Sports Floors Go Green

Sustainability isn't a buzzword anymore. Like other products, college and university facility professionals and their design teams have numerous sustainable products to choose from when it comes to sports floors.

Wood Floors

Lou Bosco, sales manager for Horner Flooring, says sustainable wood floors are receiving significant attention. "Our potential clients, particularly the architects and engineers responsible for specifying, want to know how environmentally responsible we are. The interest today is greater than it was five years ago."

Horner hardwood sports floors are certified as Smartwood, a component of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is in turn part of the worldwide Rain Forest Alliance. "Most of the lumber that we purchase comes from a small group of second- and third-generation landowners who respect and work the land as their families have for decades," Bosco says. "From the initial cutting to final production, we seek to maximize the yield from our wood while making sure that our manufacturing process has minimal impact on the environment. It's a message we share with potential purchasers in many ways."

Bosco notes that deciding whether or not to use a FSC-certified wood floor often comes down to cost. He says that these floors do cost more than using noncertified wood, but the cost is not that much when compared to the overall cost of a new facility.

John Ficks, the sales manager for Robbins Sports Surfaces, echoes Bosco's comment. "Installing a certified wood floor may result in a 10 percent or more up charge on materials, but it's really a small amount as part of the big picture. The college and university market is very price sensitive, and unfortunately using a FSC-certified wood floor may not make it based on budget. Clients that are striving for building certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design (LEED) program may look for credits in other areas."

In response to market demand, Robbins recently introduced a new product that the company is promoting to the college and university market. "The Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA) has traditionally recommended 25/32-in.-thick or 33/32-in.-thick wood floors," Ficks states. "Robbins believed that the market was ready for a new dimension, and developed XL450, a 1/2-in.-thick wood floor that addresses client sustainability concerns. There is no difference in performance, and we're producing a very environmentally responsible product."

According to Ficks, the XL450 floor is more sustainable because less lumber is required for manufacturing. The company can produce two units of the product from the same amount of lumber that would be required to produce one unit using the MFMA's standards. While XL450 is not produced using FSC-certified lumber at this time, Robbins will manufacture the product using Smartwood/FSC-certified lumber if demand for the product increases.

Composite and Synthetic Floors

"Our customers are very concerned about sustainability, particularly when it comes to the health and safety factors associated with 'green' products," says Tony Sain, marketing manager for Lonseal, Inc. "As one example, they want to know how a product will contribute to a facility's Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). We have a number of environmentally responsible products that can be used in a variety of sports installations."

One example is the company's LonEco product, which was introduced in 2001. "LonEco has an average of 50 percent recycled vinyl and wood powder as part of its composition, and emits 1,000 percent less volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than linoleum," Sain states. "This product also helps to meet LEED standards for MR4.1 and MR4.2, which is important for institutions seeking LEED certification for their buildings."

Sain says that a key focus is listening to the market and the sustainability concerns expressed by both current and potential customers. "We are continually looking for new products that will address the increasing interest that we see in sustainability. It's carrying on a focus that our company has had for many years."

Over at nora(r) Rubber Flooring, part of Freudenberg Building Systems, the company promotes not only the user benefits of its products, but the company's manufacturing and installation process, its environmental programs and the economic benefits of its products.

"Our rubber flooring is made from renewable natural rubber that is extracted from the sap of tropical rubber plants and synthetic rubber," states Carol Fudge, nora's(r) marketing manager. "This is a great solution for use in weight and locker rooms and around the perimeter of ice rinks where clients want a sustainable product."

Fudge also says that the company's Take-Back Program, the first of its kind in the U.S., enables customers to return unused or scrap material from an initial installation to the company for reuse in new products. This, coupled with the exact cutting that goes into the company's tile products, which are die cut, helps to ensure that nothing goes to waste.

"You'll find that Nora(r) rubber flooring lasts up to 30 years and requires low maintenance. This means that there is less pollution associated with cleaning and it has low VOCs - all of which contribute to a healthy indoor environment," concludes Fudge. "It is definitely a very green-friendly product."