Green Flooring

There are many aspects of flooring that can make it sustainable. Two of the most important factors are the flooring is made of sustainable materials and emits no or low volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Seward Construction Co

Sustainable Wood

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a nonprofit group that works to ensure sustainable forest management. FSC certifies forest management practices that harvest wood sustainably, and chain-of-custody certifies products that are made using FSC-certified products.

According to FSC’s website, its requirements for harvesting wood are the following:

• prohibits conversion of natural forests or other habitat around the world
• prohibits the use of highly hazardous pesticides around the world
• prohibits the cultivation of genetically modified trees (GMOs)
• respects the right of indigenous peoples around the world
• controls each certified operation at least once a year – and if they are found not to comply, the certificate is withdrawn

The following three wood products are FSC-certified:

Free LEED v4 Green Associate Practice Exam1. TimberSIL

Wood from TimberSIL is unique in that it combines wood with an amorphous glass barrier made of sodium silicate, a relatively harmless, nontoxic chemical found in laundry detergent. It offers siding, structural framing, flooring, decking, windows, siding and other products. The product has won awards from BuildingGreen, Popular Science and Metropolitan Home Design.

Because of it’s special makeup, it is resistant to insects and microbes, but without harmful chemicals such as ACQ, copper azole and chromated copper arsenate (CCA). These chemicals are considered environmentally harmful, and the EPA even phased out CCA because of its detrimental effects.

However, TimberSIL has come under attack as of late for having problems with rotting materials that have been installed in Make It Right Foundation homes in New Orleans. 

TimberSIL is also VOC-free, with a long warranty of 40 years. Long-lasting products such as TimberSIL can reduce landfill waste.

2. EcoTimber

Denver-based EcoTimber manufactures a selection of sustainable wood flooring products, many of which do not contain formaldehyde (a contributor to poor indoor air quality). The company offers FSC-certified wood, bamboo and salvaged wood floors.

Some of their lines of flooring include:

• Ecovintage: This includes strand poplar flooring, which is made from 100% recycled FSC-certified furniture. It also includes hand-scraped flooring, which is made with 100% FSC-certified content and a formaldehyde-free adhesive.

• EcoPlanet and EcoReserve: Both are certified by FSC and 100% grown and manufactured in America.

• EcoBamboo: EcoBamboo is made from bamboo with a 5-6 year harvest cycle.

In particular, EcoTimber’s strand poplar flooring has been recognized as a top sustainable building product by BuildingGreen, because it is made from 100% recycled FSC-certified furniture and does not contain formaldehyde. This is part of the EcoVintage line.

Rapidly Renewable Materials

According to LEED, "rapidly renewable building materials and products are made from plants that are typically harvested within a 10-year or shorter cycle". Rapidly renewable materials include:

• Bamboo
• Wool
• Cotton
• Agrifiber
• Linoleum
• Wheatboard
• Strawboard
• Cork

Rapidly renewable materials are better for the environment because they are quickly replenished after harvest.

The following are 3 types of rapidly renewable flooring that could contribute to a LEED or green building project.

1. Kirei Wheatboard

Kirei manufactures interior design products from sustainable materials, such as hemp, reclaimed wood, coconut shells, bamboo, and wood substitute (Kirei board).

For example, Kirei wheatboard is a substitute for wood medium density fiberboard (MDF). The product can be used for a number of applications, including furniture, cabinetry and flooring, among others.

Wheatboard is a rapidly renewable material. This means it has a harvest cycle of under 10 years, so it has a smaller environmental impact. Plus, Kirei’s wheatboard is manufactured without added formaldehyde (for better indoor air quality) and is made with at least 90% pre-consumer recycled content.

2. Ambient Bamboo Flooring

Ambient, founded in 2005, supplies bamboo flooring, which has been featured on HGTV and in stores such as Lululemon Athletica. In particular, four types of its flooring meet LEED’s requirements: classic, strand-woven, click-lock HDF, and hand scraped strand.

These bamboo flooring models are made from A-grade Moso bamboo, which has a harvest cycle of 5-7 years. They can also be specially requested to be FSC-Certified. Plus, while the floors can be specified as zero formaldehyde, they naturally have very low levels, which range between 0.01 and 0.03 ppm.

3. Marmoleum

Marmoleum, manufactured by Forbo Flooring Systems, is the most popular brand name of linoleum flooring. It can be used in a wide range of residential and commercial projects, and owns over 60% of the market share for linoleum. The product is sustainable because it is rapidly renewable, non-toxic, and bio-based. It is also long lasting and anti-microbial.

Marmoleum has met the Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability's standards for sustainable products, which makes it SMaRT certified. This can earn a point toward the Innovation in Design credit category in LEED.

Low Emitting Floors

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are harmful to humans when emitted in large amounts. They are found in common household and construction items, including paints, floors, sealants, and adhesives. To maintain good indoor air quality, it is best to choose household products with low VOCs. LEED, the green building rating system, gives the following guidelines for low-emitting floors.

• Flooring

Carpet and hard surface flooring must comply with California Department of Public Health Standard Method for the Testing and Evaluation of Volatile Organic Chemical Emissions From Indoor Sources Using Environmental Chambers version 1.1 (CDPH/EHLB/M-500 Standard Method v1.1), modeled using the standard office building protocol parameters and certified as compliant by an independent third party.

Carpet cushion must meet the requirements of the Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label program.

Concrete, wood, bamboo, cork and other floor finishes, such as sealer, stain and finish, shall not exceed the VOC limits established in SCAQMD Rule 1113, Architectural Coatings.

• Composite Wood and Agrifiber Products

Composite wood and agrifiber products on the building's interior should contain no urea-formaldehyde resins.


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