Carpet Performance and Life-Cycle Assessment

Jan. 9, 2006
Evaluate carpet based upon its intended use and how long you want it to last

When selecting a carpet, it’s easy to get wrapped up in certain features of the product (What does it cost? Is it the color I want? Does it contain recycled content?) rather than basing a decision on performance, says Marc Ahrens, Antron® market segment manager at Kennesaw, GA-based INVISTA Inc. Instead, facilities professionals should go into the specification process and evaluate finishes based upon the intended use of the product (type of business, high vs. minimal traffic), as well as how long they want the carpet to last.

“Unfortunately, carpet is one of the last things installed, so a lot of times it’s the last thing that gets value-engineered,” he explains. “Then, 2 or 3 years in the process, [facilities managers] are disappointed with the performance of their carpet because they made a decision based on budget - not performance - at the outset. At that point, replacement usually comes out of an operations budget, which is significantly smaller than the new construction budget.”

How to avoid this dilemma? “Total Cost of Ownership (TCO),” says Ahrens, noting that TCO is not a new concept - life-cycle has been discussed and debated for years - but one that the industry is taking in new directions.

Sustainability, for instance.

In evaluating carpet fiber for Environmentally Preferable Products (EPP) certification, the third-party organization SCS (Scientific Certification Systems) considers product performance (texture retention, stain and UV resistance, etc.); manufacturing, health/safety in the environment, and green energy (air emissions, as well as water and energy use, etc.); and end-of-life responsibility. Here, TCO encompasses initial cost, durability, and maintainability of a product, along with its manufacture and disposal options.

An appreciation of what constitutes maintainability is another. “Regular maintenance schedules - daily vacuuming tops the list, along with an ongoing frequency of hot-water extraction - are going to help,” says Ahrens. “If you are not going to maintain your carpet, let the carpet work for you.” Considerations might include fiber type and carpet construction, as well as treatments that repel soil. Additionally, color and pattern can help hide stains and wear patterns in certain applications.

But is measuring performance a matter of perception? Yes and no, says Ahrens. “There is an ‘acceptable appearance index’ published by [Dalton, GA-based] Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) that can offer a more standardized evaluation. There are, however, intangibles as well. What do you measure within your facility in terms of productivity, energy use, and downtime? When do you replace your carpet - after-hours or during the workday? What kind of facility do you have? If it’s a 24/7 operation, do you need to shift people for scheduled carpet maintenance and/or replacement?”

Ahrens notes that Antron® now offers facilities professionals a “toolbox” in which two similar commercial carpets and their expected soil performance can be compared using aesthetics, construction, and fiber characteristics as a guideline. The model also offers predicted maintenance savings based on the number of foot traffics and the cost of cleaning. Access the TCO Calculator at (

Linda K. Monroe ([email protected]) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.

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