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The Future of Flooring

April 22, 2021
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Earn CEU Credits:

i+s’ Continuing Education Series articles allow design practitioners to earn continuing education unit credits through an article.

Use the following learning objectives to focus your study while reading this article. To receive one health, safety and wellness hour of continuing education credit (0.1 CEU) as approved by IDCEC or 1 Learning Unit as approved by AIA, read the article, then take the associated exam

After reading this article, you should be able to:

  • To understand why vinyl and rubber are superior and sustainable materials for flooring.
  • To be able to specify the right flooring material for a variety of commercial settings.
  • To understand how vinyl and rubber flooring can contribute to healthy interiors.
  • To understand how vinyl and rubber flooring can make valuable contributions to both indoor air quality and a building’s overall carbon footprint.
  • To understand how vinyl and rubber flooring can contribute to a circular economy.

*This CEU opportunity is sponsored by FLEXCO.

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Vinyl and rubber infuse the flooring sector with innovation in sustainability and style

Interior environments have been in the spotlight for some time, with an increasing number of third-party certifiers keeping tabs on sustainability, occupant health and well-being, material safety, and more. Rightfully so, design professionals are increasingly engaged in and viewed as significant players not only in the future of the planet, but in the overall wellness of all individuals who will experience the spaces they design. As we move carefully into a post-pandemic world, material decisions are only set to increase in importance in the eyes of everyone from the real estate developer to the architect and interior designer to the end user.

With the volume of flooring required for a commercial project of any kind—be it a healthcare setting, an educational campus, a retail establishment, a hospitality or entertainment venue, a transportation hub—the demand for durable, safe, and attractive flooring options is only set to rise. The design industry is not lacking for choices where flooring is concerned. Products abound and prices vary but, how do you really choose the right flooring option for each project? How do you balance form with function? Style with sustainability? Beauty with bacteria resistance? The answers come in the form of rubber and vinyl flooring options that can withstand extreme traffic, resist contamination, channel spills and prevent slippage, allude to the natural world through biophilic design, offer quieter comfort than hard floor options, support and protect the environment, and look good doing it. 

The flooring options that exist with rubber and vinyl are countless and can serve the majority of commercial settings, offering creativity for the designer and comfort, safety, and enjoyment for those who will experience the completed space. These two materials have the benefits of history, innovation, and creativity on their side and their measured performance over time renders them research-proven options to complete any design project.

History of a Material: Rubber

Rubber is a material whose history is debated, which often is the case when a material reaches back in time quite as far as it does. The variety of origin tales is rich and stretches across not just varied time periods but differing portions of the globe as well. 

One version of rubber’s origin story dates to the Mayan Indians and their discovery of a tree in the rainforest that was believed to be crying. A sample of the tears, which of course were really sap, was brought back to the Mayan village and the variety of its uses discovered from there. Some give credit to Christopher Columbus for not so much discovering rubber itself but rather for discovering that people in Haiti had already discovered it—and were reportedly bouncing a ball made from it—when he visited the Caribbean location in the late 1400s. Yet another version jumps ahead a few centuries to the early half of the 1700s and finds a French astronomer returning from an assignment in Peru with samples of the sappy substance discovered on his journey.

Elevator

As exotic as the origin stories and locations may be, there is one place we know for certain had a huge impact on the future of rubber and the everyday uses we would come to find for it: New Jersey. It was here that Charles Goodyear, for whom the Tire Company would be named after his death, became the first known inventor to actually vulcanize rubber. Rubber had been used for shoes and for some clothing items for more than a decade already and Goodyear saw greater potential for the material, using it first to craft rubber mail bags. But there were issues. Most notably, rubber did not react well to changes in temperature—a problem that rendered it very stiff when cold, unfortunately sticky when hot, and, therefore, rather difficult to work with in general. It was in 1839 that Goodyear discovered the process that would change rubber’s future, rendering it the functional, flexible material we know today, but, while he was granted a United States patent for it in 1844, he would never really make money from his discovery. (The company famous for its rubber tires that bears his name was not actually started by him.)

Vulcanization itself is a chemical process that essentially improves on the existent qualities of natural or synthetic rubber. By heating the rubber with sulfur, the resultant material not only has a greater tensile strength, but it is also more adaptable to ranges of temperature, thereby eliminating earlier issues that held the material back from reaching its full potential. 

The process established, rubber would go on to be used for making tires for bicycles and it would later further benefit from the success of the auto industry in the early 1900s. World War II put emphasis not only on the demand for rubber but on the strain the war effort put on the natural supply from rubber trees. The race began to find a satisfactory alternative, one that could be created in factories and in abundance. This material, reportedly first successfully achieved by the Russians as early as 1910, would come to be known as synthetic rubber. From the 1930s on, a variety of synthetic alternatives would hit the market, expanding the capabilities of rubber and paving the way for the wide variety of materials and uses we enjoy today.

Rubber for the Floor

In the history of flooring as well, rubber’s timeline is a lengthy one. Rubber tiles are sometimes noted to date as far back as the 1200s, with some sources pointing back even further. While the material’s use for flooring seems to fade from the books in the 1600s, it returns to the scene in 1894 when the Philadelphia architect Frank Furness is credited with inventing a locking system that would work to keep rubber tiles in place. This not only made installation easier but also allowed homeowners to get creative and fashion different patterns simply by the way they chose to position the tiles. 

Today, the versatility that can be achieved with rubber flooring has expanded greatly. The material is regarded as an ideal choice for a variety of commercial design settings and for a number of reasons. Rubber floors are naturally resistant to bacteria and fungi and their composition results in a cushioned effect that works to reduce leg fatigue, two crucial points of interest for settings where people will spend much of their days on their feet and where sanitation and safety go without question, like medical facilities and throughout the food service industry. But, that’s not all. The composition of rubber, softer and more cushioned and impact absorbent than harder flooring surfaces, also works to dampen sound in a space, thereby providing acoustic benefits for spaces that see heavy traffic and large crowds. This acoustic benefit can also be experienced in more cavernous spaces, with wide-open floorplans and high ceilings, where sound can bounce off of walls and other hard surfaces, creating an echo effect, if not properly absorbed. Rubber flooring also has improved IIC (Impact Insulation Class) numbers. Some products produce up to a 58 IIC in standard situational testing. The number reflects footfall noise traveling from floor to floor in a building. 

From a design perspective, the material allows for a variety of options including speckled, marbleized, and homogeneous color across an entire space that can be complemented by raised patterns that serve a two-fold purpose: First, the raised pattern offers an element of visual texture and appeal that adds depth to a solid-color surface and, second, the raised pattern and grooves that result allow for dirt and water to be diverted from the actual walking surface. The latter adds an element of safety to rubber flooring options as it improves traction and slip resistance. These features have long rendered rubber a popular flooring choice for fitness centers of all kinds, including weight rooms and yoga studios where the cushioned return of the material adds a level of comfort to the tasks at hand, but they serve wider reaching demands as well. Think of healthcare facilities and nursing homes, places where patients may have mobility issues that leave them more prone to falls, where healthcare workers spend long hours on their feet, and where spills are a normal part of an average day. Rubber also enjoys praise in the culinary world, where a combination of long hours on one’s feet and spills of all kinds are the norm as well.

Reflective Rings

The durability of rubber flooring makes it a clear choice for areas of heavy foot traffic but, it is further tough enough to withstand small-wheeled vehicles—think hospital gurneys, airport trams, retail warehouse vehicles, and shopping carts. Rubber also offers the bonuses of being a quiet surface on which to walk and requiring very low maintenance and no waxing—big benefits when designing large-scale, high-traffic spaces. In such spaces as well, rubber’s high marks for slip resistance are paramount as the material typically surpasses minimum standards set for coefficient of friction. This, among its other attributes, makes it a particularly smart choice for healthcare facilities and nursing homes.

Some rubber flooring options are even primed for controlled environments like data centers, clean rooms, and equipment spaces at healthcare and other facilities. These locations are at higher risk for equipment damage caused by electrostatic discharge than average commercial settings. Such damage can cost both time and money and also get in the way of critical operations. Static dissipative rubber tile can combat this and offer such spaces a boost of color as well, an important consideration in any space but particularly in healthcare settings. In such spaces, where electric medical equipment lives side-by-side with patients, color can be employed to improve mood and has been studied as a valued part of the healing process.

Rubber flooring has also increasingly come into play in residential environments as an increased focus on health and wellness has led consumers to build dedicated gym/yoga spaces in their homes. In the wake of COVID-19, this trend is expected to continue as wellness takes center stage and homeowners look to morph their homes to suit their complete lifestyle needs, including spaces to exercise and at-home indoor and outdoor play areas for kids where the softer surface can work to keep active little ones safe from falling on harder surfaces.

History of a Material: Vinyl

Vinyl as a substance first appears on the records not as a flooring option but as a material with yet unrealized potential. Polyvinyl Chloride, commonly known as PVC, first appears courtesy of German chemist Eugen Baumann in 1872. The first patent for PVC, however, doesn’t come until 1913, when Friedrich Klatte discovered an alternate route to polymerization. Still, it would take more than another decade before the chemical would be engaged for a useful purpose and longer still before it would be suggested for use as a flooring material.

It’s often said that “necessity is the mother of invention” but, in the case of vinyl, and many other respected advances throughout time, necessity led to an accidental discovery that, in the end, turned out to be a notable invention of its own. Such was the case in 1926, when Waldo Lonsbury Semon, a researcher working for The BF Goodrich Company in Akron, Ohio, was experimenting with materials in search of a new adhesive that would bond rubber to metal. His work led him to a different type of material—a plasticized polyvinyl chloride—that lacked the rigidity of the earlier materials developed by Baumann and Klatte and had a texture more similar to that of rubber. He patented his discovery, which went on to be used for items like tubing and wire insulation and also for use in everyday items like shower curtains, shoe heels, and even golf balls. The more rigid form would, of course, later go on to define an industry and generations of music lovers with the introduction (and much later retro revival) of the vinyl record.

Vinyl as Flooring

Vinyl first enters the flooring scene in 1933 when vinyl composite tile as an idea for use as flooring was presented at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. Despite its easy installation, vinyl for common use as flooring would have unique hurdles to bear; most notably, World War II. As it did for rubber, the war would have its effect on the production and use of this material. During this time period, much of manufacturing in general was diverted to the war effort and vinyl manufacturing was no different as every industry that was able pitched in to do its part. During the war, vinyl as a material filled in when natural rubber supplies ran scarce and also served heavily in one of its earlier noted abilities—as insulation for wiring, a purpose of great demand at the time for its abundant use in military ships.

Where flooring is concerned, vinyl proved itself early on to be among the most durable options. It falls into the resilient flooring classification as it can bend and flex to accommodate its purpose. When standard manufacturing resumed after the war, vinyl flooring was back on the scene and quickly made headway. By the 1960s, vinyl was second only to carpet in popularity for flooring in homes and it continues to be a highly regarded option for both residential and commercial projects today. Still considered a top choice for homes spanning traditional to modern styles and every style in between, residential use of the material today is only the beginning. This is a rugged flooring option, perfect for heavy-traffic areas and other extreme demands such as laboratory and industrial environments. 

The strength that has earned vinyl its positive reputation for use in demanding settings has been coupled in more recent decades with a design sense that has softened and enhanced the look of the material, without compromising performance. In fact, This Old House magazine has pointed to vinyl flooring as “continually improving in looks and performance.” 

Visually speaking, today’s product development teams produce looks that are inspired by nature and mimic elements like stone, wood, varied grasses, and more—an aesthetic appeal not historically expected of a vinyl product. The bonus? All the biophilic design characteristics and benefits typically instilled by a natural product without the cost or maintenance of one. In fact, this is a material that can be fashioned to mimic virtually anything, from patterned ceramic tiles with recessed grout lines, to limestone, seagrass, slate, oak, marble, metals, and more. Not to mention the countless style options that fall into more illustrated style categories like geometric patterns or botanical prints.

There are also levels of comfort and convenience in play, simply due to the makeup of the material. Vinyl is slip-resistant, simple to clean, and can offer a layer of cushioning that is not possible when working with more rigid materials. Much as in the case for rubber, such characteristics are of particular importance when designing spaces for the healthcare sector and also education spaces, where consideration for how much time will be spent on one’s feet is paramount.

Vinyl flooring is available in sheets, tiles, and planks, providing options for virtually any setting. There are some key terms that will be important to understand when specifying a vinyl floor product:

Vinyl sheet: There are two types of vinyl sheet: homogeneous and heterogeneous. A vinyl sheet is comprised of multiple layers designed to provide support, keep the sheet itself flat once installed, add cushioning for comfort, and to provide color, pattern, and wearability. Vinyl sheets are rolled out over a designated floor space, providing a smooth surface, with minimal seams, across wide swaths of ground area.

Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT): Luxury vinyl tile is made up of similar layers as its sheet-form counterparts but the final product is stiffer than a vinyl sheet. LVT can come in tile and plank form and can be designed to mimic stone, ceramic, wood, and much more. This option is commonly used in residential settings but depending on wear layer quality, it is durable enough to withstand the most demanding commercial applications as well.

Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT): Unlike the more flexible vinyl options, vinyl composition tile blends vinyl with ground limestone to form rigid tiles that are capable of withstanding extreme traffic settings, like schools and other commercial institutions. VCT tiles should be glued in place and will be installed flush to one another, with no grout, creating a very clean installed appearance. This is the least expensive of all vinyl products to install, but it will be the costliest over time because of its required maintenance.

Solid Vinyl Tile: Solid vinyl tile is a high-performing and extremely durable product. It is a homogeneous product made from pure virgin vinyl and premium raw materials that maintains solid, consistent color throughout.

Woven Vinyl: This product weaves strands of polyester and vinyl into soft sheets that offer added texture but are still stain resistant and easy to clean and maintain. This product is often used in applications where the look of carpet is desired with the durability and cleanability of vinyl.

Woven vinyl flooring in an office space
Woven vinyl flooring in an office space

Installation & Cost

Professional installation of a vinyl floor will depend on the type of vinyl product chosen—planks, tiles, or sheet. Planks and tiles can be of tongue-and-groove design. Vinyl flooring is also sometimes installed by use of an adhesive, especially in a commercial setting. For this procedure, the planks or tiles are secured to a subfloor with an adhesive. That adhesive is either already in place when the paper backing is removed from a peel-and-stick variety vinyl plank or tile or, in the case of composite vinyl tiles, solid vinyl tiles or commercial-grade LVT, via an adhesive that is applied at the time of installation. A professional installer or manufacturer’s representative can help design professionals to select the right adhesive for the job so it’s important to discuss with them the full details of an install location, as well as any sustainable and healthy building objectives of an overall project.

Sheet vinyl is somewhat more straight-forward in its installation as it is rolled out across a given surface. That said, this option does still require precision in cutting and overall install to ensure all edges are flush with walls and any other objects that intersect the floor surface. As vinyl is a soft material, installers can cut it to size using a standard utility knife—no specialized equipment is required. This allows for perfect edges around the outer perimeters of a full room and also around objects like sinks and toilets.

When looking to provide a quote for a design project, vinyl flooring is one of the most cost-effective flooring options available. Per installed square foot, it will on average cost less than hardwood, engineered hardwood, bamboo, porcelain, natural stone, and concrete. Rubber flooring options will offer a wider range of pricing than vinyl with pricing beginning at the low end of the flooring cost comparison scale. In addition to initial purchase and installation costs, vinyl and rubber will not later experience the same maintenance costs associated with some harder flooring options. For example, both hardwood and concrete will in time incur the added cost of needing to be refinished.

Performance & Maintenance

The advantages of choosing vinyl flooring are great, particularly when you consider the material can be designed to look like virtually anything, including hard woods and natural stone. Beyond the visual attributes, vinyl is waterproof and pet friendly, it is less prone to scratches and chips than harder flooring materials, and its cleaning and maintenance needs make the product a no-brainer, particularly for heavy-traffic commercial settings, like restaurants, hospitality venues, healthcare facilities, and education centers, not to mention households where kids and pets are part of the family. Not only can vinyl be cleaned with no-wax cleaners, but it can also be restored to its original luster using a no-wax polish. Another benefit is the many methods that can be employed to keep it clean. Vinyl can simply be swept with a broom, it can be vacuumed, and it also can be wet mopped. 

Performance wise, rubber flooring gains durability from its natural elasticity. That same elasticity is what helps it to absorb impact and return energy to those who spend much of their time on their feet, a material trait of great value due to its health benefits. Rubber as a flooring option is also simple to maintain. It can be vacuumed to remove dirt and other small particles and can be mopped using just water and mild detergent. Harsh chemicals should not be used on a rubber floor as they can damage the rubber itself. The fact that such chemicals are not necessary is a further health benefit of the material as even a very thorough cleaning will not result in volatile fumes being emitted into the surrounding air. In addition, homogenous vinyl and rubber can be dry-buffed to a shine without the use of floor finishes. These two types of products naturally remove microabrasions when buffed creating an always shiny appearance.

Sustainable Design Decisions

Sustainability has been a top-of-mind topic for decades now, in all areas of building and design and in industries well beyond. As we look at recent weather-related crises and the impact our daily lives have on our natural resources and the environment as a whole, material choices step into the foreground. Design professionals already needed to be savvy sustainable knowledge brokers and, as environmental issues continue to make headlines, their clients have begun to demand more details and, more importantly: proof. Flooring manufacturers have many paths they can follow when taking their developments from idea stage to finished product and today they are working to ensure each step along the way is as kind to the environment as possible. Furthermore, they are certifying their products with third-party standards entities to not only prove their worth but to aid designers and architects in reaching the sustainable credits their projects look to achieve.

When searching for a flooring partner for your design projects, everything from their raw material sourcing to their processing to their recycling program is paramount. Look for those that can offer a closed-loop recycling program that diverts waste from landfills and oceans and has a positive upcycle and downcycle impact. Manufacturers of both rubber and vinyl flooring have made moves to source responsibly, using only high-performance raw materials and pre-consumer waste from their own manufacturing processes, and to ensure operations take place in an ISO 14001-certified facility. 

Manufacturers also have put into place systems that will not only work with you to arrange for the reclamation of rubber and vinyl flooring that has outlived its original purpose but will further work to find new uses for that used product. This practice not only extends the life of a vinyl floor but also contributes positively to a circular economy and prevents discarded material from winding up in our land and water. Recycled flooring can be repurposed into entirely new flooring and into a multitude of additional products as well. 

Rubber is also a material that enjoys great reuse. It can be recycled after its initial use to function in a variety of purposes. Rubber tires, for example, can be recycled to become new flooring products and rubber floors can be used to create new rubber flooring or cut into small pieces that can provide cushioned surfaces for kids’ playgrounds or at-home play areas and even be used as mulch for gardening purposes. And these reuses are just a short list of opportunities that exist with rubber.

Recyclability is a primary sustainable feature for vinyl as well. Take-back programs exist for this market segment so that a vinyl floor never needs to be a single-use material. And, over decades of innovation of PVC, manufacturers have drastically reduced the volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions that were associated with PVC or vinyl manufacturing 30 years ago. PVC or vinyl manufacturing has reduced emissions more than 95% in the last decades.  

In addition, vinyl flooring boasts de minimis emissions in third-party testing, an important consideration for healthy building and design decisions as air quality is a major factor in interior design. This advancement is a benefit to sustainable production. Sustainability is of such great importance to this market segment that a Vinyl Sustainability Council was established by the Vinyl Institute. Members of the council work together not only to share ideas and be innovators in the field of sustainability but to get the word out to design professionals and consumers alike, making vinyl’s sustainable performance common knowledge.  

Both sides of this sustainability coin—from the responsible sourcing and manufacturing to the take-back and recycling programs—contribute to the overall impact of a material on a project. Each stage is verifiable and can contribute to LEED and other green building credits when applying for certification.

Health & Well-being Built In

Well-being as a major factor in the field of design is a concept that already was gaining ground in recent years, even prior to the onset of COVID-19. Since the pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives—from how we live in our homes to what we will expect from offices, restaurants, schools, healthcare facilities, retail establishments, hospitality venues, transportation hubs, and more going forward—the impact on the general public’s understanding of how an interior environment can affect one’s health has been great. Third-party certifiers like the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and its WELL Building Standard, as well as the Fitwel certification granted by the Center for Active Design (CfAD), have been making vital headway and attracting design and building professionals from architects and interior designers to builders and real estate developers. 

FLEXCO Crosswire Hospitality
Hospitality venue

It goes without saying that in the wake of COVID-19’s stranglehold on the world’s daily existence, interior spaces going forward will have to work harder than ever to not only keep occupants healthy and safe but to prove their worth by achieving such certifications. In fact, Fitwel has added a Viral Response (VR) module for companies seeking guidance as they upgrade their policies and practices to mitigate viral transmission. And IWBI has added the WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management. The Health-Safety Rating was informed by both the WELL Building Standard and more than 600 experts from the Task Force on COVID-19. Among the operational policies and maintenance protocols it outlines are strategies to keep spaces clean and sanitized, an effort that can be simplified through the specification of vinyl or rubber flooring. Certification plaques designed to be on display at the entries to spaces that have achieved WELL Health-Safety status include a QR code visitors can scan to confirm a space’s adherence to these protocols, learn more about what the designation means, and, perhaps most importantly in a post-COVID world, quell their concerns about entering spaces they do not themselves control.

In this new existence, material choices are more important than ever and everyone from the building manager to the office worker in the corner cubicle will expect proof that their interior environment will not only serve but also protect.

Luckily for the design community, there are rubber and vinyl flooring alternatives at the ready to satisfy these new health and societal demands and do so without compromising on visual appeal or an occupant’s enjoyment of and ability to function in a space. In fact, these materials can do all of the above. In addition to their environmentally friendly characteristics, vinyl and rubber flooring options offer hygienic benefits, with many products already certified to meet standards for indoor air quality. Such characteristics make them perfect options for settings like healthcare, hospitality, transportation, and education, where large groups naturally gather, and a clean environment is paramount. 

With rubber flooring, options will offer natural resistance to bacteria and fungi and can be seamlessly installed so there are no crevices for the accumulation of dirt, dust, or other potential contaminants and irritants.

For vinyl, in addition to the standard smooth surface that makes for easy cleaning and maintenance, an antimicrobial coating can be built into the flooring itself and serve to inhibit the growth of mold and bacteria. Some products will also embed silver particles, regarded for their germ-killing abilities, into their layers. And, considering not just the health of end users but of the planet itself as well, vinyl boasts a small embodied carbon footprint. Research has pointed to vinyl flooring—from its manufacture, through its transportation to a job site and through to final installation—to contribute less than 1 percent of a building’s total embodied carbon footprint. 

Know the Score

There are several test and certification programs that have been developed specifically for flooring. Among those options are FloorScore Emissions Testing and Multi-attribute Sustainability Assessments. 

The flooring sector benefits from the confidence FloorScore certification can provide design professionals and their clients, and rubber and vinyl flooring manufacturers utilize this standard to provide vital details to their design customers. FloorScore is a recognized indoor air quality certification specifically for flooring. Sustainability standards regulator SCS Global Services worked with the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) to develop this certification standard for hard surface flooring materials, adhesives, and underlayments. 

Administered by RFCI, the program partners with independent labs to test product samples with a focus on the relevant chemicals of concern. The process allows designers to specify flooring products like vinyl and rubber with confidence and to pass the positive product attributes up the ladder to achieve overarching green and healthy building certifications for an overall project. Both rubber and vinyl flooring products achieve de minimis emissions results.

Another standard for flooring is the multi-attribute sustainability assessment for resilient flooring (ANSI/NSF 332). NSF 332 is a concensus-based standard for flooring, initiated by the members of the flooring trade association, RFCI. Program areas including product design, manufacturing, durability, end of life, governance, and innovation are evaluated extensively by a third party to determine a rating of sustainability—from Certified to Platinum. Material health, supply chain, treatment of workers, R&D investment in recycling, and more are recognized by this holistic rating system that ensures the highest standards. These standards go beyond environmental management systems to look at percent of income dedicated to recycling R&D, social justice requirements, community development, and philanthropy. 

Another emissions certificate is the GREENGUARD program, administered by Underwriters Laboratories. GREENGUARD testing is equivalent to FloorScore, using similar testing chambers and with the same list of compounds tested.  Both certifications are protective of human health and indoor air quality. Products with even lower emissions standards can qualify for GREENGUARD Gold. GREENGUARD Gold Certified products must meet the requirement of 1/100th TLV (Threshold Limit Value) for individual VOCs. This means that GREENGUARD Gold certified products emit VOCs at levels that are at least 100 times lower than what the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists considers to be safe.

These standards are recognized by multiple green and healthy building certifiers, including the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED v4.1), WELL Building Standard, Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), and the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS).

Beyond the Floor

Among the clear advantages of rubber and vinyl flooring is the materials’ ability to offer virtually impenetrable installation. This aids in cleaning and maintenance and also offers the visual appeal of a seamless product, unless of course, seams are actually a part of the design, such as in the case of vinyl tile and some plank styles. To complete an overall seamless installation, wall bases made of materials like vinyl and thermoplastic or vulcanized rubber can be specified to complete both the look and the functionality. 

Some products can be heat welded to approved vinyl and rubber flooring products, including tile and sheet-style options. These products are another step that contributes to ease of cleaning and to the prevention of bacterial growth as they further eliminate potential crevices in which particles and varied contaminants can hide and multiply. 

Wall bases also serve to protect the base of the wall itself, of particular importance in heavy-traffic settings and those where small-wheeled vehicles are in play, or in multiunit housing scenarios, where consistent move-ins and move-outs can lead to high rates of wear-and-tear on materials. And, while a contrast in color at the point where the wall and floor meet can offer added visual appeal, it can further serve a bonus as a method of wayfinding and spacial definition for those with visual impairments. Such a benefit makes the addition of a wall base a particularly valuable decision when working on projects at healthcare facilities or nursing homes.

Design Futures

In any given year, as the design world looks ahead to projects of the future, materials are always in play. Today, our standards are higher than ever. Not only do design professionals insist on materials that will perform, protect, and delight but the end users are more demanding and more aware of their interior surroundings than ever before. This does not necessarily create a need for new materials but rather for accountability and verifiable reportability at every level for those currently in the marketplace. And, of course, after all health and safety measures are met, a product still needs to make a positive visual impression. 

Rubber and vinyl as flooring materials and market sectors have the history of development and a wealth of research and certifications behind them. They can withstand the demands of high-traffic and the serious abuse inflicted in commercial applications. They can work to keep occupants and all end users safe. And they look good doing it. All attributes combined, whatever a project demands, rubber and vinyl flooring can be part of the solution.

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When you’re ready, you can take the test here.

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FLEXCO® is a manufacturer of commercial rubber and vinyl flooring systems, wall base, stair treads and flooring accessories and has been in business for more than 70 years. Based in Tuscumbia, Alabama, FLEXCO is proud to be an American manufacturer. FLEXCO has advanced as an industry pioneer and innovator by remaining performance-driven, progress-oriented and partnership-minded. We are committed to providing you with the quality products you expect and the level of service you deserve. With distributors covering all 50 states, as well as Canada, South America, Europe and Asia, FLEXCO provides unrivaled service in the flooring industry. For more information contact FLEXCO.

Sources

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Floors To Your Home, www.floorstoyourhome.com
•    “A History of Vinyl,” https://www.floorstoyourhome.com/resource-center/vinyl-flooring-3/a-history-of-vinyl/

Holz Rubber Company, Inc., www.holzrubber.com
•    “History of Rubber,” http://www.holzrubber.com/education/history-of-rubber/ 

Home Flooring Pros, www.homeflooringpros.com
•    “Rubber Flooring Price Guide,” https://www.homeflooringpros.com/rubber-flooring/price-guide/ 

How Products are Made, www.madehow.com
•    “Thomas Hancock Biography (1786-1865),” http://www.madehow.com/inventorbios/71/Thomas-Hancock.html 

International WELL Building Institute, www.wellcertified.com 

Kiefer U.S.A., www.kieferusa.com
•    https://www.kieferusa.com/blog/advantages-rubber-flooring/ 

This Old House, www.thisoldhouse.com
•    “All About Vinyl Flooring,” https://www.thisoldhouse.com/flooring/21018781/all-about-vinyl-flooring

SCS Global Services, www.scsglobalservices.com
•    FloorScore, www.scsglobalservices.com/services/floorscore 

Ultimate Mats, www.ultimatemats.com
•    “The History of Rubber Floor Mats,” https://ultimatemats.com/history-of-rubber-floor-mats 

Vantage Vinyl, www.vantagevinyl.com
•    “The Sustainability of Vinyl Flooring,” https://vantagevinyl.com/the-sustainability-of-vinyl-flooring/ 

Vinyl Institute, www.vinylinfo.org
•    “Vinyl Sustainability Council,” https://www.vinylinfo.org/vinyl-sustainability-council/