Over the last several years, a growing interest in sustainable building design and construction has dramatically increased the number of "green" materials available to consumers.
Architectural designers now have a generous array of options to offer their eco-concerned clients, including environmentally responsible flooring.
From carpeting to cork, sustainable floors come in a wide range of materials, colours, and price points. Each option has its own 'story' in terms of environmental impact, origin, durability, and recommended use.
When it comes to assessing just how green each flooring option really is, sustainable architectural designers must look beyond the material itself. Clients usually want to understand the total impact of each alternative, and will ask questions like:
- can the product be recycled?
- was it manufactured with an eco-friendly process?
- what is the transport distance?
- how long will the flooring last?
- are there any toxic elements or emissions?
It's the designer's job to present ethical options that best match the client's budget, intended use, and aesthetic style. What popular, sustainable flooring materials should today's designers be prepared to talk about?
These 5 options are a great place to start.
1. Certified Sustainable Hardwood Flooring
Have a client who loves the look of traditional hardwood floors, but is totally against clear-cutting forests for building materials? You could talk to them about sourcing wood from a local, certified sustainable growing operation.
Canada has several independent organizations that certify forests as sustainable. These include the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Learn more about these organizations and certified forests right here.
Reclaimed or recycled wood is another good option for clients who want the hardwood aesthetic without the high environmental cost.
2. Cork Flooring
Cork is a trendy, relatively affordable option for eco-conscious clients. Cork flooring is made from the bark of the cork oak, which when harvested correctly, can be removed without hurting the tree. This flooring alternative has been around for decades, but has enjoyed an upsurge in popularity in recent years.
There are numerous "green" benefits to going with cork floors. The trees regenerate their bark after harvesting, and can live for more than a century. The material itself is flexible, holds warmth, naturally repels mold, mildew and pests, and can be stained any shade the client wants.
3. Eco-friendly carpeting
Many consumers love the colour, artistry, and texture of carpeting—but are worried about synthetic materials, non-renewable manufacturing processes, and toxic emissions (from glue, stain repellants, and other chemical treatments).
Trendy eco-friendly carpeting alternatives focus on products made from natural fibres, such as wool, jute, coir, and seagrass—sourced from sustainable plants that are easy to grow in difficult conditions.
Designers may also recommend carpets made from recycled materials, which can include everything from post-consumer plastic bottles to reclaimed fishing nets. But beware of the underlay when selecting a green carpet. It doesn't matter how sustainable the primary material is if the padding is made from conventional, toxic materials!
4. Recycled Rubber Floors
Once relegated to gyms and playgrounds, rubber flooring is now becoming a popular choice for both residential and commercial spaces. Recycled rubber keeps tires out of landfills, is durable and long-lasting, and comes in a variety of colours and patterns.
Crucially, rubber can be manufactured using local materials, without hazardous chemicals, and most options don't contain PVC (so, no toxic emissions).
5. Recycled Glass Tiles
Recycled glass is a huge trend in sustainable flooring. The glass comes from post-consumer bottles, broken windows, discarded porcelain fixtures, and other waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.
Popular for bathrooms in particular, glass flooring comes in planks and tiles, and produces a beautiful, light-reflective finish. It's easy to maintain, doesn't stain, and won't mildew in a humid environment. Glass flooring and tiles come in a wide array of patterns and colours, so it's easy to adapt to each client's personal preferences.
Interested in exploring other sustainable architecture trends? Considering becoming a "green" designer, and looking for a top-rated sustainable architecture program in Montreal?
Explore the Sustainable Architecture Training offered by Herzing College in Montreal. This comprehensive diploma teaches the principles of eco-friendly building, green construction regulations and standards, architectural drafting, and much more.
Click below to learn more about the program, see a detailed list of sustainable architecture courses, or chat live with a friendly advisor. We're here to help!