There is a lot of discussion these days about what the best choice for a sustainable interior floorcovering should be and the debate continues. Some architects say that LEED carpet tile is the best solution. Most of them say this based on the fact that broadloom carpet cannot be recycled into itself yet in a closed loop system. Others say this because carpet tile can be replaced and is a longer term solution without some of the problems of broadloom. LEED carpet tile is a great solution for many environments. This article looks at the pros, and yes, the cons of the discussion and what flooring really is the best choice for what environments.
LEED carpet tile really refers to carpet tiles that can help with LEED points on a project and are generally those tiles that are considered environmentally friendly. Many carpet tiles these days have this designation and if they don’t really, their marketing teams do a great job convincing some architects and designers that they should be considered anyway. This is why it is important to really look at the facts and the specification details of the products being considered and make sure all marketing claims adhere to the Federal Trade Commission guidelines of environmental marketing claims. Otherwise, you could be getting duped by a slick marketing MBA graduate who knows how to push your green buttons. Also, using only materials that have independent third party certifications so you know you can trust the claims you are evaluating is a very smart idea as well.
All that said, are LEED carpet tiles the best choice for an interior environment? Often times they are due to the fact that the top companies in the carpet tile industry can all be recycled back into themselves in a closed loop system. This is the single most important factor for an environmentally responsible mill. If a company has no plan for what to do with the materials they make then they really should not be considered a green carpet tile anyway. But what about the negative side of carpet tiles?
Consider that often times carpet tiles are replaced rather than cleaned since it is easy to pick them up off the floor when a spill or stain occurs. That process is wasteful of materials and capital. Often times it is better to clean the floor with a green maintenance program than pull up expensive carpet tiles and toss them in the garbage and send them to the landfill. Additionally, this practice often leaves facilities with splotchy and quilt-like floors that have new and old tiles side by side which looks terrible. When this happens the floor starts looking so bad that all the carpet gets replaced prematurely. In this case the selection of a LEED carpet tile might not have been the best choice. Perhaps a hybrid resilient flooring like VCTT might have been a better solution.
Bottom line, LEED carpet tile can be a great choice for certain environments but it is not always the best solution for every interior space. Make sure you consider ergonomics, replacement cycles, needs of the users, recyclability, the true need of replacement materials, and the maintenance program of the user. This will help you choose the right product for the right application.