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Flooring environmental credentials G#12660

By 13 August 2016June 12th, 2019Blog, Conversation

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Flooring Environmental Credentials

Flooring Environmental Credentials
About:


Alan Best (AB)

  • “Brian you are a senior architect and specifier who is very active in the field of green construction and education so presumably you are key target for EcoBuild exhibitors.
  • How do you think that the architect and procurement community perceives the value of the EcoBuild Exhibition?”

Brian Murphy( BM)

  • “Well EcoBuild was a totally eco event which has become more commercialised
  • It is now really an eco show alongside two others.
  • It is, in effect, Interbuild without the Tonka Toys.
  • As it is now the only show in town companies just have to be there and the main requirement is for them to present a sustainability story.
  • Most companies simply seem to enhance their existing promotional materials with some eco spin.
  • Many stories do not have credible endorsements and do not stand up to scientific scrutiny.
  • They are in reality green washing and the architect community has become generally skeptical of eco claims as a result.
  • This is unfair to those companies who are making real strides in the right direction and occasionally there are some interesting new products.
  • However you have to be pretty flexible in your definition of the term ‘Eco’ to find 10 new ‘standout products’ each year.
  • I feel that the floor layout concentrates on conventional building and discourages visits to the more innovative technology stands.
  • I expressed these concerns to the floor manager so I will be interested to see if and how things change.

AB

  • “What do you look for when specifying a flooring product and how much flexibility does a specifier actually have when price is normally a key issue?”

BM

  • Flooring is a finish and as such usually falls outside of ‘competent construction’ priorities.
  • Flooring however has the potential to affect the performance of the external envelop and to modify the thermal mass and Indoor Air Quality.
  • I look firstly for the necessary properties to achieve competent construction.
  • I am at the same time concerned to create healthy buildings.
  • I therefore check for any toxic content.
  • I look for recycled content end of life take back schemes for recycling.
  • I prefer the use of natural raw materials and innovative materials such as bio yarns and starch based adhesives.
  • However I would really like to see EPD’s so that we can compare all of the impacts of products whether natural or synthetic.
  • We need to understand all of the impacts from cradle to grave and to develop a common language in order to discuss them.
  • I am keen to see more use of voluntary eco labels
  • We are governed by cost planning and value engineering which are only posh words for cost cutting wherever possible.
  • So even if I specify a particular product there is something like a one in three chance that somebody in the chain will substitute it for a cheaper alternative. 

AB

  • You mention that you try to ensure that there is evidence that products have no toxic content.
  • How do you do this?

BM

  • With difficulty.
  • Manufacturers constantly invent new chemical concoctions to reduce costs and maintain performance.
  • Safety Data Sheets are often vague or inaccurate with regard to chemical content.
  • This falls under the REACH Regulations which should improve things greatly if they don’t get watered down.
  • This will take a few years to come fully into force.
  • EPD’s will help but they too are a little weak on toxicity.
  • I learn most from my work with experts in the field of Life Cycle Assessment.
  • I also look to REACH listings of Substances of Very High Concern and also to other lists such as the SIN list for chemicals that may be withdrawn in time.
  • There are a fair few that appear in flooring and textile products.

AB

  • “What do you think are the key things for flooring companies to be focusing on to help architects differentiate green from not so green products?” 

BM

  • Well I think that they should produce EPD,s sooner rather than later.
  • They should rein in the marketing people a little so that eco claims are more considered.
  • I would encourage those with genuine green claims to adopt eco labels more.
  • These are more common in Europe and are of considerable help in supporting a manufacturer’s eco claims.
  • Companies should actively adopt hazardous chemicals management policies so that they are ahead of REACH and pro actively substituting chemicals of concern.
  • This is in their commercial interest as well as the end user’s.
  • I predict that eventually low carbon material choices will become a priority and, as a result, renewable tree and plant based materials will become more popular.

AB

  • “How important is recycled content/recyclability in your Resource Efficiency considerations?”

BM

  • Manufacturers used to shy away from proclaiming recycled content for fear that products would be labeled ‘inferior.’
  • These days recycled content is seen as desirable.
  • We do need to understand more about the environmental impacts of recycling and even substitution with natural content before we may fully judge the benefits.
  • Some recycling can be expensive and chemically and energy intensive and may generate toxic waste and emissions
  • For example recycled synthetic content, or even natural content, may require a synthetic binder such as formaldehyde to make it perform e.g. chipboard which can raise VOC and indoor air quality issues
  • Sustainable and efficient use of resources is a much more than recycling alone.
  • Most designers are reliant upon knowledge gained up to 30 years ago’ when resource efficiency was not even on the syllabus.
  • We need to consider avoidance of waste through design and design for disassembly and recycling.
  • Cradle to cradle design and the principles of green engineering provide excellent templates which are being picked up gradually by industry.

AB

  • As you say flooring installations create a variety of waste and I know that you are an advocate of Site Waste Management Planning (SWMP).
  • How widely are these being used in construction generally and have there been improvements as a result?”

BM

  • Well the creation of 109 million tones/annum of construction waste seems relentless and such regulations as there are do not seem to be helping.
  • There is little in the way of education on Site Waste Management Plans (SWMP) for architects through RIBA and no national Interior Design syllabus covering the topic.
  • Until this situation improves the status quo is likely to continue.
  • On the positive side the Code for Sustainable Homes is helping to drive SWMP but alas BREEAM tends to leave this to regulations to control which is simply not happening.
  • The industry is made up of small businesses and the threshold for SWMP take up was set too high for most of them at £200k to £300k
  • The flooring industry has a big contribution to make in this area and I hope to be working with architects and flooring contractors to assist them in their efforts.
  • For example I have developed a tool which I have named WasteCost®Floor that calculates predictable flooring waste and generates reports for designers.
  • It is important that this becomes a design consideration as by the time the flooring contractor sees a specification there is little they can do to minimize waste.

Brian Murphy is an architect by training, specifier and lecturer specialising in green construction

https://greenbuildingencyclopaedia.uk

Alan Best is a Sustainability Consultant who specialises in Environmental Certification, substitution of hazardous chemicals and waste reduction. Alan represents Shaw Industries Inc on the Flooring Sustainability Partnership and other international bodies.

http://www.alanbestsustainability.com 

First published in Contract Flooring Journal 2013


© GBE NGS ASWS BrianMurphy
aka BrianSpecMan & Alan Best
2nd January 2013 – 13th August 2016

Flooring Environmental Credentials
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© GBE NGS ASWS BrianMurphy
aka BrianSpecMan
13th August 2016

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