Upofloor's LifeLine CS: Heavy-Duty Resilient Flooring Minus the PVC
Vinyl flooring is inexpensive, which has made it one of the most popular commercial flooring options, but it contains phthalates and other environmentally problematic chemicals, and it requires a lot of maintenance. Enter Upofloor's LifeLine CS sheet flooring. LifeLine CS is made primarily from limestone (over 60%) along with an ethylene/methacrylic acid copolymer thermoplastic, similar to Dupont's Surlyn. The company recycles manufacturing waste for use as the base layer, making up 25% of the product total, and though the binder is petroleum-based, this flooring does not contain any plasticizers, halogens, phthalates, or heavy metals.
What do golf balls have to do with flooring?
There are a lot of PVC-free commercial flooring options available, but what sets LifeLine CS apart is its durable ionomeric wear layer. This is the same dent- and scratch- resistant material found on golf ball covers.
LifeLine CS is not the first to offer commercial flooring with this cover, however. BuildingGreen wrote about Amtico International's Stratica floor covering, which used a similar wear layer, back in 1998. But Stratica--which was unfortunately discontinued due to low demand in April 2011--was a tile, and LifeLine CS is resilient sheet flooring. Tiles have more seams, which can make installation harder and compromise long-term durability in high-use areas where maintenance is challenging, such as hospitals, according to interior designer Laurie Placinski of Progressive AE in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who has specified both products.
The tough surface layer has another important environmental benefit
Replacing a resilient floor prematurely is no environmental bargain, even if it is PVC-free, so LifeLine CS has an advantage over most competitors. But where it really shines environmentally is in its low maintenance requirements. Vinyl is porous and needs to be regularly cleaned, stripped, waxed, and polished--which requires time, personnel, energy, and chemicals. The process introduces VOCs and toxins into the indoor environment and requires that the area be shut down. In some places that can be expensive as well as inconvenient. Lifeline is non-porous, so dirt can't easily penetrate the surface, and it doesn't require any maintenance beyond regular cleaning with a mild alkaline detergent.
Impact on the indoor environment
LifeLine CS is certified by Floorscore for low-VOC emissions, which is one of the main reasons Placinski chose to use it in a renovation of Mercy Hospital in Muskegon, Michigan. "In healthcare you have to consider performance and durability as well as the health of the patient and staff," said Placinski. "Offgassing is a big concern." In the recovery area where LifeLine CS was installed in early fall of 2010, this is particularly important since beds and other equipment are rolled across the space night and day. It can't be shut down for waxing or replacement without the hospital incurring significant expenses. According to Placinski, the flooring is holding up very well under near-constant use.
Can you afford it?
According to the company, LifeLine CS costs about the same as rubber flooring or premium vinyl flooring, but Placinski said it actually ends up costing more than most vinyl. She is quick to point out, however, that the durability and low maintenance are worth it. "You spend more but over time you recoup that money."
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There are a lot of low-cost and PVC- free flooring options available, so LifeLine CS might not be appropriate for every application, but for those who need a tough, low-emitting surface, it's worth a closer look.
Brent Ehrlich is the products editor at BuildingGreen, Inc.
Published July 7, 2011