Sustainable Foundation: Environmentally Friendly Flooring Materials

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Sustainable flooring can be the foundation for environmentally responsible practices at a health facility. "We really think about the sustainable aspects of our products," says Amy A. Costello, PE, LEED AP, sustainability manager, commercial flooring, Armstrong World Industries Inc. (www.armstrong.com), Lancaster, Pa. The company's linoleum flooring is composed of the same natural ingredients the firm used in the early 1900s, including linseed oil, wood powder and jute backing. The product is 100 percent bio-based, with 35 percent pre-consumer recycled content and 36 percent rapidly renewable raw materials. Armstrong also manufactures bio-based tile; the Striations line is made from 85 percent limestone, 10 percent pre-consumer recycled content and bio-based binder.

The company's commercial floors and adhesives are certified for emitting low volatile organic compounds by SCS Global Services, Emeryville, Calif., through the FloorScore indoor air-quality certification program. Environmental product declarations (EPDs), third-party assessments of the environmental impact of a product over its life cycle, are included on the Armstrong website.

The company operates a national reclamation program for vinyl composite tile (VCT) flooring. Armstrong provides the freight to collect its own or other qualifying manufacturers' VCT products, with or without adhesive, and recycles the material into new VCT. A benefits calculator on the Armstrong website can help to determine the carbon and cost savings for a particular reclamation project, based on landfill avoidance, reuse of materials, labor expenses and landfill, dumpster and pallet fees.

Strong and sustainable

Marmoleum sheet and tile linoleum products, by Forbo Flooring Systems (www.forboflooringna.com), Hazleton, Pa., are naturally antistatic, naturally antimicrobial and 100 percent bio-based. According to Denis Darragh, general manager, Forbo North America, the company even works on environmentally responsible agricultural initiatives with farmers who supply materials for its flooring.

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Marmoleum products can be cleaned with a dust mop or damp mop and neutral detergent, and the Topshield 2 occupancy-ready finish can be renewed to its original appearance after years of heavy health care use. "You can renew it; you don't have to replace it," explains Darragh, noting that durability is essential to sustainability. The renewable finish can extend the flooring's service life to 30 years, Darragh says. The company also offers a floor base that includes no lead or heavy metals and passes strict indoor air-quality standards.

The Forbo North America website provides access to a number of environmental resources, including EPDs with ecotoxicity and human health impact information for all Forbo products. Full transparency in this area is important to the company because "health is part of the sustainability discussion," Darragh says. The company and its products have met the standards to earn environmental quality labels from the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Austria, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

With North American headquarters in Salem, N.H., nora systems Inc. (www.nora.com/us) develops, produces and markets resilient rubber floors. The company has earned Germany's Blue Angel environmental label for its products' carcinogenic-free content and emissions. The flooring also has achieved Greenguard Gold certification from UL Environment, a business unit of Underwriters Laboratories, Northbrook, Ill., that identifies interior products that have low chemical emissions. Greenguard Gold certification demonstrates that the flooring meets the strictest indoor air-quality standards for sensitive people, like children and the elderly, explains Carol Fudge, LEED AP, marketing research specialist, nora.

The natural and synthetic rubber used to manufacture nora floors is purchased from suppliers who are certified by the International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, to meet environmental and quality management standards (ISO 14001 and 9001). …