Which Is the Right Flooring Certification for You?

12/01/2013 | By Christopher Curtland

Choose between single- and multi-attribute programs

Flooring certifications got you floored? It’s understandable. There are many flooring certifications and they cover everything from cork to carpet tile and rubber to rugs. But you don’t have to sweep your sustainability efforts under there.

“Learning how to identify sustainable flooring products has become easier with tools like third-party environmental certifications at your disposal,” says Chris Youssef, associate interior designer with design firm Perkins+Will. “The key is to educate yourself on which attributes meet the chosen goals and priorities, and then finding a credible designation with those products certified under it.”

Standards and certifications verify that salespeople aren’t lying like rugs about their green claims. And although the sheer number flooring certifications is daunting, they should be a significant part of your decision process.

“You’ve got to weave sustainability certifications into the aesthetic and price point considerations. It’s a complex buy, and going green has certainly made it tougher to weigh all these decisions,” explains Dave Kitts, vice president – environment at flooring manufacturer Mannington. “You’ve got to be informed.”

The learning curve may seem steep, but this guide will make your journey a little less bumpy. Use the following information to roll out a red carpet for flooring certifications.

Single-Attribute Standards
Early designations focused specifically on one aspect of sustainability such as VOC emissions or recycled content.

“When going green was new and fresh, it was all about indoor air quality characteristics from a product perspective,” Kitts says. “Fifteen or more years ago, the perception was that carpet and flooring were unhealthy because of their production, adhesion, and maintenance.”

From a building owner and facility manager standpoint, single-attribute certifications had the most significant impact and made the most sense to pursue.

“Thinking about occupant health and productivity, VOCs are normally the first issue that specifiers and owners are concerned about,” explains Bill Freeman, consultant to the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI). “Emissions can be harmful and disruptive.”

In the early 2000s, California set the standard on acceptable total VOCs in a product, and many early sustainability certifications adopted the benchmark set forth in CA 01350.

The FloorScore program implemented California’s stringent emissions requirements for resilient flooring products and was developed by RFCI and Underwriter Laboratories (UL) Environmental. Green Label Plus, from the Carpet and Rug Institute, applied the standard’s baseline for textile flooring. GREENGUARD uses even stricter requirements because it focuses predominantly on education, healthcare, and areas where children are often present. For a crash course on these and other certifications, see the table.

“Indoor air is a very important part of what we do because we deal with finishes,” says Diane Martel, vice president of environmental planning and strategy for manufacturer Tarkett North America. “We want to provide people-friendly spaces.”

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