Manufacturers of internal flooring are under increasing pressure. Recyclability, sustainable sourcing, wholelife costs, anti-allergy, low maintenance - these are just some of the criteria modern flooring materials must meet to appeal to the green-minded specifier. And manufacturers are keen to impress. For instance, Interface continues its quest for a 'zero footprint on the environment' - even offsetting fuel emissions by planting trees in a 'Trees for Travel' scheme.
London studio Architype is one practice at the forefront of sustainable building. Its materials palette is required to meet a rigorous environmental agenda and, according to associate Catherine Harrington, 'greening' your floor is simple and inexpensive: 'There's no excuse, ' she says.
Architype gives AJ Specification a simple guide and case studies of its latest projects that use sustainable flooring materials.
specify floor materials that:
are constituted from natural materials such as clay tiles, cork or linoleum (check material composition in detail);
consist of recycled materials, such as recycled rubber (Ecoplan by Freudenberg or Flextuft by Flexco, for example) or reused timber flooring;
are timber finishes that are certified as being sourced from managed sources, such as FSC or PEFC; and - can be repaired easily and can be recycled through reuse (some flooring companies will take material back to recycle).
consider using finishes that are locally produced and investigate means of transport to site for those that are not;
consider the environmental performance of the whole floor system - and of its entire lifespan - from its material production to its replacement - keep updated - environmental criteria for building materials are always changing;
investigate the entire composition of the floor material and request information on the company's environmental policies;
look at 'The Chemical Home' and 'Consuming Chemicals' on the Greenpeace website; and - make sure there is no PVC in the composition.
specify flooring that:
has a plywood sub-base or plywood backing that is not from certified sources;
contains PVC of any sort, or other synthetic materials that are heavily polluting in their manufacture;
could trigger allergies or is difficult to clean thoroughly;
contains substances that off-gas into the atmosphere during their lifespans;
requires applied synthetic treatment like polyurethane, that need continuous applications during the building's lifespan;
requires chemical cleaning agents as part of the floor's regular maintenance; and
consists of fixed carpet in spaces used by children (due to allergies and problems with cleaning).
Catherine Harrington is an associate with Architype