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Next Gen Sustainability

September 27, 2013

It’s easy to make environmental claims about nearly any building product these days, but the leaders in eco-innovation continue to prove that true sustainability means doing things the hard way. Whether it’s pouring money and effort into research and development, working with nonprofits to revive hard-hit economies or pushing the industry to fully disclose the (good and bad) ingredients in a product, some companies in the contract industry are going the extra distance to create a better world for the next generation.

In that spirit, we picked six of our favorite sustainable products that truly exceed expectations in sustainable manufacturing—but we’re just scratching the surface. Share your favorite product or company that’s going farther in the name of sustainability on our Facebook and Twitter pages, and join us in giving these manufacturers a much-deserved pat on the back!





 Teknion Interpret

In many ways, Interpret™ from Teknion seems like a template for the future of sustainable office products. The Toronto-based manufacturer has infused the contemporary desking system with a global sensibility, allowing designers around the world to leverage their local resources while making the system their own.

Interpret’s adaptable platform allows for the incorporation of locally specific materials, such as bamboo tops in Asia or metric connectors in Europe, while Teknion’s regional manufacturing strategy provides economic opportunities for workers and reduces transportation outlays.

“We’ve incorporated an appreciation for other cultures, rather than just being a driver of North American manufacturing” says Tracy Backus, Teknion’s director of sustainable programs. “It’s about allowing people to make a choice.”

Interpret is currently level® 2 certified (and going through the process to achieve level 3), features approximately 40 percent recycled content and can be easily recycled at the end of its life. It has also been designed in accordance with LEED principles emphasizing openness and access to views, as well as the EPA’s Design for the Environment guidelines, which advise manufacturers on the best practices for reducing environmental impacts from production methods.

 interface net effect

Interface’s new Net Effect™ collection of modular carpet is a testament to the “triple bottom line” benefits of sustainable product manufacturing.

The collection was born of Net-Works, a local reclamation system for discarded fishing nets, which launched in the Danajon Bank area of the Philippines in 2012. By creating a viable waste stream to feed Interface’s post-consumer nylon recycling goals, Net-Works is providing the impetus for new community banking institutions that offer long-term solutions to poverty, and improving livelihoods in some of the world’s poorest coastal communities. It also protects marine life and helps clear vulnerable beaches and endangered reefs.

“Interface’s business is built around inspiration, innovation and the pursuit of true sustainability—economic, environmental and social,” says Chip DeGrace, executive creative director for Interface. “Programs like Net-Works demonstrate how creative thinking can change the way we do business and move us closer to the ultimate goal of being a restorative enterprise.”

Net Effect contains up to 81 percent recycled content with 100 percent recycled content yarn, and is part of Interface’s Mission Zero® promise to eliminate negative environmental impacts by 2020.

 kirei board

John Stein, owner of sustainable surfacing manufacturer, Kirei, has built a career out of the materials no one wants. His company uses rapidly renewable and reclaimed agricultural fibers to create gorgeous, one-of-a-kind panels suitable for use in millwork, furniture, displays and more. “The material no one wants is our gold,” he says. “To us, it’s where the real beauty lies.”

The company’s flagship product, known simply as Kirei Board, is made from stalks of the sorghum plant, a widely grown crop used for food and biofuels. By removing those stalks from the waste stream, where they were typically burned or taken to the landfill, Kirei has simultaneously reduced air and landfill pollution and provided rural farmers with a new income stream. These reclaimed materials are combined with FSC-certified bonding strips and a formaldehyde-free adhesive to create healthy, natural surfaces for use in interior environments, giving designers the rare triple win.

 carnegie biobased xorel

Thirty-two years after Carnegie released its Xorel PVC-free textiles, the manufacturer is making waves in weaves once again with Biobased Xorel®—the world’s first high-performance interior textile with a majority of plant-based content.

The new line was introduced at NeoCon 2013 with six designs, including the re-launch of popular classics Strie, Nexus and Dash, plus three new patterns—Abacus, Topiary and Veneer. Remarkably, they show no discernable visual or performance differences from existing Xorel products.

“We’re extremely proud to have developed this product that looks and performs exactly like the original Xorel, proving that enhanced sustainability doesn’t have to trade off beauty and durability,” says Cliff Goldman, president of Carnegie.

Xorel’s plant-based content is derived from sugar cane production, which captures and sequesters 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide for every ton of the raw material produced. Deriving these polyethylene yarns from plant-based resources instead of fossil fuels also reduces the product’s carbon footprint significantly.

Depending on the pattern, the textile contains 60 to 85 percent biobased content, much higher than the 25 percent required by U.S. standards to carry the Biobased label. It has also achieved Cradle to Cradle Gold certification and an SCS Indoor Advantage™ Gold rating, and is the only textile product on the market that can earn designers points toward four credits under LEED v4 rating system: Rapidly Renewable Content, Indoor Air Quality, Material Transparency and Material Optimization.

Watch a video about the making of Biobased Xorel here.

 armstrong striations

Vinyl tile remains a popular option for commercial interiors because of its durability and cost effectiveness, but the use of petrochemicals in the manufacturing process makes it problematic for designers looking to create the greenest spaces possible. Armstrong’s innovative BioStride polymer aims to change that with the help of some innovative chemistry.

Made from domestically grown corn, a rapidly renewable material, BioStride takes the place of traditional petroleum-based polymers in Armstrong’s vinyl composition tiles, such as its Striations line. And while it’s a relatively small ingredient substitution—BioStride accounts for less than 15 percent of a composition tile’s makeup—the results can add up quickly. The company estimates that a 20,000-square-foot installation of BioBased Tile® can save the energy and natural resources equivalent to 72 gallons of gasoline. BioStride also eliminates the use of PVC and phthalates in Armstrong’s VCT lines—welcome news for those worried about the health effects of extended exposure to those chemicals.

Striations also uses 85 percent North American limestone, an abundant natural resource (including 10 percent recycled limestone), making it eligible for Recycled Content, Regional Materials, Rapidly Renewable Materials and Low Emitting LEED credits. The line is FloorScore® and NSF/ANSI 332 Gold certified, making it a truly sustainable option for sensitive spaces like clinics and schools.

 wilsonart laminates

Formaldehyde-based resins are used by virtually all decorative laminate manufacturers, but until recently, finding information on the precise chemical makeup of these products—and by extension, their possible health impacts—was next to impossible. Thanks to companies like Wilsonart, that will soon be changing.

The Texas-based company was one of the original participants in the development of the Health Product Declaration Open Standard, a voluntary format for disclosing product content and related health concerns that are typically not reported under other “green” certifications.

Wilsonart is currently finalizing the HPD for its High Pressure Decorative Laminate, which will eventually provide specifiers with a detailed listing of the chemicals and ingredients—both hazardous and benign—that make up the product.

The company’s decorative laminates have also been certified as SCS Indoor Advantage Gold, which meets more stringent residential VOC emissions criteria than comparable commercial IAQ certifications; it is also the first laminate manufacturer to earn FSC Chain of Custody certification for its decorative laminates, ensuring that its products marked with the FSC checkmark and logo have been sourced from responsibly managed forests.