Going green may mean different things to different people. Here are some key points in product choices that may help you make an informed decision on using “green” products.
One factor to consider in your green flooring choice is the thickness of the wear layer. Engineered floors generally have a plywood substrate with a layer of oak (or other species) on top. The thickness of the top layer is what you have to sand. On engineered floors if you buy a product with a thin top wear layer – you may never be able to sand your floor, if needed, in the future. If the floor is not properly cared for or damage occurs, you may not have any choice but to dispose of your floor. We do not under most circumstances consider these floors to be a green choice. A good quality wood floor will last a lifetime – or more.
Another factor to consider in your green flooring choice is the finish. We use Bona Kemi water based finishes where applicable. You can find these on their website at www.bona.com to see various products that are offered and their voc (volatile organiccompound) levels.
Types of Green Flooring
Sustainability is a key consideration, and there is increasing demand for products that can help clients earn points for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a third-party green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council that is the most widely accepted building certification. It is most prevalent for commercial projects but also has programs for residential buildings, renovations, and other types of projects as well. (For more on LEED, visit www.usgbc.org).
The safest option is to purchase certified flooring. Currently, the only certification that qualifies for LEED points is FSC (Forest Stewardship Procurement Program (RPP) to recognize companies that practice responsible forest management and are working toward offering GSC – certified products. Other flooring certifications include SFI (Sustainable Forest Initiative), CSA (Canadian Standards Association) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification). If certified flooring isn’t an option, the next safest bet is to buy domestic products, the vast majority of which come from sustainably managed forests.
Reusing wood materials from old buildings and sunken logs is one the most sustainable practices. Reclaimed flooring also qualifies for LEED points.
Local products minimize transportation costs and resources and, depending on the distance, may qualify for LEED points.
Because cork is harvested from the bark of the cork tree without killing the tree – the bark regenerates and can be harvested repeatedly – cork flooring has an impeccable sustainability story.
Bamboo is considered green because it is highly renewable: it can be harvested every five to six years. However, there is controversy about the green aspect of bamboo because of the use of formaldehyde in some bamboo products and the carbon footprint of transporting the flooring from Asia. When selecting bamboo for clients who want a green floor, make sure that it is a high-quality product from a reputable manufacturer and that is free of any added formaldehyde. Depending on your location, it may require less energy to import bamboo rather than wood from a domestic manufacturer. Bamboo flooring qualifies for LEED points because it fits the LEED definition of “rapidly renewable.”