Green Construction

Protecting and Preserving the Environment through Green Construction: Floor Finishes

Not all floor finishes are created equally. Carpet, tile, wood, resilient, and seamless products are produced, installed and maintained differently. In some cases one material must be used over another due to the nature of the facility, however, in some cases the material choice is at the discretion of the specifier. In these cases, it is important to understand the obvious features of the product as well as the overall impact on the environment.

Environmentally responsible design and construction means understanding the environmental merits of the building materials from source, to installation, and through the product life. The ingredients of a product are only one variable to consider. What energy, raw materials and by-products were involved in the manufacturing process? What impact on the environment will the product have during installation? What healthful affects will the product provide to the building occupants? How much energy must be used to maintain the finish? And finally, how long will the product last before it must be replaced?

Green construction is a complex issue.
Building healthy buildings and taking advantage of environmentally friendly materials requires an understanding of the life cycle of the products as well as their advantages when in place. Products will affect the environment by the way they are produced, how they are installed, how they are maintained and how long they last.

Material Composition and Manufacturing Process
General Polymers manufactures a complete line of industrial, decorative and corrosion control products that are low in volatile organic content (VOC). This means that the process itself is both healthy and environmentally friendly. In addition, those solvents used are recaptured and recycled allowing us to manufacture with the production of no hazardous waste.

During the Construction Process
The low VOC nature of the materials is important during the installation process and to the other trades on the site. Many of the products are 100% solids materials containing no VOC's and have a low odor. Some of the aggregates used in the mortar system employee a special agent to eliminate the silica dust, which can be hazardous to the workers.

Impact on Building Operations
The finished seamless installation is easy to maintain reducing the amount of energy, water and time required to keep the facility clean. The non-porous nature of the epoxy materials help to maintain a healthy indoor air quality (IAQ) as compared with products which harbor debris and microbes, such as carpet, wood and tile grout lines. Epoxies and urethane flooring materials also provide a barrier to prevent radon or other gases from entering a facility from the slab on grade. Finally, if these products are used as protective coatings they can prevent hazardous chemicals from entering the ground and contaminating the aquifers.

Durability and Product Life
Product longevity has an impact on the environment with respect to how frequently it must be replaced and where the used products are sent for disposal. Carpet has become a pervasive problem in that landfills are refusing to accept old carpet. In high pedestrian traffic areas such as schools, airports and convention centers, carpet must be replaced every five years (or sooner). A seamless thin-set epoxy terrazzo in these same environments will last for 40 years or more, and still be aesthetically pleasing. The other obvious point to make is the amount of energy required to remove and replace flooring materials over the course of a building's useful life.

All construction participants should consider the affects of the materials on the environment. Evaluation of the products must account for all aspects of the product's impact on the environment, from origin to disposal. Epoxy and urethane flooring are unsurpassed in overall positive influence on the environment, including clean manufacturing, environmentally safe installation, ease of maintenance, product longevity, and protective functionality.