International flooring industry’s, Denver Coleman, discusses the sustainability of vinyl floors compared to other floorcoverings.With more than 50 years’ experience in the local and international flooring industry, Denver Coleman, Chairman of Polyflor SA, answers questions posed by installers, architects and readers. In this issue, he discusses the sustainability of vinyl floors compared to other floorcoverings.

“How environmentally responsible are vinyl floors compared to other floorcoverings? I want to be sure that the floor I select was manufactured in a way that is environmentally responsible and that I am helping to save the planet in every way that I can.” – Gavin Richards, Cape Town.

Whilst vinyl flooring has always been considered a highly durable flooring solution, it has only recently been given the proverbial “environmental thumbs up” by the likes of the GBCSA as a result of the work done by the South African Vinyl Association (SAVA) – the representative body for the local PVC industry.  SAVA plays an active role in addressing PVC related issues, such as the safe manufacturing and sustainability of vinyl products.

SAVA members focus on the “cradle to grave” approach in their Lifecycle Assessments, taking into account the amount of energy used in sourcing raw materials, the manufacturing process, transportation, installation, maintenance and ultimately the disposal of the product at the end of its life. The better their product performs throughout all these various stages of its life, the better its overall environmental profile and the more likely it is to be specified in these eco-conscious times.

Thanks to the ongoing commitment of the local PVC industry leaders and SAVA’s engagement with the GBCSA, the MAT-7 PVC Minimisation Clause was removed from their Green Star Rating Tool in 2011. Similarly, SAVA has also accepted an invitation to become an Ecospecifier Industry Partner, which strengthens the local PVC industry’s collaborative relationship with Ecospecifier and reflects its interest in providing best practice PVC products to the green building movement.

It is important to note that vinyl is composed of two major ingredients that are freely found in nature, namely chlorine (based on common salt), and ethylene (which is derived from natural gas). By employing further chemistry, vinyl can be made flexible, rigid or semi rigid; clear or colourful; thick or thin. Part of the beauty of affordable, energy-efficient, versatile vinyl is that it can literally last a lifetime. With long lifecycles and natural fire resistance, it’s highly sustainable.

Looking at the manufacturing process of vinyl floors, you will also find that it is the least energy intensive flooring option when compared to all other flooring options. It offers excellent durability (lasting 20 to 25 years) which also helps to improve its environmental rating. The longer a product lasts, the less energy and other resources must be expended to make and install replacement products.

PVC also conserves energy thanks to a low maintenance regime that has been proven to use significantly less chemicals, water and energy. New technologies, for example, polyurethane reinforcements (PUR), have dramatically improved the maintenance and durability of vinyl floors. A PUR homogeneous floor, for example, reduces lifecycle maintenance costs by up to 48% over 20 years when compared to untreated homogeneous flooring.

Finally, vinyl floors are also 100% recyclable. Exciting developments are taking place in Europe and closer to home whereby off-cuts of vinyl floors are collected after installation and recycled to provide a variety of different products, such as gumboots and traffic cones.

Whilst the majority of vinyl products used in South Africa make the grade, some brands of vinyl flooring have far better environmental credentials than others. Do your research and make sure you choose a brand of flooring that has been thoroughly tested by international organisations such as the British Research Establishment (BRE). Only floors that have met the most stringent and advanced testing methods and lifecycle analyses will be awarded the BRE’s A+ certification – the highest possible rating in key use areas and an important international accreditation that is used to promote the sustainability of specific flooring ranges.

For more information, contact Polyflor SA on +27 (11) 609 3500 or via www.polyflor.co.za.