With push coming from both governmental regulations and consumers, companies today have more incentives than ever to engage in environmentally sustainable practices. Many companies focus their sustainability plans on limiting their water and energy usage, carbon footprint and material waste that ends up in landfills, but the type of flooring systems installed in their facilities is an energy-saving area that is often overlooked.
- Minimizing Waste
- Responsibly Sourced Materials
- Reducing Energy Consumption and Emissions
- Shipping and Packaging Practices
In addition to mandatory EPA regulations governing the construction of new buildings, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) offers a voluntary certification program, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Being able to contribute credits to a construction project’s LEED Green Building Certification, of which there are multiple types and levels, can indicate to the environmentally conscious public that the product’s manufacturer is actively pursuing green objectives in their own facility, such as using production processes that minimize waste, optimize energy usage and mitigate the facility’s impact on the environment. Green building credits can be earned in a variety of categories that go toward LEED certification, and the installation of an epoxy or similar resinous floor coating can contribute toward certifying a facility in various areas. Achieving LEED Green Building Certification, beyond saving money in the way a facility operates, can also sometimes qualify the building owner for tax rebates and other incentives.
Carpeting and laminate flooring systems produced in sheets or planks must be cut into the correct dimensions for the facility, with the cut-off scraps being sent to the landfill. Besides the physical waste produced, carbon emissions result from shipping the material to a landfill, and the cost of this disposal process—though perhaps not listed as a line item—will be included in the final bill for the project. Fluid-applied resinous flooring systems can typically avoid creating this type of waste.
Freshly poured concrete slabs can be a great substrate for a broad spectrum of floor coverings, but what about concrete slabs that are old, worn out, uneven and/or cracked? Many types of flooring systems cannot accommodate being installed over a degraded concrete surface, even when the slab itself is structurally sound. Manufacturers therefore occasionally recommend that building owners replace the old slab with completely new concrete before certain flooring installations can move forward, potentially resulting in additional expense, extra waste and more downtime before the project can be completed.
In many cases, epoxy floor coatings and other resinous floor resurfacers can be used to refurbish and repair the slab, providing the existing concrete with extended usable life. Well-specified and installed epoxy floor coatings may not even require replacement when or if the facility changes hands or undergoes a functional conversion. And should a new flooring system be in fact necessary, fresh epoxy or resinous coatings—and even alternative floor coverings—can often be installed directly over the original epoxy system. This helps eliminate the need to tear up the old flooring material and cart it off to the landfill.
Epoxy floor coatings and other resinous flooring systems often contain a variety of functional and/or decorative aggregate that are incorporated into the floor’s liquid resin applications. The aggregates can include quartz, mica mineral flakes, various types of sand or stone, synthetic materials and other materials, used both to impart additional strength and to create an aesthetic appeal. Today, many flooring manufacturers offer options that employ recycled glass aggregates to help reduce the quantity of newly sourced materials used.
Another way to choose environmentally friendly flooring options is to find out exactly where the materials are sourced. Whenever possible, choose materials that are mined, produced or stocked regionally, to help reduce the carbon emissions associated with transporting materials to a project site.
Both the color and gloss level of a flooring system can have an impact on the level of illumination in a facility. When comparing spaces with the same number of identically powered overhead fixtures, high gloss, light-colored floor coverings naturally reflect more light and make the room brighter. Conversely, matte flooring systems in darker colors “absorb” the available room light and can make the space dimmer. Installing a light-colored, glossy floor coating can allow managers to achieve greater room illumination and visibility, while at the same time save on energy costs with reduced electricity consumption.
Unlike durable, professional-grade epoxy floor coatings, simple DIY sealers can wear away relatively quickly when subjected to high traffic, exposing the unsealed, bare concrete surface underneath. The resulting dull appearance may even prompt maintenance staff to rekindle their old routine of regularly waxing and stripping the floor. Running the polishing and buffing equipment necessary to maintain floors treated in this way requires excess energy consumption.
Also, in areas with bare, unsealed concrete, fine particles of concrete dust can often get released into the air and circulated through the HVAC system. In addition to posing a health and sanitation hazard, concrete dust can accumulate in the filters and works of the building’s ventilation system, causing it to run less efficiently and requiring more energy to circulate the same amount of air.
Beyond the dangers associated with unsealed concrete, a well-selected flooring system can itself contribute to better indoor air quality (IDAQ) within a facility. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are materials that can readily vaporize and be released into the atmosphere, and can be detrimental to the health of sensitive individuals when exposed. While epoxy coatings of previous decades, like other industrial paints and liquids, were likely to have contained higher quantities of VOCs, the best epoxy floor coatings today present extremely low to zero VOC emissions. This protects both the air quality within the facility and the greater environment.
While perhaps a bit harder to track down, it can often pay to ask a flooring manufacturer about their shipping and packaging practices in terms of environmental sustainability. Ideally, only the minimal necessary packaging supplies should be used, and these materials should be recycled, and recyclable, whenever possible.
When correctly specified and installed, epoxy and other resinous floor coatings offer long-lasting facility flooring solutions that are highly functional, aesthetically attractive and environmentally sustainable. Consider incorporating a fluid-applied resinous flooring system as part of your company’s sustainability plan.