Certification Spotlight – FloorScore

01/29/2016 | By Jennie Morton

Verify that resilient flooring won’t emit harmful VOCs

Floorscore certification

Whether your facility has linoleum, vinyl, rubber, laminated or cork floors, you want to feel confident that these materials aren’t diminishing air quality. Take the guesswork out of product declarations by looking for resilient flooring that carries FloorScore certification. This label ensures that 35 volatile compounds meet acceptable limits for indoor environments.

A Healthier Workplace
You already know the drill – volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have the potential to cause a host of health problems. Considering that occupants spend over 2,000 hours a year in your building, that’s 124,800 minutes they could be exposed to potentially harmful substances. Resilient flooring, while mostly comprised of sustainable and inert materials, could nonetheless be a source of VOCs. Given how much square footage this type of product can cover in a facility, it makes sense to pay attention to its chemical profile.

FloorScore is a third-party certification that was developed by the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) and released in 2005. Products are independently tested by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), the same body that oversees the Forest Stewardship Council and BIFMA level programs, Non-GMO Project Verified and Fair Trade certifications for food products, and several NSF/ANSI sustainability standards.

FloorScore is built on California Section 01350, which outlines indoor air quality requirements. The framework ensures that 35 organic compounds that could be hazardous to humans do not exceed acceptable limits, which range from familiar names such as formaldehyde and chloroform to multisyllabic chemicals such as tetrachloroethylene. These ingredients can be anything from mild respiratory irritants to worrisome carcinogens.

“FloorScore uses a health-based approach that puts limits on individual chemicals rather than total VOC concentrations,” explains Bill Freeman, RFCI Technical Consultant. “When only TVOCs are measured, a product’s entire composition may seem satisfactory even if it still contains unsafe elements. It makes more sense to look at single chemicals when reducing health risks for occupants.”

“FloorScore really looks at the use stage of a product once it’s placed inside a building,” adds Amy Costello, Sustainability Manager for Armstrong World Industries. “The standard also goes beyond California’s requirement or lifecycle assessments – it also includes an on-site visit to look at the bill of materials, product quality, plant audits and manufacturing processes.”

Note that having a product emissions report from an independent lab is different than third-party certification. The additional scrutiny by SCS ensures that VOC claims are accurate and meet FloorScore’s requirements, Freeman notes. Products are also tested in a simulated office or classroom for concentration levels. This method takes into account ventilation rates as schools and corporate settings have different air exchange needs.

Why Should You Care?
As more states and municipalities adopt air quality standards, it’s wise to nip IAQ problems in the bud before they bloom into sick building syndrome. In fact, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that 16% of IAQ problems are attributed to contamination from inside a building, building fabric is responsible for another 4%, and unknown sources account for 13%. The best approach is to prevent products that emit high VOCs from entering your facility in the first place.

“There’s so much evidence that shows the negative impacts of sick building syndrome, from decreased employee productivity to diminished occupant health,” says Freeman.

“According to the EPA, indoor air pollutants can be two to five times greater than those outdoors. With Americans spending approximately 90% of their time inside – including 40 to 50 hours a week at work – it’s critical that we focus on creating building materials that improve indoor air quality,” adds Philip Ivey, Strategic Sustainability Leader for Milliken’s Global Floor Covering Division. “Building owners and facility managers have the power to improve this air quality statistic for their associates. Selecting flooring that bears the FloorScore logo means that you are specifying a product that will improve instead of hinder the overall quality of your facilities.”

Certified products will also help you earn points or credits when striving for an environmental rating. The program is recognized by LEED, CHPS, ASHRAE Standard 189.1, EPA Tools for Schools and the Green Guide for Health Care.

Unlike other ecolabels, FloorScore also requires annual recertification, says Freeman. Facility managers can be confident that a product’s low VOC status is continuously verified.

Jennie Morton jennie.morton@buildings.com is Senior Editor of BUILDINGS.

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