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Resilient: Environmental update, NSF 332 in early implementation with mills ready to follow

The philosopher Aristotle once said, “If one way be better than another, that you may be sure it is nature’s way.” A widespread embrace of sustainability initiatives brought the resilient flooring industry to a realization that nature’s way is the best, and the market was flooded with third-party certification programs proving so. Simplifying that process is the ANSI standard NSF 332, in its early stages of implementation.

“Architects, design firms are in a state of confusion because of the influx of all these green labels,” said Dean Thompson, president of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute. “ANSI/NSF 332 brings clarity to this issue and will allow specifiers and purchasers to make better decisions when selecting resilient flooring.”

Using a point based system, there are four levels to which manufacturers can comply; Conformant, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Products are evaluated by five key points:

• Product design

• Product manufacturing

• Long-term value

•Corporate governance, and

• Innovation.

Companies are beginning the processes of compliance and Thompson expects the majority of sizable strides to come at the end of this year or the start of 2012. “We have also designed a continuing education unit (CEU) to be launched in the Architectural Record in conjunction with Greenbuild.”

Major mills like Armstrong, Mannington and Congoleum are working on product and facility conformance to the new standard. “Armstrong was involved in the development of NSF 332 and green standards such as this can help provide a baseline performance level for ‘environmentally preferable products,’” said Christian Kuswita, product manager, Armstrong Commercial Flooring. “The standard provides a guide to look at not only the product, but the manufacturing process and company practices and we are in the process of evaluating the standard closely and evaluating our products versus the standard.”

Kuswita stressed the definition of “environmental” differs from end user to end user. Among the range of products in Armstrong’s portfolio, “Some are low maintenance; many have long life cycles; some contain rapidly renewable ingredients, and all Armstrong resilient products are independently certified for low VOC emissions.” The challenge will lie in applying a consistent classification process across a diverse range of green attributes.

Mannington Mills was the first company to achieve NSF 332 certification in sheet and tile under the draft stage. “Part of the reason we pursued this in particular is because it’s not actually a regulation, but a consensus-based standard,” said Dave Kitts, vice president, Environment. Pursuit was driven by the fact that NSF 332 is voluntary—“We did it because we want to, not because we have to”—and consensus-based, keeping it from being something pushed by a particular group or something that is more agenda-based.

“332 helps better define the broad approach to environmental and social improvement,” Kitts continued. “It also helps us more keenly focus on topics that are important to our customers and the market at large.”

Congoleum is also in the process of certifying products under NSF 332 and anticipates completion in the next few months. “We will have changed some aspects of how we do business internally from an operational and policy standpoint,” said Dennis Jarosz, vice president of sales and marketing. He said the company is also working on availability of recycled content. “Our tile products are easily recycled but not easily returned to the plant. In fact, the environmental impact of transportation of the tile to be recycled may be far more detrimental than the benefit of recycling it.”

It is still early in the game however. Some companies like CBC are monitoring how the guidelines take effect over time. “Generally speaking, we source products and challenge our existing suppliers to keep ahead of the curve technologically,” said Chip Braulick, senior marketing manager, CBC Flooring America. “Sustainable and meaningful environmental stewardship is a core of how we manage our product lines.”

Companies have been focused on environmental initiatives beyond NSF 332 though. RFCI supplied FCNews with a rundown of the latest green efforts from a handful of manufacturers.

Amtico International. The recent revamp of its Amtico and Spacia brands brought a total of 231 products to market with FloorScore certification and LEED point eligibility. Furthermore, the company’s domestic manufacturing facilities are ISO 14001 and 9001 certified and have committed to a sustainability program that has cut landfill waste by 18%, reduced electrical use for lighting by 50% and redesigned line processes to cut 30% of process cooling requirements.

Johnsonite. The mill’s ReStart recycling and reclamation program is in full swing and recycled 35 million pounds of post-consumer flooring materials in North America in 2010, including VCT, rubber, vinyl, linoleum sheet and tile, wall base, floor finishing accessories and tread-cuttings.

Texas Carpet Recycling and Corporate Floors in Grapevine, Texas is the central collection point for the program in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. “Now, we can offer the first large-scale recycling program for VCT flooring,” said Thomas Holland, president. “There has been a real market need as VCT flooring usually weighs more than carpet, so it has potential for more LEED points.”

Mannington. It recently received an Engineering Excellence Distinction Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies for a remedial and wetland restoration project that resulted in improved tidal shoreline, wet- lands, and natural habitat with native vegetation. Mannington VCT, Progressions, won a 2010 Green Good Design award from the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and De- sign and the European Centre for Architecture, Art Design, and Urban Studies.

Roppe. The recently introduced Northern Timbers vinyl wood plank contains 20% pre- consumer waste and 30% post-consumer waste, in both glue down and loose lay installation options.

Tarkett. Its Azrock collection of 1⁄8-inch VCT has been certified to the Gold level in NSF 332. It is also FloorScore certified and includes pre- and post-consumer recycled content of 20% to 30%.

IVC U.S. The new plant in Dalton features 452 solar panels, offsetting approximately 2,000 tons of CO2 during its 25- year life. A Monsanto-type air filter recovers volatile plasticizer and thinner from waster air, producing close to zero VOCs, and water-based inks are used and recycled and a closed loop water cycles water throughout production.

-Emily Hooper