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Fuse Alliance: Growing stronger every day

By Reginald Tucker

 

New Orleans—Rising contractor membership numbers, a steady uptick in vendor partners, a respectable surge in buying power and, more importantly, a growing influence on the specification of a variety of commercial flooring products and services. These are some of the accomplishments Fuse Alliance leadership shared with attendees at the group’s recent annual conference here earlier this month.

“This is the biggest group we’ve ever had,” said Geoff Gordon, executive director of Fuse Alliance, a member-owned organization of professional commercial flooring contractors, during his opening address to the 300-some-odd members in attendance. “More importantly, this is the most content we’ve ever offered for our annual meeting.”

In keeping with this year’s conference theme, “Never Miss a Beat,” the event was designed to transition seamlessly from last year’s meeting—which focused mostly on the subject of commercial design—to the 2018 conference, which was all about matters dealing with facilities and job-site issues. “In any organization you always want to have momentum,” Gordon said, referring back to the conference theme. “We’re trying to elevate our status in the industry.”

The numbers reflect that objective. Fuse Alliance management reports the group has grown to 99 members representing 150 locations. In terms of scale, members generate approximately $1.7 billion in sales today, which equates to about $1 billion in materials purchasing power, according to Gordon. The organization has also boosted its vendor lineup, adding 15 new suppliers in the last year alone. In addition, this year’s meeting welcomed nine new contractor members.

“Suppliers like to see growth, and we have definitely seen a surge in interest from vendors who said they would like to be more active with the group,” Gordon noted. “Furthermore, member sales are up 9%, while the industry at large is up 3%. That’s significant.”

Fuse Alliance members like Cleveland-based D&R Carpet Services is participating in the economic rebound. Daniel Schrickel, who handles sales for the company, is seeing a commercial renaissance of sorts, with particularly strong activity in the restaurant, hospitality and education sectors. “There’s a lot of rebuilding in our market,” he said.

Farther south, in Charlotte, N.C., commercial flooring contractors like Garmon & Co. are also experiencing growth, Scott Garmon, president, reports. The company—which provides a broad range of servicing ranging from product specification and consulting all the way through installation, certified reclamation and project management—has seen an uptick in activity amongst the key market segments it serves, especially corporate, restaurant/retail, financial and senior living facilities.

The economic outlook for some Fuse Alliance members is such that it is creating an environment that encourages reinvestment in the business. Such is the case for Lakeside, Calif.-based Christian Brothers Flooring & Interiors. “We see an opportunity to build a maintenance division that will strengthen our offering to our clients,” said Brian Boek, vice president of sales and marketing. The company has also renewed its commitment to integrate new technologies to streamline aspects of the business.

Common challenges
Despite their respective successes and achievements, Fuse Alliance members are not immune to the challenges and issues facing the commercial flooring sector. During a special roundtable-style breakout session on opening day, attendees were asked to split up into smaller splinter groups for the purpose of identifying common concerns and coming up with potential solutions. Among the most common problems/issues identified:

Robert Varden

Dearth of installers. Finding qualified labor continues to be an issue for the industry at large for residential dealers and commercial flooring contractors alike. The problem, industry observers say, boils down to a lack of new installers coming into the industry to replace an aging workforce. “For commercial installers, the average age is over 50—and there are thousands of them,” Gordon said. “It’s a problem that’s going to increase before it decreases.

For its part, Fuse Alliance is working closely with The Certified Floor Covering Installers Association (now a division of the WFCA) on ways to recruit, train and retain floor layers. The group is also teaming up with what some consider a rival organization (the larger, more formidable Starnet Flooring Cooperative) in the development of a joint task force to address this perennial issue as well as other challenges facing the contractor commercial industry.

In the interim, CFI vice president, Robert Varden, offered attendees some suggestions on what the industry can do to address the installation issue while providing an update on what his association is working on to tackle the problem. As for the former, Varden sees recruitment opportunities in various initiative such as hosting job fairs at high schools around the country in addition to meeting with school counselors. Utilizing social media tools to reach students who are considering future employment options and developing incentive programs at the local and state levels are also legitimate approaches.

“Many kids are not aware of the job opportunities afforded by the flooring industry or how much money they can make as an installer,” he told the group. “We, as an industry, have to expose young people to these opportunities.”

Varden shared a sobering statistic that puts the issue in perspective. CFI’s research shows as much as 70% of installers in the field today have been working for more than 15 years, which means many are inching ever closer to retirement. At the same time, he said only 4% have been installing flooring for less than five years—which speaks to limited skill levels.

“In 40 years in the business, I’ve never seen anything like the pickle we’re in now,” Varden told attendees. “But I’ve also never seen more opportunities.”

For its part, Varden said CFI is working diligently to develop programs that not only provide installation training opportunities for newcomers but also intermediate and advanced educational sessions for experienced installers. These programs include training and certification programs covering both basic and advanced classes across a variety of soft and hard surface products. The majority of classes are held at CFI’s training facility in Forney, Texas, but the group is also looking into the feasibility of establishing training branches and networks in other locations across the country. Furthermore, the group has expanded its reach globally, conducting training in eight different countries and partnering with like-minded associations in Brazil, Canada and South Africa, to name a few.

Project delays. Flooring contractors, naturally, are typically one of the last trades to arrive on the job site. While project delays are common and often unavoidable due to various issues (last-minute design alterations, delays caused by previous trades not completing their work on time, etc.), it can cause problems for commercial flooring contractors who sometimes show up on a job site to complete a task but can’t proceed due to issues such as those mentioned above. For many contractors, downtime is wasted time—and lost revenue opportunities.

Some flooring contractors are counteracting this issue by building stipulations into their contracts with the general contractors that offer certain protections. “We request that the GCs we work with give us appropriate notice when there’s an issue,” Christian Brothers’ Boek said. “We tell them there’s going to be a cost associated with sending our crews out to the site if they can’t work. We understand there are issues with scheduling, but we can’t have our guys standing around. We don’t want to ruin the relationship with the GCs, but at the same time we can’t have them drive our margins down and cause you to lose money on a consistent basis. There’s a way to do it nicely and still be firm.”

Direct selling by the mills. This is an issue that one attendee referred to as the “elephant in the room” when his group was asked to identify the biggest challenges commercial flooring installation companies face today. “Everybody is talking about the lack of installers and product claims—which are affecting all of us, but for more me the proliferation of direct selling by the mills is the biggest issue,” the member said. “They’re using the same estimating services as flooring contractors. Some mills are essentially functioning as GCs, giving end users and architects and designers all the tools that commercial flooring contractors typically provide. Until we stand up, collectively, and say ‘no more,’ it’s going to get worse. We are all being relegated to a position of relative unimportance relative to the big picture.”

Part of the problem, according to Mike Hutton, senior vice president, Fuse Alliance, is manufacturers are feeling more pressure from clients to expand their offerings beyond product to include installation services—which puts them in direct conflict with many of the flooring contractors who purchase their products. Essentially, they are going after the same customers.

“I’ve spoken to the mill executives; they feel if they don’t respond to these demands from the end users, then the client is just going to go to another mill and they will lose the business,” he explained.

Hutton, who came to Fuse Alliance after working for nearly nine years on the vendor side with Interface Services, agrees it’s a complex issue. In his capacity with the group, Hutton is responsible for growing the national accounts business within the Fuse Network while working with members and vendor partners to grow their business. In seeking a resolution to this issue, he said he’s working hard behind the scenes to get the manufacturers to come to Fuse Alliance members with their projects as opposed to going direct.

“More manufacturers are developing turnkey services, but the people they are hiring are not flooring experts like Fuse members,” Hutton told attendees. “Individual companies don’t have the capability Fuse members have. We still have an advantage and a much better story to tell today from an installation service and logistics perspective.”

Gordon agreed, noting members can count on Fuse management to provide assistance in resolving issues such as these. “It doesn’t do us any good to get sideways with a supplier. We encourage our members to reach out to leadership if they have a problem. We can step in and get it resolved.”

Management issues. Other issues that came up during the roundtable breakout discussions was moisture mitigation—specifically, who’s responsible for ensuring testing concrete subfloor conditions on the job site—as well as the rising cost of providing health insurance to installers.

Forging ahead
Despite these issues, Fuse leadership is forging ahead with its plans to grow the group while continuing to provide value for members. Primary goals and initiatives include building brand awareness for the group while communicating the importance of the network and benefits of partnering with members. The group is also constantly working to provide tools to help members more effectively market their business.

“We feel this is the time of the rise of the flooring contractor,” Gordon told attendees. “With our expertise in installation and logistics, we are playing a much larger part in the overall project. This is the best group of quality installation companies in the business, and your commitment to excellence is unmatched. We want to be the go-to network and the easiest people to deal with and offer the best customer experience—not only to the end customer but up and down the chain, including the supplier and general contractor.”

Members are buying in. “Fuse brings the best of the best commercial flooring contractors and manufacturers together and provides a network to solve common challenges,” Christian Brothers’ Boek said. “Fuse also brings a social element where relationships can be built across the United States where we can share ideas and improve together.”

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NeoCon to host comprehensive seminar series

Chicago—NeoCon will deliver a world-class educational experience for its 50th edition including four marquee presentations and more than 100 CEU programs June 11-13 at The Mart. Show organizers have curated a rich program of seminars that explore a wide range of topics including a roadmap for achieving WELL certification, applying psychology to design and trends influencing the next decade in healthcare facility design. New this year, NeoCon will explore the industry’s next chapters with a series of seminars flagged with the Future of Design designation.

“The CEU seminars are always a vital, enriching and enlightening aspect of the NeoCon experience,” said Monica DeBartolo, director of programming at NeoCon shows. “The 2018 lineup will bring the latest innovations and societal and cultural trends to light as we celebrate the past 50 years of commercial design and look ahead to the next 50.”

The complete list of seminars is available here.

For more information about NeoCon 2018, visit neocon.com.

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NeoCon 50 announces marquee presentations

Chicago—Plans are well underway for the milestone 50th edition of NeoCon, the world’s leading platform for the commercial design industry, June 11-13, at The Mart in Chicago. A banner lineup of programming is on tap from some of the preeminent, influential names in design and beyond.

The show will feature two marquee presentations on opening day. To kick off the show there will be a presentation led by Art Gensler, founder, Gensler, in conversation with IIDA’s Cheryl Durst. Then in the afternoon there will be a panel led by Cindy Allen, editor-in-chief, Interior Design. There will also be in-depth talks from Nick Thompson, editor-in-chief of Wired, as well as Carol Ross Barney, founder and design principal of Ross Barney Architects. The program is rounded out by over 100 CEU seminars, which will inform and offer a glimpse of what’s next on the horizon in the world of commercial design.

“The individuals headlining the 2018 conference program are more than just ‘design influencers,’” said Monica DeBartolo, director of programming, NeoCon. “They are champions for the public good, creating and advocating for user-focused, sustainable built environments for a better future. Complemented by a rich and varied CEU seminar offering, NeoCon 2018 will deliver an exceptional educational experience as we celebrate 50 years of tomorrow’s design.”

Registration is now open for NeoCon’s four marquee presentations.

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NeoCon celebrates 50 years of tomorrow’s design

Chicago—Registration is now open for the 50th edition of NeoCon, the world’s leading platform and most important event of the year for the commercial design industry. NeoCon 50 will take place June 11-13 at The Mart in Chicago.

Since its launch in 1969, the show has served as a launching pad for iconic brands and products in the commercial design world. Its conference program is at the forefront of thought leadership, delivering distinguished speakers, ideas and innovations that are shaping the global landscape of workplace, healthcare, hospitality, government, education, retail and more. This year’s marquee presentations will feature a series of headliners addressing the future of design and the industry. Special events will include inspiring retrospectives and a festive NeoCon 50 party Tuesday evening.

NeoCon partnered with an award-winning creative agency, Maiarelli Studio, to develop a new campaign and an updated logo that aligns with NeoCon’s design expertise and position as a market leader. It has also launched the NeoCon blog, which will include exclusive one-on-one conversations with industry notables as well as history about the people, products and parties that made up the first 49 years of NeoCon.
The show will also feature 500 companies including Herman Miller, Knoll, OFS Brands, Shaw, and Steelcase as well as new showrooms from Scandinavian Spaces and NappaTile. New exhibiting companies on the seventh-floor exhibit hall will feature a number of international companies including Narbutas Furniture Company, DeVorm, Polarmoss USA, Luceplan USA and Lovair.

Four marquee presentations include panels, talks and keynotes and will explore topics such as the integration of technology and design, as well as the struggles and victories of women in the industry

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New multi-family housing rides rollercoaster in 2017

January 8/15, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 15

By K.J. Quinn

 

Builders and residential contractors experienced a rollercoaster ride serving the multi-family housing market in 2017, observers reported, as this volatile business saw demand fluctuate by quarter and macro issues impede growth.

“When the final data come in, we expect multi-family starts to be down almost 10% over the course of 2017,” said Robert Dietz, senior vice president and chief economist, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). “We expect multi-family development to record additional, slight declines [in 2018].” Multi-family housing includes low-rent units and market-rate rental units in addition to condominiums.

Multi-family housing starts and permits (five or more units) declined 12% in October 2017 compared to the same month in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Additional construction data from Dodge Data & Analytics—which includes some units the Census Bureau and HUD consider single family—provide further evidence the market is in decline. “The [numbers are still being crunched for 2017] but we’re on track for multi-family housing starts as they are measured by Dodge to decline 7% to 475,000 units,” Kim Kennedy, manager of forecasting, said at the end of 2017.

Like peeling an onion, additional layers must be uncovered to view construction data in its entirety. The latest Census Bureau and HUD housing data reveals multi-family housing starts consisting of five or more units jumped 37% from September to October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 393,000 units. Authorization of building permits in housing with five units or more rose 13% to 416,000.

New multi-family construction saw fluctuations in market conditions influenced by such factors as Mother Nature, the economy and changing homebuyer demographics. For example, the supply of apartments and condominiums surged in recent years as builders responded to rising demand fueled in part by young Americans who preferred to rent rather than purchase a home in the aftermath of the recession, according to published reports. “Rental housing demand should remain solid, but it is no longer growing as it did in the year immediately after the Great Recession,” NAHB’s Dietz said. “Thus, the multi-family sector is currently seeking a balance between supply and demand.”

The market recovered approximately 96% of the previous, bubble-induced peak of 508,000 housing starts set in 2005, Dodge’s Kennedy observed. “Because multi-family recovered quickly beginning in 2010, it is also peaking earlier than single-family housing for this construction cycle. The 2016 level is very likely the peak for this cycle.”

Macro issues such as escalating building materials and labor costs are contributing to rising home prices while leaving less discretionary money for buyers to spend on flooring upgrades. Finding enough buildable lots to keep up with demand remains a major hurdle for the construction industry. And perhaps the biggest issue of all is a tightness in labor nationwide, which is reportedly contributing to keeping single- and multi-family housing markets from being overbuilt.

“Multi-family is solid, but there is some slowdown in new construction in certain markets,” noted Jay Smith, president, FEI Group, a nationwide network of interior finish contractors and showrooms that includes MultiFamily Solutions by FloorExpo.

One trend expected to continue is the movement toward smaller home designs, which traces its roots to around the time when the housing bubble burst. The average multi-family property is reportedly getting smaller, following years in which builders disproportionately constructed high-end homes. This situation may be short-lived, however, as multi-family developers build more for-sale housing units in the years ahead and older millennials settle down and start raising families.

“There is a trend toward smaller units but this only means more units and not less square footage as overall building sizes aren’t decreasing,” explained Randy Rubenstein, owner, Rubenstein’s Contract Carpet/North American Terrazzo, a Seattle-based flooring contractor. “But one trend we’re noticing is the increase in amenity floors trending with higher-end finishes.”

Demanding but lucrative
The overwhelming majority of residential flooring contractors are large, highly sophisticated and well-financed specialists. While multi-family housing can be a lucrative business given the amount of volume and growth prospects, it requires the necessary resources and financial wherewithal to keep up with daily service demands. “The overhead costs often exceed the margins,” noted Ron Dunn, co-founder and co-CEO of Alliance Flooring, the parent company of brands CarpetsPlus/Color Tile, Carpetland USA Color Tile, Floorco and Clean Touch Pro. “Most flooring dealers that are doing property management work typically specialize in it, and it is their main business model.”

Production building is a highly transactional business that requires builders’ dealers to pay close attention to managing their daily operations and overhead. If they cannot provide timely, cost-effective, turnkey service, builders have more options at their fingertips. “Dealers [serving] these markets will need to bring speed of service, high levels of productivity, modern systems, deep capital position, the appropriate facilities and readiness to satisfy very demanding customers,” FEI Group’s Smith said.

While the segment is highly specialized, there are similarities with the commercial flooring business. “It’s really no different than any other major commercial construction project, with all of the same challenges since the major high-rise multi-family projects are being built by the same large general contractors who are also doing non-residential work,” Rubenstein said.

Finding and maintaining installation crews who can quickly install flooring in large projects is a major challenge given the restricted labor market and higher wages paid to skilled workers. “Dealers need a lot of installation crews and operational assets to service multi-family builders,” said David Holt, Mohawk Industries’ senior vice president of sales. “If they screw up with those builders, they’re going to go out of business.”

Similar to a doctor, dealers are always on call as notifications for next-day installations can be received in less than 24 hours. “This requires manufacturers and flooring dealers to be in sync with product and inventory needs like never before,” said Brad Christensen, vice president, business strategy, builder, Shaw Floors. “Flooring dealers, in an attempt to become more efficient, have inventories as lean as possible and, as a result, they have been very savvy with the management of their SKUs and do their best to avoid duplication.”

Working with flooring suppliers who provide high-quality products and, when necessary, are there to help minimize the impact of installation callbacks is imperative. “That way, the builder can continue to look forward to knowing you are there to take care of any problems,” said Rob Brockman, channel marketing manager for contractor, builder, developer and property manager at Armstrong Flooring. “Building a strategic partnership focused on the builder’s needs is the challenge that is built over time on a foundation of trust.”

Flooring choices evolve
Whether it’s inside a dealer or builder showroom, multi-family homebuyers are given opportunities to upgrade to better quality flooring. The incentive for builders and dealers to encourage upgrade purchases is two-fold: It ensures customers receive a good-looking, high-performing product that meets their expectations and profit margins are considerably higher than base-grade products. “Consumer knowledge and education result in higher sales dollars for the same amount of work,” Alliance Flooring’s Dunn pointed out. “It’s a win-win-win for the builder, the homeowner and the flooring dealer.”

Most flooring upgrades are allocated for kitchens and baths, experts noted, because both areas offer the greatest return on investment and time spent in the home. “Large kitchens and open-concept design are still things that homebuyers seem to want,” Armstrong’s Brockman said. “This creates an opportunity to sell upgrade flooring as there is no real separation of spaces in these open plans.”

While flooring choices vary by region, carpet is the leading surface for multi-family spaces, though hard surfaces and higher-end goods are trending up, suppliers reported. “In multi-family homes, many people have pets,” Mohawk’s Holt noted. “So carpet is being replaced more frequently, usually within four to five years.”

New hard surfaces such as LVT and WPC are reportedly gaining coverage in multi-family environments. “Buyer preferences are leaning toward hard surfaces—mainly LVT—because of their great looks, durability and water resistance,” Brockman added.

Homebuyers still desire natural products such as ceramic tile and hardwood, which studies indicate add value to the home. Upgrades to these higher-priced products are becoming more prevalent given looser loan standards that help customers secure additional financing. “We’ve seen strong growth in town homes and patio homes in which higher quality floor coverings and better finishes are being selected,” Alliance Flooring’s Dunn said.

Looking ahead, the multi-family housing channel represents a lucrative opportunity for dealers who are well positioned to service the many needs of builders and homebuyers. “FloorExpo [believes] the multi-family and builder segments to be the most challenging in flooring,” FEI Group’s Smith said. “If done right, dealers can be very successful.”

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Shannon Specialty Floors unveils new visual floor designer

Milwaukee, Wis.—Shannon Specialty Floors has launched its new interactive online visual floor designer. Available on Shannon Specialty Floors’ website, the new design tool allows users to select from 12 commercial room scene options and integrate with any of the company’s 18 collections of commercial flooring solutions.

Visitors to the site can experiment with different color combinations and patterns of the company’s resilient sheet, luxury vinyl tile and plank, and PVC free products. Visitors can also choose to upload their own room scene to visualize the products in at no additional cost.

“Being able to actually see our product offerings in different spaces is an immaculate design tool,” said Jeff Collum, president, Shannon Specialty Floors. “We hope designers, architects and contractors alike enjoy the design tool as both professional research and personal enjoyment.”

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Greenbuild 2017: Short but select group of flooring exhibitors come with an agenda

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 1.41.43 PMBoston—Flooring companies were few and far between as 700 exhibitors convened here earlier this month at Greenbuild, billed as the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building. But those who did make the trip to Beantown came with a purpose. From demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and transparency to the concept of biophilia, a select group of flooring manufacturers saw the value in getting in front of the 20,000-plus attendees.

Greenbuild’s basic value proposition is clear: Sustainable building practices as they relate to work and living environments are good for the bottom line. These are businesspeople who see the opportunity to help improve the planet while growing a successful enterprise.

Mohawk, which occupied more real estate on the show floor than any other flooring manufacturer, came to Greenbuild as a Platinum sponsor and to demonstrate its holistic approach to sustainability. In fact, this marked the first time every aspect of sustainability came together—both residential and commercial, according to George Bandy, vice president of sustainability. As such, Mohawk was putting the spotlight on Air.o on the residential side and Lichen on the commercial side.

According to Seth Arnold, vice president, residential marketing, Mohawk’s messaging perfectly aligned with the theme of Greenbuild 2017: All in. “That message is perfect because we look at providing economically viable solutions—solutions that appeal to consumers and solutions that appeal to our retail partners—and provide us with a supply advantage. Air.o is the perfect product to demonstrate that holistic, ‘all in’ approach to sustainability. It provides installation advantages, it provides consumer appeal, the economics are reasonable and ensures Mohawk a future supply chain of recyclable flooring.”

While Greenbuild is geared more toward a commercial audience, Arnold said everyone Mohawk talked to was fascinated by what it is doing with Air.o because it truly embodies the vision of a closed-loop approach to the category. “I think people have aspired to have a product like this for years.”

Mohawk, Bandy added, came to Greenbuild with another important purpose: to listen and learn. “We are here because this is where our customers are. In order to create the right products and solutions, you have to hear what they are looking for. We need to know what we need to do better, how to position our brand.”

Metroflor
Metroflor was making its Greenbuild debut with multiple goals, according to Rochelle Routman, LEED AP, O+M chief sustainability officer, and that ranged from transparency to biophilia. “First, we want to demonstrate our commitment to sustainability, especially with a focus on transparency and our leadership in the resilient flooring industry. We also want to show the sustainable attributes of vinyl and how the product can be made with a lower environmental impact.”

Transparency has been at the forefront of Routman’s efforts throughout her career, most recently in a similar position at Mohawk between 2012 and 2016. However, she said those transparency initiatives had not spread to resilient flooring as there have been multiple Declare labels issued for carpet but not resilient flooring.

According to Routman, there are a few reasons for that. “First, many manufacturers don’t want to divulge what’s in their products. Second, many resilient products are made in Asia and many companies who market resilient products in the U.S. do not have the longstanding relationships with their Asian suppliers, unlike Metroflor. We trust our suppliers completely. We know what they are telling us is truthful.” To illustrate, Metroflor owns the first Declare label for a rigid core product.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 1.42.43 PMTransparency at Metroflor extends to its Asian factories. “That is an unheard of topic of conversation,” Routman added. “We open the doors of our factories to customers.”

Because Metroflor is so concerned about the ingredients in its products, it will not accept vinyl from external sources. “That is counterproductive and can create risk for the company,” Routman noted. “Other companies are doing that because it can lower the price of the product. Our goal is to have a pure, clean product, and you can’t do that unless you have a trusting relationship with the factory.”

Metroflor at Greenbuild was also talking about biophilia, which is basically this innate feeling for the love of nature. “We have evolved over time with nature being a central part of our lives,” Routman explained. To illustrate the point, Metroflor had some natural vegetation and actual hardwood in its booth. “The space on an emotional level creates a feeling of refuge—an enclosed, safe place.”

Shaw Industries
Shaw Industries took a different approach to Greenbuild 2017 than in years past. Rather than showcase the sustainability attributes of its products, the company decided to host multiple educational sessions on Cradle to Cradle certification, a cause that Shaw has championed for years. It even had the father of Cradle to Cradle, architect William McDonough, as one of its presenters.

“For years we have been a gold sponsor at Greenbuild,” said Paul Murray, vice president of sustainability, “and we would have a booth. You engage with a few people who would stop by. This year we thought it was time to up our education outreach. So when the U.S. Green Building Council offered us a learning lab, and we got to choose the topic, Cradle to Cradle was an obvious choice.”

The growing trend has gone from recycled content as the most frequently asked question to what’s in it, he said. “It’s all about material health, and Cradle to Cradle is a leader in third-party certification.”

With the USGBC now promoting this certification, Cradle to Cradle will move from niche to something that will be driven through the whole green building community. Thus, every session at the Shaw booth included some aspect of Cradle to Cradle, from how Shaw was using it in the marketplace to the city of San Francisco writing it into specifications.

Altro
Sheet vinyl manufacturer Altro came to Greenbuild to talk about its sustainability message and the products it offers surrounding that, according to Richard Finnegan, marketing manager.

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NeoCon East: Vendors showcase broad range of products, designs

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.33.49 AMPhiladelphia—With roughly 5,000 attendees and more than 150 exhibitors, NeoCon East provided the commercial interiors community another opportunity to engage on the East Coast during the fall season. The two-day show, which took place here at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Nov. 15–16, featured four keynote speeches, more than 25 CEUs and countless opportunities for attendees to network and learn about the latest commercial products.

“Exhibiting companies gained valuable direct contact with key architects, designers and major corporate and government end users, while attending professionals gained insight and access to the latest ideas and innovations in the industry,” said Julie Kohl, vice president, exhibitor sales, NeoCon Shows. “Many exhibitors have already reported strong project leads and business opportunities as a result of the 2017 edition.”

Of the 150 exhibitors, a handful were flooring manufacturers touting their latest and greatest products of 2017. Among them: Altro, Atlas Carpet Mills, Ava by Novalis, Mannington, Patcraft, Shaw Contract and Tarkett. Product introductions ran the gamut from hard to soft surfaces.

For Richard Burn, floors product manager, Altro, NeoCon East provides an important opportunity to show product. “It’s good to be at this show because we get to see customers we do business with and show them the new products.”

Altro highlighted some of its more vibrant products with new concrete, linen, salt and pepper designs. “The market has been very receptive to them,” Burn said. “We’ve had quite a busy year with our LVT and sheet products. We’ve also launched new wood products and expanded our ranges to offer acoustic variances.”

NeoCon East provided Atlas Carpet Mills the opportunity to show off new products and tease new collections currently under development. “We have the Epic collection coming out at the end of this month,” said Sheila Berg, marketing manager. “And our latest collection, Connections, is on the floor today. Our product line now includes broadloom, carpet tile squares, carpet tile planks and area rugs.”

But product is not the only new “news” at Atlas. “We freshened up our logo with a new color and our website has a new look,” Berg added.

Ava by Novalis highlighted its latest introductions, SMPL and SPRK, which are phthalate free and 100% recyclable. SMPL is a high-performance core (HPC) floating floor that has a cork underlayment for improved acoustic performance. SPRK is offered in 38 colorways, has a 20 mil wear layer, 2.5mm overall thickness in an 18 x 18 format. SPRK boasts an antimicrobial coating, increased scratch and scuff resistance and excellent stain and fade resistance. In addition, it is easy to maintain and has a 10-year commercial and lifetime residential warranty.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.33.55 AMMannington focused on commercial intros reflecting soft, sophisticated color palettes with products that are useable in multiple applications. Highlights included: the Portland collection—a 12 x 48 carpet plank product—and its Origami collection as well as new visuals from its Amtico line. “All of the products we’re here today are those we showed at NeoCon in June,” said Heather Kane, commercial product design supervisor. “The focus here was toward a corporate marketplace, more broad-based.”

Patcraft’s booth showcased both hard and soft surface products. Its carpet offerings included collections such as Nocturnal, Backlit and Color Filter, which can be used together or separate to create depth, while included Subtractive Layers, a vinyl flooring line, highlighted the hard surface offerings.

“Subtractive Layers is made from our designer Kelly Stewart, who actually took a painting, blended the colors and used a comb to create texture,” Jeff West, vice president of marketing and product development, explained. “Most people want to feel it because it has all of this texture. It is a 5mm thickness—the same as carpet tile—so you can install it right next to carpet tile without having to use a transition strip.”

Shaw Contract took the wraps off Emergence and Off the Grid. The former—which was illustrated using pixelated rose patterns accompanied by larger rose-patterned images—represents a play on traditional patterns, while Off the Grid was inspired by nature and relaxation. To highlight the product, Shaw Contract’s booth included photographs of mountains, caves and rock formations.

On the soft surface side, Tarkett showcased Color Knit, a new multi-color soft surface, as well as its Powerbond line. “Powerbond performs and lasts,” said Noelle Omer, public relations and social media manager, Tarkett North America. “It is part of our sustainability story in that it helps with indoor air quality and is recyclable.”

For hard surfaces, Tarkett put the spotlight on Transcend, its new loose lay product, as well as its digital print LVT. “Our digital print LVT is what everyone is coming in to touch,” Omer explained. “We introduced digital print last year at NeoCon. With More than Wood we’re showing all that you can do with wood looks. It’s all made in the States and made to order.”

No NeoCon East for 2018
Show officials announced the cancellation of NeoCon East 2018. Instead, the event will resume in 2019. “The team is currently working with key stakeholders and partners to assess and design a post-NeoCon/fall season show that continues to provide a platform to connect the industry while addressing its most current and relevant topics and opportunities,” Kohl said. “New event details including dates and location will be available in the coming months.”

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NeoCon East 2017 connects commercial interiors community

Hig-res-dark-blue_-NeoConEast-Philadelphia-Logo-blue-1Philadelphia—With four powerful keynotes, more than 25 CEUs and over 150 exhibitors, NeoCon East treated the East Coast design community to two productive days of programming, networking and products, Nov. 15 and 16. Exhibiting companies gained valuable direct contact with key architects, designers and major corporate and government end users, while attending professionals gained insight and access to the latest ideas and innovations in the industry. Many exhibitors have already reported strong project leads and business opportunities as a result of the 2017 edition.

“Our exhibitors enjoyed a great turn-out of decision makers from top A&D firms and major corporations as well as several federal agencies and representatives from GSA,” said Julie Kohl, vice president of exhibitor sales, NeoCon Shows. “There were high caliber conversations and connections over the last couple of days. This should result directly in competitive advantage for those companies taking part.”

This year’s show underscores the importance of a fall event to engage the commercial interiors community. NeoCon organizers will return with a revamped edition in the fall of 2019. The team is currently working with key stakeholders and partners to assess and design a post-NeoCon/fall-season show that continues to provide a platform to connect the industry while addressing its most current and relevant topics and opportunities. New event details including dates, location and venue will be available in the coming months.

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Mohawk 'All In' at Greenbuild with residential, commercial products

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 5.10.57 PMCalhoun, Ga.—For the first time at Greenbuild, Mohawk Industries’ residential and commercial divisions will share the spotlight to show that Mohawk is “all in” when it comes to sustainable flooring. Greenbuild, the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building, will take place Nov. 8–10 in Boston at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Mohawk Flooring and Mohawk Group will be exhibiting on-site in booth space No. 1807.

“The theme of this year’s Greenbuild is ‘All In’—and it’s the perfect opportunity to tell the green building community about Mohawk’s sustainability story and its broad efforts to invest in sustainability across its business,” said Seth Arnold, vice president of residential marketing at Mohawk. “We look forward to seeing Mohawk products, from both our residential and commercial divisions, side by side. It really brings home our passion and commitment to creating more sustainable products and contributing to a healthier world. These products are leading us into the next chapter of both residential and commercial flooring.”

Two Mohawk products that will be showcased are already making a splash in sustainability circles: Air.o and Lichen.

Air.o, Mohawk Flooring’s exclusive new soft floor covering with unified backing, pushes the boundaries of sustainability for the residential market by being manufactured almost entirely from recycled polyester. When it comes to diverting waste from landfills, Air.o is changing the soft flooring industry. Unlike traditional carpet, Air.o is engineered with just one material making it the only 100% recyclable flooring available.

Mohawk Group’s Lichen collection of carpet tiles for the commercial market was designed by Jason F. McLennan, the founder of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) and the Living Product Challenge. Lichen is the first floorcovering to achieve Living Product Challenge Petal Certification. Inspired by biophilic assemblages of multi-hued, multi-textured lichens and their regenerative role in our ecosystem, the Lichen collection is on the path to give more resources back to the environment than it uses during its entire life cycle. This summer, the collection won a Best of NeoCon Gold Award in Chicago.

“It is always exciting to be a part of the energy at Greenbuild and to be this year’s opening plenary sponsor,” said George Bandy, Mohawk’s vice president of sustainability. “At Mohawk, we believe sustainability is a moral imperative that guides our work. We are redefining flooring with products that not only minimize climate impact, but also foster beauty and allow people to thrive. This commitment extends to our customers, employees and communities. As the world’s largest flooring manufacturer, we continue to take an integrated approach to transparency and sustainable practices that drive change. We believe in better, and this guiding principle has led us to where we are today.”

Mohawk offers more than 500 products containing recyclable material and believes in product transparency with complete disclosure of ingredients, carrying one of the largest number of Red List Free products in the marketplace. Committed to a circular economy, which keeps more materials in the manufacturing loop and out of landfills, Mohawk annually recycles 7.1 billion pounds of waste, 5.5 billion plastic bottles and 25 million pounds of tires into doormats.

Mohawk believes in supporting healthier spaces by obtaining certifications such as Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Green Label and Green Label Plus, UL Environment Greenguard and FloorScore. In addition to helping other organizations meet building efficiency goals through its product portfolio, Mohawk is also walking the walk. Among others, the Mohawk Flooring Center in Calhoun, Ga., holds LEED Gold certification, and the Mohawk Group Light Lab Design Mohawk Flooring Center in Dalton, Ga., has been recognized with Living Building Challenge Petal Certification from ILFI.

For more information, visit mohawksustainability.com.