Rubber flooring has been a floorcovering of choice in commercial, educational, institutional, and government facilities where longevity, slip resistance, and resilience are important to occupant comfort and safety. Today, the number and variety of facilities featuring rubber floorcoverings are growing since architects and designers are responding to the exciting new colors and patterns, and facility managers and building owners are exploring new opportunities (and, in some cases, requirements) to incorporate environmentally friendly products into their buildings. Rubber flooring has gained popularity because its attractive designs and patterns are compatible with today’s architectural trends without sacrificing performance, sustainability, or cost. More importantly, rubber flooring is durable, contributes to improved indoor air quality (IAQ), and is environmentally friendly.
The durability and long life-cycle (30 years is typical) of rubber floorcoverings appeal to those who seek green-building status, reducing the need for frequent removal and disposal, and conserving natural resources in the process (in terms of both the flooring products themselves and the adhesives required to install them).
When it’s time to remove and discard rubber flooring, recycling is an option. Specialty firms recycle granulated rubber floorcoverings for use as landing mats, industrial or stable mats, and coverings for sports arenas. Old rubber floorcoverings can also be used in thermal recycling, serving as a substitute fuel for gas or oil in thermal stations where the energy contained in the combustible material is recovered. The disposal of cuttings and old floorcoverings is an important part of energy recovery in the cement industry through thermal recycling. Because of their advantageous composition, the fillers remain in the cement clinker.
However, when recycling is not an option, rubber flooring can be disposed of easily in landfills according to local, state, and federal regulations and policies. The absence of polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs) in some rubber-flooring products ensures that no harmful plasticizers, halogens, or dioxins will seep into the groundwater. The absence of PVCs provides other advantages as well, including the guarantee that no hydrochloric gas is produced in the event of fire and no corrosive hydrochloric acid results from contact with the water used to extinguish the fire. In addition, no toxic halogenated dioxins and furans are produced. Many of the environmental features that make rubber flooring an attractive choice also contribute to LEED points.
The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration; and the Switzerland-based World Health Organization all provide even greater insight and make recommendations regarding the impact of floorcoverings on IAQ.
Considering the environmental benefits, along with rubber flooring’s durability, IAQ friendliness, and other characteristics, rubber becomes an attractive floorcovering solution.
Carol Fudge is marketing manager at Lawrence, MA-based Freudenberg Building Systems Inc., manufacturer of nora® Rubber Flooring (www.norarubber.com).