Eco-friendly carpet 101: the right choice for your office

Landlords looking to up the value of their commercial properties should pay close attention to the green factor when choosing an eco-friendly carpet for their offices.

'Eco-friendly' is on everyone's lips these days. Fierce competition among designers and manufacturers has placed carpet design in the forefront of sustainable flooring innovations. Whether it be area rugs, wall-to-wall installations or fully customizable carpet tiles, carpet manufacturers in the UK are putting an emphasis on recycling and natural materials with limited environmental impact, and the beneficiaries of this green endeavour don't stop at the planet.

Landlords and property agents looking to up the value of their commercial properties and attract carbon-conscious tenants should pay close attention to the green factor when choosing a carpet for their offices.

What to look for in an eco-friendly carpet? 

The most environmentally friendly carpets are made from natural, renewable fibres; this includes organic wool and cotton, jute, bamboo, sisal, seagrass and coir. That being said, looking at the 'made of' list doesn't guarantee a 100% eco-friendly carpet. Indeed, some carpets have been treated with insect and flame repellents that will cause some of the worst (dangerously invisible) off-gassings.

These off-gassings usually come from the carpet backing, so be sure to look for backings that have been sewn or glued using non-toxic adhesives low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs.) Some of the best carpet backings or pads are made from non-synthetic latex, camel hair felt, or untreated wool. A CRI Indoor Air Quality label is what you want.

Tessera loop pile carpet, Forbo

If your carpet isn't made from sustainable materials, it can still be eco-friendly if it is recycled. Some are made from 100% recycled plastic bottles - you'll find them under the name of PET carpets, or P.E.T carpets  (polyethylene terephthalate.) Some advantages to PET fibres include stain and abrasion resistance and low moisture absorption. Other rugs are made by recycling old, used carpets, provided they are in suitable condition to be recycled.

Who manufactures eco-friendly carpets?

Interface

In 1994, Interface started the first carpet tile recycling initiative. Known as ReEntry, the program now involves separating the carpet from its backing and recycling more product into new Nylon fibre. Interface is also on a 'Mission Zero' to completely eliminate the company's environmental impact by 2020.

On-line, off-line carpet collection, Interface

Desso

Desso's innovative Take Back™ programme ensures that worn-out carpet tiles are recycled into new carpet products. Defying the cradle to grave model, Desso's ambitious initiative follows the Cradle to Cradle® approach pioneered by Professor Michael Braungart and architect William McDonough. 

In addition to its carpet manufacturing, Desso is committed to reducing its CO2 emissions by increasing its use of green electricity and covering its roof by 25,000 m2 of solar panels.

Take Back™ programme, Desso

Milliken

Specialised in minimising waste during its manufacturing process, Milliken focuses on the use of recycled materials in lieu of petroleum and other oil-based components. Milliken's eco-friendly carpet uses an ECONYL® nylon yarn made from equal parts post-industrial and post-consumer recycled fibres. In addition, the company uses 90% recycled polyurethane for its Comfort Plus® range of lightweight, carpet tile backing.

Arctic Survey commercial carpet, Milliken

Forbo

Forbo recycles old carpet, fishing nets and plastic bottles to manufacture innovative eco-friendly carpets such as the Coral entrance flooring collection. Forbo's Tessera tiles contain over 58% recycled content by weight, while their Westbond tiles have a minimum of 70% recycled content in their backing. Forbo's carpets are also easy to clean thanks to a system called Dry Fusion which requires less water and fewer chemicals to perform.

Coral entrance flooring, Forbo

Recycling is one of several other factors to take into consideration when choosing the right flooring for your office. An invaluable tool in the landlord's toolbox, office flooring is an important decision.

Choosing your office flooring: 6 factors at play

When it comes to office flooring, looking beyond the cost of your initial purchase can mean considerable savings in the long run.

Comparing office flooring solutions for your business can sound like a chore, but weighing up the pros and cons is key in avoiding later headaches. 

Factors to consider vary from traffic, through maintenance, to budget, but what exactly should you look out for before you take your pick? Let's have a closer look.

1. Traffic  

Concrete flooring at Saatchi Saatchi 's New York office. Architect: M Moser

The reception area, very much like the corridors in your office, is considered a high-traffic area: it receives so much foot traffic that it needs a highly durable floor.

Good examples of low-maintenance, durable floors include polished concrete – one of the most heavy-duty options out there – and vinyl. Slip-resistant finishes are also a good idea, particularly in busy reception areas where accidents might occur in wet weather.You can also opt for a thin-pile carpet, especially in offices in need of noise insulation. 

To prolong the lifespan of your carpet, you can install an entrance barrier system designed to resist the transfer of dirt and moisture from the outside onto the carpet inside.

Terrazzo, marble and granite are some other durable flooring solutions since their hard surfaces are made to withstand heavy traffic.

2. Ease of repair 

CBRE Sydney's office features the elegant Otta parquet by Tongue N Groove. WMK Architecture

If you think about it, ease of repair should be an obvious factor to consider when choosing your office flooring. Landlords, however, often get sidetracked by other factors such as aesthetics and, let's be honest, budget. It just so happens that budget highly correlates with ease of repair.  

What happens when my flooring starts to wear out? Can I get it fixed or will it need replacement? How easy will it be to replace and how long will it take? 

Unsurprisingly, reception areas and hallways are usually the first ones to take the hit and wear out. Think about flooring options that offer flexibility. Carpet tiles and concrete are great ideas; laminate and hardwood, not so much.

3. Maintenance

Woven vinyl flooring by Jean Nouvel for Bolon 

You can't get away without at least some maintenance. The easiest to look after is probably concrete, but even that can come with cracks in need of patching. Carpets will suffer from spills,  vinyl composite tiles (VCT) often have to be stripped and replaced with new ones, terrazzo tiles need regular buffing, marble has to be polished... You get the gist.

Be sure to know your maintenance costs as you are likely to spend more money on looking after your floor than you did on the initial purchase.

4. Life-cycle costing

The general belief behind life-cycle costing is one we have all experienced in our personal lives: the cheapest option always ends up costing more. 

Life expectancy of any flooring depends on issues such as traffic and level of maintenance, both hard to predict by manufacturers. A well-maintained floor may last longer than the rated life expectancy period. Conversely, a poorly maintained floor may wear out sooner than expected. When choosing your flooring, be sure to analyze the kind of work your occupants will be doing in the space, how often they will do it and how each flooring will cope.

5. Recycling 

Desso's TakeBack™ programme  ensures that every carpet  they is recycled according to the Cradle to Cradle® principles.

Some floors have higher levels of volatile organic compounds than others. What does that mean? Simply that the elements in your flooring will have a direct impact on the air quality in your office. 

Ecofriendly flooring can mean "made from sustainable materials" and it can mean "recycled from previous projects." In that regard, one of the most sustainable flooring options is the carpet, as it allows for recycled elements to be incorporated into the material. Brands that manufacture sustainable carpets for the workplace include MillikenDessoForbo and Interface

If carpet does not suit your business, you may want to consider other sustainable flooring options, such as bamboo and cork floors, linoleum or luxury vinyl tile.

6. Budget

We're finally here. The million-dollar question.  How much will it cost me? 

Choosing the cheaper flooring option is the wrong approach and the wrong attitude, but deep down, you already knew that. Instead, consider the life-cycle cost of the flooring in parallel with your budget. Strategise long-term. Align your choice with your business values, not only with current trends. And of course, consult with experts who will help you determine which option best fits your budget.

 
Skype Stockholm offices. pS Arkitektur

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Opening image: woven vinyl flooring by Jean Nouvel for Bolon 

What flooring is best for your office?

Office flooring, like designer furniture and workplace innovations, is becoming an invaluable tool in the commercial landlord's toolbox.

In recent years, the floor has seen some of the most innovative materials and designs in creative workplaces. From warm to industrial, from sleek monochrome to bursting with colour, from stylish vinyl tiles to hipster concrete, office flooring has become an invaluable tool in the commercial landlord's toolbox.

Useful in brand-carrying, flooring can also be brought into play when defining areas of your office with different functions: you might, for example, use concrete throughout the space but highlight the breakout area with a hardwood flooring. 

The growing trend to specify contrasting materials and textures means that some unlikely flooring combinations may arise in the future, but what about the basics?

What is the best flooring option for your office? 

Vinyl flooring – stylish and affordable

Forbo’s Tessera Alignment carpet tiles inside Data solution company Qlik, at Tower 42, London. Designers: Crisp Design

Pros:

  • Its long-lasting performance makes it popular for commercial flooring.
  • Ideal for big offices with high traffic
  • Resistant to damage, like dents and scratches
  • Available in countless colours and designs
  • Easy to clean and with minimal maintenance

Cons:

  • Not biodegradable
  • Susceptible to discolouration when it comes in contact with rubber such as in mats or rubber shoe heels

Hardwood flooring – the classic

E&O Singapore's office boasts Hakwood Delft herringbone flooring

Pros: 

  • Has been a stylish look year after year
  • Durable and easy to clean

Cons: 

  • Costly
  • Soft wood will scratch and blemish easily
  • Can be noisy when walking across it
  • Choose a pre-finished floor to prevent damage from moisture

Laminate – versatile and inexpensive

Kronoswiss white oak laminate flooring

Pros:

  • More inexpensive alternative to wood flooring, tiles or stone
  • Simple to install and does not scratch or dent easily
  • Durable and easy to clean and maintain
  • Also comes in a variety of options from smooth and embossed to patina and wood grain laminate.

Cons:

  • Excessive water can seep into the seams between boards and cause swelling, so special laminate floor cleaner is required
  • As a result, buckling or warping can appear as a result of moisture. 
  • If heavily worn, scratched, or grooved, it cannot be sanded or refinished like solid hardwood: it must be replaced.

Carpet – hardwearing and cost-effective

Artistic Liberties carpet, by Milliken Carpet 

Pros: 

  • Suitable for businesses in need of noise insulation
  • Carpet tiles provide more flexibility and come in different styles and patterns, allowing for a wide range of choices to match the brand and aesthetic of an office.

Cons: 

  • Can easily get stained
  • May require close attention over time. 

Concrete – trendy and brimming with potential

Stylish zoning inside Saatchi & Saatchi's New York office. Architect: M Moser

Pros:

  • Low-maintenance: properly sealed concrete floors minimise the appearance of dirt, grit, stains and spills. A little damp mopping is all it needs to look new
  • Can be dyed to produce a wide range of earthy colours
  • Allows for surface treatments such as acid stains, concrete stains for unique finishes.
  • Can also be stamped with rubber stencils for more texture.
  • Can be made to mimic ceramic tile, natural stone, or brick.
  • When poured over an existing slab, can be embedded with  electrical cables or hot water tubes for added radiant heat 

 Cons:

  • Undeniably hard underfoot
  • Even expertly installed concrete may develop cracks over time. That’s due to inevitable changes in temperature, moisture and settling. Opt for coloured cement paste and patching materials to help disguise cracks.
  • Although concrete itself is biodegradable, the process of making cement requires a lot of energy and produces carbon dioxide.

 

Opening image: Whale Song, by Milliken Carpet