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Kinetex Floor Tiles

J&J Flooring Group’s Kinetex is a soft surface floor covering intended for use in place of hard surfaces such as vinyl composite tiles in medium- to high-traffic commercial applications… Read more
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  • Using materials recovered from the waste stream typically results in less waste, pollution, and energy use than using virgin materials. From an environmental standpoint, post-consumer is typically considered preferable to pre-consumer recycled content because post-consumer recycled materials are more likely to have been diverted from landfills.

    In some cases, we consider products with recycled content green but with some caveats regarding where they should be used. For example, rubber flooring made from recycled automobile tires should not be used in most fully enclosed indoor spaces due to the likelihood of VOC emissions.

    Recycling can have downsides. For example, some studies show that curbside collection programs and some recycling processes use more energy than they save. Closed-loop recycling is generally preferable to “down-cycling,” in which a lower-grade material is produced—but due to contamination of waste streams and the difficulty of extracting high-value ingredients, down-cycling may be as good as it gets. At times recycling can re-introduce hazardous components. Some products, like copper and aluminum, include a high level of recycled content as a matter of course—which we applaud, but don’t consider justification for listing in GreenSpec. As more complete life-cycle information on recycled materials and processes becomes available, we use that to increase our scrutiny of recycled products.

  • Pre-consumer (also called “post-industrial”) recycling refers to the reuse of industrial by-products, as distinguished from material that has been in consumer use. The iron-ore slag used to make mineral wool insulation and the fly ash used to make concrete are examples of post-industrial recycled materials. While post-consumer recycled content is preferable, a product that uses pre-consumer content or recycles a seldom-used waste product, especially in an area where recycled products are hard to find, can be considered green.

    Excluded from this category, by FTC definitions, is the use of scrap within the same manufacturing process from which it was generated—material that would typically have gone back into the manufacturing process anyway.

  • 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.

  • Alternative wastewater disposal systems reduce groundwater pollution by decomposing organic wastes or removing nutrients more effectively. Hand dryers reduce water and paper towel use, alternative treatments for cooling tower water reduce chemical use, and carpet tile allows modular replacement of worn areas. In screening products for this area, we focus on quantifiable environmental benefits and strong performance records.

Brent Ehrlich
Products Editor

J&J Flooring Group’s Kinetex is a soft surface floor covering intended for use in place of hard surfaces such as vinyl composite tiles in medium- to high-traffic commercial applications. These 24" x 24" semi-rigid tiles are 0.20" thick, compared to 0.25"–0.60" for standard carpet tiles, and are engineered with a wear layer made from solution dyed PET that resists staining or bleaching and is woven for abrasion resistance and durability. Kinetex is made from 60% recycled content (50% post-consumer PET sourced primarily from water and soda bottles) and, unlike carpet, can be ground and processed into new backing in one step without costly material separation and sorting or loss of performance. Kinetex is treated with perfluorinated compounds to resist dirt and improve its lifespan, but its long-term environmental impact is a concern to GreenSpec.

Carpeting is ubiquitous in our homes, schools, and office buildings. Almost two billion square yards of carpeting are sold each year, nearly all of it made from petrochemicals.

Carpet is a good absorber of sound and impact, yielding a surface associated with comfort. Its absorbent nature, however, also makes it a good medium for holding moisture and harboring dirt, mold, and dust mites. This, along with potential offgassing from the carpet and its adhesive, has led to indoor air quality concerns. Modular carpet tiles are an environmentally preferable alternative to broadloom carpeting because damaged or stained tiles can be replaced individually without having to replace carpeting on an entire floor.

The carpet industry has come a long way toward improving the environmental profile of their products, but there has not been a robust, widely adopted standard for carpet sustainability until the NSF/ANSI 140-2007e Sustainable Carpet Assessment. This voluntary, point-based standard looks at the entire life cycle of carpet, from material selection to carpet recycling and certifies to three levels: silver, gold, and platinum.

Carpets meeting the NSF 140-2007e Platinum level must contain 10% post-consumer recycled content, must be certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute's Green Label Plus program or California's 01350 for indoor air quality, and must not contain polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants. The carpet must also undergo a life cycle assessment (LCA), and the manufacturers have to meet Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) recycling goals.

Carpet tiles listed in GreenSpec are certified to the platinum level of NSF 140-2007e. Note that antimicrobials and perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are added to most carpeting to inhibit mold and improve stain resistance, but the long-term environmental impact of these chemicals is unknown. Fibers are available that do not require PFCs.

When choosing resilient flooring, make sure that it doesn’t introduce harmful emissions into the space. On top of that, look for lower-impact materials and manufacturing processes.

Looking for low-emitting resilient flooring, along with other low-emitting building materials, is essential.

  • GreenSpec lists only resilient flooring that meets California Section 01350 or other more stringent emission protocols as verified through related certifications such as FloorScore. We don’t stop there, however. Lots of resilient flooring products meet 01350, so we look for additional green features in the products listed here.

Consider flooring made from lower-impact materials, such as recycled content or rapidly renewable material, and flooring that addresses other key life-cycle concerns, such as reduced maintenance (and associated emissions), installation without adhesives, or an end-of-life manufacturer-takeback program.

  • GreenSpec lists products that strongly address these additional factors.

- EBN subscribers: read more in Floorcoverings: Including Maintenance in the Equation.

Look for multi-attribute green product standards like NSF-332 for Resilient Flooring to cover many aspects of the product and company’s environmental profile. However, you’ll have to dig deeper to get at a product’s tangible benefits..

  • GreenSpec lists NSF-332 Platinum level flooring because we think that Platinum sets a solid, comprehensive bar. We sometimes list NSF-332 Gold products, but in those cases we base our listing on additional disclosure of a product’s green features. 

Seek out flooring that completely avoids hazardous constituents, particularly in children’s play spaces. Even a product with low airborne emissions could expose occupants to hazardous components through skin contact or dust.

  • GreenSpec selects products that provide full disclosure of material composition demonstrating no content of high-hazard chemicals according to the Pharos Chemical and Material Library.

VCT and vinyl sheet flooring are widely used and have a low initial cost. However, maintenance requirements and costs can be high, and there are significant environmental and health concerns from the PVC and phthalate content, and from the emissions of frequent stripping and waxing cycles.

  • Even though these products have earned Gold and Platinum certification through NSF-332, GreenSpec does not list VCT or vinyl sheet flooring, and recommends using alternatives.

Cork flooring is resilient and rapidly renewable, but not typically as durable as other options.

Natural linoleum (in contrast with sheet vinyl, which is sometimes generically called “linoleum”) is durable and low-maintenance. Its ingredients include rapidly renewable linseed oil and jute, and renewable wood flour.

  • GreenSpec lists natural linoleum. Linoleum emits some VOCs as it cures over its lifetime. Some argue that these are a lesser health issue compared to petroleum-derived VOCs, but as with all resilient products, we list only linoleum that is compliant with California Section 01350.

- EBN subscribers: read more in Linoleum: The All-Natural Flooring Alternative.

Recycled-tire rubber flooring uses waste tires and provides a highly durable, resilient, slip-resistant, anti-fatigue surface—but select it with care. The rubber and its binders or additives may be significant sources of indoor air pollutants, including VOCs and heavy metals.

  • GreenSpec lists rubber-based resilient flooring that contains at least 70% recycled content. Products with up to 100% recycled content exist, but these usually have higher emissions and don’t meet California Section 01350.

  •  Because of potential health concerns, GreenSpec does not recommend using rubber flooring indoors. For some spaces, like indoor-outdoor spaces, vestibules, skating rinks, or any commercial areas with high ventilation rates, emissions may not be your top concern and rubber flooring may make sense.


LEED Credits

EQc4.3: Low-Emitting Materials—Carpet Systems

IEQc4.3: Low-Emitting Materials—Flooring Systems

MRc4: Recycled Content

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