Some products help us use other products or materials more efficiently. For example, drywall clips allow the elimination of corner studs, engineered stair stringers reduce lumber waste, and concrete pigments and polishing systems can turn concrete slabs into attractive finished floors. We also recognize some products, like vacuum plumbing systems, which use less material than their conventional counterparts. Many products with this attribute are fairly unique, so we bring a skeptical eye to manufacturer claims, but not a specific standard.
Moisture brings durability and air quality problems with it, and myriad green products are designed to manage it and keep it out. Given the variety of products available, we look for those that meet key performance standards and that make sense in a whole building assembly—such as vapor-permeable weather-resistive barriers that not only prevent moisture from entering the building envelope but also allow drying when the envelope gets wet.
Background noise, whether from indoor or outdoor sources, adds to stress and discomfort, and poor acoustical design inside can exacerbate problems from background noise and reverberation of sounds. Products that absorb sound and prevent sound transmission can be considered green, although there are so many such products available that we also look for especially innovative products, as well as products with additional green attributes such as recycled content and strong energy performance. We also look for sound-masking systems with exceptional performance characteristics.
Subflor and Dricore floating floors are made with waferboard using a phenolic binder and wax, which acts as a water repellent. An integral HDPE bottom layer has 5/16” corrugations to allow moisture drainage and some airflow. Though designed for installation over concrete slabs, their sound-attenuating properties provide an appropriate flooring system for many applications. These interlocking tongue-and-groove products require no nails or glue. Subflor and Dricore are the same product, but the brand name varies depending on the distributor.
Using underlayment products beneath wood, tile, resilient flooring, or carpet and carpet cushion provides a level surface and helps insulate floors from sound transmission and, to a limited extent, heat loss.
Cork rolls and sheets can provide resilience to the floor system with significantly less thickness than fiberboard products or a gypsum-cement poured-in-place slab. And use of a sound-deadening underlayment below a hard-surface floor can reduce the need to further control sound transmission with carpeting or rugs.
Plywood is often required as an underlayment for resilient flooring, ceramic tiles, and carpeting; and exterior-grade particleboard can also be used is some applications. Some products combine the functions of subfloor and underlayment in one product, minimizing resource use. Lauan or other tropical wood based products should be avoided unless FSC-certified.
Environmentally preferable materials for flooring underlayment listed by GreenSpec include natural cork, strawboard, products that are inherently moisture- and mold-resistant, and products with recycled content. Preference is given to no-added-formaldehyde (NAF) products, but no-added-urea-formaldehyde (NAUF) particleboards and plywoods also have very low formaldehyde emissions.
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