (based on sales volume).

“Our long-term commitment to the Cradle to Cradle philosophy means we are mindful right from the start of the design process of our responsibilities as manufacturers,” says Andrew Jackson, Marketing Director EMEA at Shaw Contract. “And the idea of a circular economy is that we design products from the very beginning to be disassembled and reused as much as possible.”

Given these points, it is clear that when creating a sustainable blueprint for your new design concept, carpets should be given equal consideration along with furniture. The carpet industry has a lot to offer and can score you some major points in well-being standards and green certifications. But first, let’s understand what sustainable flooring is…

Below: Carpets by Shaw Contract

What makes flooring sustainable?

It’s not too different from any other product described as sustainable. Any flooring product produced using sustainable, recyclable, biodegradable materials, or using sustainable manufacturing processes, is a sustainable flooring product. The manufacturing process, raw materials used, and how waste is managed are all important aspects to consider when deciding on flooring options. To paraphrase the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), “Sustainable manufacturing has become the norm, and recent innovations in product development have resulted in flooring products that are even more stain resistant, durable and longer lasting than ever before”.

Interface is a great example. The manufacturer is committed to reducing carbon emissions from their products, which contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment. Plus, they’ve taken a looking beyond carbon emissions from manufacturing, to considering and calculating emissions across the entire product lifecycle. Here are some interesting stats. When you design and spec 1,000 square yards of Interface flooring, you offset the equivalent carbon emissions of nine round trip flights between New York and Paris,” says Matt.

Their unique ReEntry® program looks at end-of-life product take back, recycling, and other disposal methods, and offers assistance to clients to achieve their sustainability goals. As such, all their carpet tiles are guaranteed to be sustainable and responsibly produced.

Earlier this year, Shaw Contract also announced that they had become Carbon Neutral. By improving manufacturing efficiency, switching to cleaner fuels, producing on-site renewable energy, and investing in carbon credits to offset the balance of emissions, they’ve achieved a very high status in this field. The EcoWorx range of products from Shaw Contract is noteworthy in that it uses 40 percent less energy in production than traditional carpet tiles, and along with its Cradle to Cradle certification, it also meets the requirements for Green Label Plus certification, contributes to overall LEED and WELL V2 certifications. Furthermore, the products come with a TakeBack guarantee for free reclamation and recycling.

Below: Carpets by Interface

Wood is another popular and well known product that fits both aesthetic and sustainable goals. If you take a look at the annual sustainability report from the American Hardwood Export Council, you will find that their hardwood is sourced from lands where harvesting has an insignificant impact on the total volume. In fact, due to conservation efforts, the volume of U.S. hardwood growing stock increased from 5.2 billion m3 to 12.0 billion m3, a gain of over 130 percent.


The benefits of sustainable flooring


When you consider the area and quantity of flooring with respect to the size of the space, you will understand how integral it is to your cost and sustainability goals. Investing in sustainable flooring improves your green impact at a considerable scale.

Other major benefits include cost effectiveness, a cleaner environment, and waste reduction. But there are industry specific advantages too, that are particularly helpful. Case in point, the healthcare industry.

Rubber flooring, for example, when produced sustainably, is a natural and durable material. It keeps microbial growth in check by providing an inhospitable environment for germs and bacteria, and thus prevents infections. It also involves a low maintenance regimen, and has no need for waxes or finishes.

Below: Flooring by Shaw Contract

They are several cool and innovative flooring products out there that do the job. Interface’s Visual Code and Drawn Lines belong to its Carbon Neutral Floors Program – a system that helps calculate your floor’s carbon neutral credentials, providing the exact contribution to reducing global warming.

Options beyond carpet tiles include bamboo flooring, which is generally cheaper than hardwood, and made from renewable sources. Another creative option is cork. The product is made from tree bark, through a removal process that does not harm the tree, making it a harmless and sustainable product.

Below: Carpets by Milliken

Your Floor and Your Well-being


The Well Building Standard produced by the International Well Building Institute includes within its assessment criteria certain features that relate directly to flooring choices, such as internally generated noise, sound masking, sound reducing surfaces and impact reducing flooring.

A major player in the flooring industry that scores high on the well-being aspect is Milliken. Their products are crafted in partnership with the Well Living Lab, and are scientifically proven to enhance the health, well-being and performance of people.

Their cushion-backed carpet tiles are scientifically proven to create quiet, comfortable spaces that support sustained focus, concentration and productivity, with a 50 percent increase in noise absorption and a 24 percent reduction in muscle strain under foot as compared to hardback carpet.

Below: Carpets by Milliken

We spoke to Kate Burnett, Marketing Manager, Milliken and a WELL Accredited Professional (AP), “High noise levels have been shown to increase stress levels, which in turn can have a big impact on workers’ overall health and wellness. Cushion backing in flooring not only offers underfoot comfort but also improves acoustics. And Milliken’s open cell cushion is similar to the one used in most athletic shoe insoles.”

A floor that is as almost as comfy as your Nike Airs… now that’s winner.

Speaking of air, indoor air quality has a significant impact on a person’s well-being, and is one of the WELL Building criteria. Kate proudly tells us that Milliken carpets meet the highest standards for IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) Certification. “As a FloorScore® certified product, Milliken LVT meets strict indoor air quality and volatile organic compound (VOC) emission criteria for LEED, BREEAM and other green building certifications,” she says.

It is also crucial to acknowledge that balance and peace of mind play a major role in the overall well-being of a person, and boost performance and creativity. Therefore wellness of mind cannot be ignored as benchmark to be achieved in the interior design of a space.

To that end, Kate talks about Milliken’s people-focused and science-backed products, and processes that holistically approach design and relationships from the ground up. “The unique Millitron® digital printing technology, for example, enables the built environment to be imbued with natural elements through colour, texture and images to create spaces that are scientifically proven to boost the creativity of the people in them by as much as 15 percent.

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Date added:

12 February, 2019

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