« Return to BuildingGreen.com

Ambient FSC-Certified Bamboo Flooring

Ambient offers bamboo flooring products with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and no-added formaldehyde options… Read more
(0 User Ratings)
Comments Add a Comment
  • Growing and harvesting our building materials would be a great way to move toward a closed-loop system rather than a linear path from extraction to disposal. Doing so holds the promise of true sustainability and regeneration of ecosystems instead of damage to them.

    Unfortunately, biobased materials today can be at least as problematic as any other material. Intensive land use, chemical use, fuel use, nutrient runoff, and other pollution are among the impacts of agriculture; add to that competition between food crops and those used for building materials or fuel. We would like to see sustainable use of biobased materials, but improving practices and figuring out how to assess and document more sustainable practices will take a long time. There is no ready equivalent to FSC for biobased materials that aren’t wood, although certification to “organic” standards or other sustainable agriculture standards can provide guidance in some cases.

    At the same time, we don’t want to exclude biobased products that are typically responsibly sourced just because they don’t have a certification—particularly where they replace more problematic materials. GreenSpec continues to give preference to rapidly renewable alternatives to materials that present greater concerns. Examples of rapidly renewable materials in GreenSpec include linoleum, cork, and textiles such as wool, sisal, and organic cotton.

  • Third-party forest certification based on standards developed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the best way to ensure that wood products come from well-managed forests. Wood products must go through a chain-of-custody certification process to carry an FSC stamp.

    Manufactured wood products can meet the FSC certification requirements with less than 100% certified wood content through percentage-based claims (30% certified content is required if only virgin wood fiber is used; certified-wood content as low as 17.5% is allowable if the rest of the fiber content is from recycled sources).

    With a few special-case exceptions, FSC-based certification is a requirement for GreenSpec inclusion of any nonsalvaged solid-wood product and most other wood products. A few manufactured wood products, including engineered lumber and particleboard/MDF, can be included if they have other environmental advantages--such as absence of formaldehyde binders. Engineered wood products in GreenSpec do not qualify by virtue of their resource efficiency benefits alone (for more on this, see EBN, Vol. 8, No. 11).

  • Just how low the VOC level needs to be for a given product to qualify for inclusion in GreenSpec depends on the product category. For most products, we require certification to California’s health-based emissions standard, CDPH Std Method v1.1 standard (also referred to as California Section 01350), which tests a product’s resultant VOC concentrations in the space after a given period of time. For wet-applied products like paints, caulks, and adhesives, we still also look for VOC content instead of, or in addition to, verified low emissions; this is because emissions testing doesn’t adequately test initial offgassing, and VOC content is currently the only widely available proxy.

Brent Ehrlich
Products Editor

Ambient offers bamboo flooring products with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and no-added formaldehyde options. Available in carbonized, strand, and hand-scraped styles as well as a floating click-lock system with high-density fiberboard core, all Ambient flooring comes prefinished with ten coats of a scratch- and moisture-resistant waterborne acrylic finish and meets California Air Resources Board (CARB) Phase II emission standards for formaldehyde. The company also offers molding and accessories.

Most bamboo for flooring comes from the Hunan province of China. It's not a food source for pandas, which generally inhabit higher-elevation forests. Despite the long-distance transport of the product to the United States, the durability, hardness, and short regeneration time of bamboo provide justification for using it for flooring instead of conventionally harvested wood. Bamboo is typically processed without preservatives or with benign boric acid, but more toxic preservatives are occasionally used when unprocessed poles are exported. Some bamboo flooring is glued together with urea-formaldehyde binders, which is the primary negative aspect.

As the popularity and availability of bamboo increases, so does the need for uniform and credible certification of green attributes. Ideally there would be verification of low ambient VOC emissions, responsible growing practices, limited or benign pesticides and preservatives in the product, and decent manufacturing conditions. Relevant certifications for the first two are increasingly available.

Products listed here have one or more of the following characteristics:


  • Made with FSC certified bamboo

  • No added formaldehyde

  • Made with binders and adhesives that have ultra-low formaldehyde concentrations (less than or equal to 0.02 ppm)

  • Verified low VOC emissions (certified to meet Floorscore or Greenguard Children and Schools, meet Carb II, or have formaldehyde emissions of 0.05 ppm or lower using the ASTM E-1333 test for Europe's E1 standard).



Both FSC certification and low emissions will likely become a requirement for GreenSpec listing in the future.

LEED Credits

EQc4.3: Low-Emitting Materials—Carpet Systems

IEQc4.3: Low-Emitting Materials—Flooring Systems

MRc6: Rapidly Renewable Materials

MRc6: Certified Wood

MRc7: Certified Wood

Ratings and Commentary

Add Comment

Welcome !