12/01/2010

Cork Is No Longer a Quirky Choice

After being replaced with other resilient flooring options, cork flooring is resilient once again

By Kylie Wroblaski

 
Cork Is No Longer a Quirky Choice

Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree, which can be safely taken every nine years. Most cork flooring material is made up of remnants from the bottle stopper industry, which further enhances its sustainability.
MAIN PHOTO COURTESY OF RON POLLARD, COURTESY OF RNL

Cork flooring is making a comeback. Once prominent in the early 1900s, its popularity waned as it was replaced with sheet vinyl and linoleum. However, due to its sustainability and competitive pricing, cork is once again becoming a popular choice.

"Historically, cork has been used in courtrooms, museums, art galleries, libraries, restaurants, and a variety of commercial and residential spaces," explains Christopher Capobianco, president of Christopher Collaborative Inc. "Today, the uses are even more widespread than that – corporate offices, schools, and beyond."

Cork flooring isn’t made up of highly technical chemical compounds, but instead of the bark of the cork oak tree, native to the Mediterranean. The bark can be safely harvested from the tree every nine years without damaging the tree.

Adding to the sustainability factor is that most of the cork in cork flooring is reclaimed. "Cork flooring is typically made from the reclaimed waste of bottle stopper manufacturing," explains Patty Thwaites, LEED AP Interior Designer for RNL, a multi-disciplined architecture, interior design, and engineering firm. "Because cork flooring is typically made from recycled post-industrial material, this is a fantastic example of ‘up-cycling.’"

Comfort and Insulation Benefits
In addition to sustainability, cork flooring provides comfort and insulation benefits. According to Capobianco, this is due to cork’s unique cellular structure, which is composed of at least 50% air.

"The use of cork flooring provides comfort and reduces stress on the body because the material is very resilient and warm," explains Thwaites. "It has excellent acoustical properties, absorbing sound within rooms and reducing sound transfer."

Cork flooring can also benefit a space’s indoor air quality. "It is an excellent choice for indoor environmental quality because it is low-emitting (no VOCs) and naturally hypo-allergenic, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal," she says.

Caring for Cork
"Although classified as resilient flooring, cork floors are a lot like wood floors when it comes to handling, installation, and finishing," says Capobianco. "So, like other natural materials, they should not be used where there will be a lot of water or sunlight."

While it has antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties, excessive moisture and harsh cleaning materials will deteriorate the material. "Like any floor, a good matting program will keep dirt off the floor, proper protection of furniture and chairs will prevent damage, and protection from sunlight will prevent fading," advises Capobianco. "Regular sweeping and damp mopping keeps the surface from wearing or scratching. Do not use a lot of water."

Price and Durability
In terms of price and durability, cork flooring is comparable to wood flooring and other resilient flooring options. "Cork is extremely durable when properly maintained," Thwaites says. "There are several examples of installations over 50 years old that are still in beautiful condition – the Library of Congress, U.S. Department of Commerce Building in Washington, DC, St. Mary of the Lake Chapel near Chicago, and Lafayette College in Easton, PA; there is a range in price, but like many things, you get what you pay for."

Cork flooring can also add a unique design element to a space, as it has a unique aesthetic and is available in multiple patterns and colors. Like linoleum, vinyl, and other resilient flooring materials, it can be installed with decorative inlays.

Assuming your budget will allow for cork, it can be a viable – or better – alternative to wood or other resilient flooring.

"For buildings where sustainability, comfort, acoustics, and indoor air quality are design priorities, cork is a good choice," says Thwaites. "But you must be willing to commit to proper care and maintenance to achieve long-term durability."

Kylie Wroblaski (kylie.wroblaski@buildings.com) is associate editor of BUILDINGS.

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Need portable cooling?

Rent or buy spot coolers from full-service locations nationwide. On call “24/7”. Primary, supplemental or emergency cooling. Atlas Sales & Rentals, Inc., or call (800) 972-6600.

Click here for more info


Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

Yaskawa drives offer quality performance for air handlers and cooling towers on the roof to secondary chilled water pumps in the basement

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.


 
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