BUILDINGS - Smarter Facilities Management


Specifying Sustainable Carpet Tile

From the nylon to the backing, learn how to choose green carpet tile


Tips for Smart Specifying
Specifying carpet based on sustainable principles can be challenging since you can't make an apples-to-apples comparison.

To help with the process, you can consult these outside resources regarding the performance of carpet: NSF 140, the Sustainable Carpet Assessment Standard, Cradle to Cradle certification from McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC), the Carpet and Rug Institute's (CRI) Green Label Plus, and the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED rating system, just to name a few.

Also, while considering different aesthetic options, including color and pattern, try to order carpet "sims" (simulations) instead of samples. High-resolution prints on recycled paper, sims reduce the energy used to create a physical carpet sample and prevent the depletion of natural resources. Contact your carpet vendor or peruse its website for more information.

Facilities professionals and designers who specify sustainable carpet for commercial projects agree that the process begins with knowing the project specifics, including aesthetics, performance, pricing, and code requirements for the building.

After you have selected several viable carpet-tile options, focus on the technical aspects of the yarn, adhesives, and backing. If you think you've picked out the ideal carpet tile for your building, test it against the following questions:

  • Is the tile Nylon 6 or Nylon 6,6? Knowing the difference between your nylon choices is an important aspect of the specification process. Nylon 6,6, or hexamethylene diamine and adipic acid, has a tighter structure than Nylon 6, creating a greater resistance to everyday wear and tear.
  • What kind of texture does it have? The texture of your carpet shouldn't be overlooked. One option is level loop, a loop pile with one pile height, and known for yielding the best performance. It also has hollow filament fiber that's engineered to prevent soil from catching, and it scatters light to reduce the appearance of soil and stains.
  • What is the backing made of? Your carpet tile's backing should have a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content, pre-consumer recycled content, and bio-based content. This reduces the amount of waste going to landfills from individuals and industry, as well as reduces dependence on petroleum by exploring the use of soy and pine resins.

Environmental Concerns
If you're satisfied with your selection based on your answers to these questions, and the carpet's sustainable characteristics, purchase the tiles and prepare for installation. Don't forget, however, to send specific instructions to your contractor about what will happen to your building's existing carpet. If possible, it should be recycled, and the tipping receipts should be filed for the necessary parties. By incorporating the reclamation process into standard specifications, you're helping to keep construction waste from ending up in landfills.

If you're concerned about the side effects of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the adhesive that the contractor uses to adhere the tile to the floor, you can ask him or her to use a non-liquid component that prevents mold and mildew growth, and that's easy to re-adhere.

Work with designers and carpet manufacturers to get the information you need to make an informed decision. If you do your research and specify quality, sustainable carpet tile for your building using these questions as a guideline, you can take pride in knowing that you've played your part in a long life-cycle in which the carpet will be used and reused into the future.

Jennifer Hirsch is a designer at New York City-based TSC Design Associates Inc..


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