Sustainable flooring materials for commercial offices
“Creating spaces that stand the test of time, where people want to live, work and thrive, is one of the most sustainable actions we can take in design.”
This sentiment, shared by Armstrong Flooring’s VP of design in Floor Cover Weekly, captures the twofold challenges of sustainable office flooring. The materials should pass green standards, yes — but also hold up to the wear and tear of busy office life.
A sustainable workspace design has grown from revolutionary to routine over the last decade, and facilities managers are continuing to put sustainability at the forefront of their design.
So what do these solutions look like in practice today?
To help in this search for a solution that is both environmentally friendly and durable, we’ve put together a collection of sustainable flooring materials you can consider for your workplace renovations.
What are my environmentally friendly flooring options?
Your material choices play a significant role in the environmental impact of any building — and your flooring materials are no different. While you may feel that you are restricted in your interior choices within a rented space, there are sustainable material you can easily install.
Carpet and carpet tiles
Eco-friendly carpets made with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), non-toxic dyes and easily separated backing (which makes for easy recycling) are a great example of a standard office flooring option — just produced more sustainably. There are many options made from recycled resources, or made from natural materials such as wool, jute and seagrass.
Both broadloom and carpet tiles are sustainable options, though carpet tiles will cut down on waste during maintenance and installation; if there’s a stain, you only have to replace a single square. Finally, carpet can be easily cleaned and is durable, making it suitable for many years of use.
Reclaimed or engineered wood
Reclaimed wood floors offer an elegant look, perfect for impressing visitors in lobby and conference room spaces. Additionally, this flooring material contributes to good indoor air quality, doesn’t need to be replaced as often as other materials and at the end of its life, wood flooring can be recycled into something new.
Make sure to choose a refurbished wood with an FSC certification; this ensures the material came from responsibly managed forests with minimal impact on the environment.
Finally, engineered hardwood is an environmentally friendly alternative to real hardwood flooring. It offers virtually the same durability and design benefits, and the inner-ply layers are often made up of recycled products.
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Bio-based tile (BBT)
Bio-based tile is a growing trend in flooring that holds many of the same advantages as resilient flooring — durability, strength, design versatility, affordability — with the added bonus of sustainability. Its eco-friendly perks include 40% pre-consumer recycled content, a low-carbon footprint and low VOCs.
As a flooring option, cork is completely renewable. Every part of the harvested cork is used in production (wine stoppers are punched out of the planks, scraps are processed into flooring materials), and cork trees regenerate their bark every nine years. All in all, it’s one of the most environmentally friendly resources on the planet.
Additionally, facility managers can count on cork flooring to provide superior comfort, increased thermal insulation and improved sound and vibration control.
Terrazzo’s sustainable edge comes from its installation: The material is easily installed without the use of harsh chemicals. And because there are no grout lines, which trap dirt, it’s easy to maintain and keep clean — contributing to a greater indoor air quality for your workspace. It also has a LEED-friendly status.
It also offers virtually limitless design and color options, perfect for greeting visitors with a custom logo or unique pattern reminiscent of high-end marble tile.
Polished concrete may not be the first option that comes to mind when you think of office flooring, but it has recently seen a sharp increase in popularity in commercial spaces. This growth in specification can likely be attributed to its sustainability (alongside overall durability and improved installation technology).
It is easily installed and easily maintained — there is no need for the typical wax-and-strip method. Further, polished concrete offers a long lifespan and can contribute to your facility’s LEED certification, should you choose to seek it.
For further sustainable material research, check out mindfulMATERIALS
This resource is a design industry initiative that provides a platform for manufacturers to communicate information on their products — including sustainability details. To access the database, you simply need to create a free account. When you select a product, you’ll see potential compliances (such as LEED – v4.1 Low Emitting Materials) and certifications (such as Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Plus).
Flooring materials included in the mM library must meet one of the criteria regarding VOC emissions, material ingredients, material sourcing and the environmental profile. For further reading on the criteria and how it works, check out this user guide.
Additional considerations for your materials search
We’ve shared examples of proven sustainable flooring options to get your gears turning on what could work for your workspace.
You know your office and its ever-evolving needs best, but we can share a few final questions and considerations we recommend assessing during your search.
- What is the transport distance of the material? Can it be regionally sourced? (You can earn LEED credits for products that are extracted, harvested or manufactured within 500 miles of the job site.)
- Is it low-emitting? (Products that contain non-toxic adhesives and solvents are also more likely to meet LEED air quality standards.)
- What is the maintenance level required, and does it call for any harsh chemicals?
- Can the flooring be renewed and/or recycled at the end of its life?
For further reading on selecting flooring materials for your office renovation (including room-by-room recommendations), check out this article.
Still have sustainable flooring questions?
Achieving an eco-friendly flooring solution isn’t about simply checking a box — like durability or ease of installation, sustainability in flooring is a nuanced topic. The best solution will be tailored to your office’s needs.
That’s where we come in.
Whether you’re simply looking for environmentally responsible product choices or working toward LEED certification, we’re here to help. We’ll show you samples and help you select the best material for your budget, design vision and eco-friendly goals. Start a conversation with a commercial flooring expert.
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