Last updated: February 6, 2018
Resilient flooring is often made from PVC that contains semi-volatile phthalate plasticizers and other hazardous materials. Once installed, emissions from frequent stripping and floor cycles can further hurt indoor air quality.
BuildingGreen approves PVC-free flooring that meets CDPH Standard Method v1.1 or more stringent emission protocols, as verified through certifications such as FloorScore and Greenguard.
Any flooring made of rubber must have Greenguard Gold certification or the equivalent (meeting CDPH protocols as well as low total VOCs).
We do not approve any tire-derived rubber flooring, regardless of emissions.
Environmental and Health Impacts of Resilient Flooring
Resilient flooring is available in linoleum, vinyl, rubber, and other materials, all of which have unique environmental profiles. VCT and vinyl sheet flooring are widely used and have a low initial cost. However, maintenance requirements and costs can be high, and there are significant environmental and health concerns from the PVC and maintenance.
A lot of resilient flooring products meet CDPH Standard Method v1.1, and even a product with low airborne emissions could still expose occupants—especially children—to hazardous components through skin contact or dust. BuildingGreen prioritizes products that provide full disclosure of material composition demonstrating no content of high-hazard chemicals according to the Pharos Chemical and Material Library or Red List chemicals in the Declare database.
We also look for additional green features, such as recycled content, rapidly renewable materials, reduced maintenance (and associated emissions), installation without adhesives, or end-of-life manufacturer-takeback programs.
While Floorscore addresses emissions from resilient tile, NSF/ANSI 332 - Sustainability Assessment for Resilient Floor Covering is a multi-attribute standard that attempts to cover the life cycle of resilient flooring and the company’s environmental profile. This standard is reviewed by a third party and is based on points earned across several categories. Products can be certified to silver, gold, or platinum levels.
Note that even though vinyl and rubber products have earned certification through NSF-332, BuildingGreen does not list tire-derived rubber, VCT, or vinyl sheet flooring, and we recommend using alternatives.
In contrast with sheet vinyl, which is sometimes generically called “linoleum,” true linoleum is durable and low-maintenance. It is made from rapidly renewable linseed oil and jute, and renewable wood flour. Though linoleum can emit some VOCs as it cures over its lifetime, some argue that these are a lesser health issue compared to those from petroleum-derived products.
Rubber flooring can have excessive indoor emissions that are not captured by FloorScore. This is the case regardless of whether it is made with virgin rubber or recycled materials. We approve only those products that have Greenguard Gold certification because this is currently the best way to guarantee low total VOC emissions. We strongly suggest that you request ingredient disclosure to 100 parts per million. (For more information, see Rubber Flooring: A Good Use for Old Car Tires? and Two Manufacturers Offer Greener Rubber Flooring.)
Tire-derived flooring is made from discarded tires and provides a highly durable, resilient, slip-resistant, anti-fatigue surface—but select it with care. The rubber and its binders or additives may be significant sources of indoor air pollutants, including VOCs and heavy metals.
Because of potential health concerns, BuildingGreen recommends that all projects avoid using tire-derived rubber flooring indoors.
Other resilient flooring options maximize the use of biobased or non-PVC plastics that are extremely durable and do not require extensive maintenance. A new flooring category—textile composite flooring—includes products that offer the comfort and sound attenuation benefits of carpet, but with added durability and ease of maintenance similar to that of a resilient floor.
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