floors for sustainability

Floor coverings are an important element in achieving sustainability goals, particularly for passive design interventions. It may be considered sustainable if it is created from natural resources, in a sustainable process. What other criteria should be considered when choosing flooring for a green building project? 

To make flooring part of the sustainability system,

consider the following checklist of criteria: 


Where is the flooring manufactured: Local supply versus imported products? 

Locally sourced materials support the local community and have a lower carbon cost for delivery. By reducing the use of imported materials, the associated embodied energy and emissions are also reduced.  


Are the manufacturing processes for the product sustainable? 

Eliminating the use of harmful chemicals or additives in the manufacturing and improved recycling post-use are initiatives embraced by the South African Vinyls Association (SAVA) members as part of its product stewardship commitment. 

A product with Global GreenTag certification will include a rating of its manufacturing and production, and will specify if they operate under a certified environmental management system. 

floors for sustainability 


Is there recycled content in the flooring, or can the product be fully recycled or repurposed? 

Wooden flooring is an excellent example of this, as hardwood can be reused as flooring, for cladding or repurposed into furniture. This reduces the need for new wood. When recycling products such as vinyl flooring, this could address any raw material shortages. 


This refers to products that have a minimal impact on global ecosystems during their lifecycle. It includes both the products and the packaging. Consider if the product or packaging is biodegradable, if it can be recycled with minimal carbon impact, what the carbon emissions are over time and if it offers a low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) rating. 

Bio-based products 

These are products that are wholly or partly derived from materials of biological origin, excluding materials embedded in geological formations and/or fossilised. 

One example is the conversion of digital printers from solvent-based to water-based inks by System Ceramics. The test results of these new water-based inks have confirmed clear advantages: First of all, an improved print definition determined by a more rapid absorption capacity by the substrate and the absence of water repellence on the glaze which, in turn, benefits from a more advanced application process. 

Maintenance and replacement issues 

The costs of maintenance and replacement can affect the sustainability of a project. For example, using flooring that can be easily repaired. Consider the removal and replacement of individual floor tiles, versus replacing vinyl sheeting in an entire room.  


Resource recovery from waste is an example of a circular economy. It is the recycling of something destined for landfill into a new, useful product. The Mathe Group is exploiting this opportunity with its operation that recycles radial tyres into synthetic turf fillers and playground safety mulch to carpet padding and advanced road surfacing. 


Issue: Flooring as a sustainable element in a green building. 

Solution: A checklist of criteria helps to determine the sustainability of flooring products. 


Thanks and acknowledgement to Global GreenTag, Jeremy Gibberd, Mathe Group, SAVA and System Ceramics for the information in this article. 

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