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LCA praises hardwood as green flooring PDF Print E-mail
Written by (PR)   
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania - Solid hardwood flooring made from North American hardwoods is a naturally sustainable, environmentally responsible flooring material, according to results from a recent life-cycle analysis (LCA).

The study was conducted at the behest of the Hardwood Council; a trade group whose members include the Canadian Lumbermen's Association and eight other U.S.-based groups such as the National Wood Flooring Association and the Hardwood Manufacturers Association.

The LCA study's findings are consistent with prior studies conducted in Europe, and show that solid hardwood flooring:

  • produces comparatively benign air emissions;
  • uses less water consumption and total primary energy;
  • has a long service life with desirable end-of-life scenarios; and,
  • is carbon-neutral and renewable by nature.

The Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM) conducted a gate-to-gate, life-cycle inventory of solid hardwood flooring manufactured in the eastern United States. The study compared life-cycle inventories of one of the nation's most naturally sustainable resource, solid North American hardwood flooring, with four popular alternatives: vinyl composition tile, linoleum, nylon carpet tile, and wool carpet tile. The information for the alternative products was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and is housed in the Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) database.

The categories evaluated:

  • Air emissions compared the flooring options with regards to four substances considered harmful to the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide emissions were present for all materials, as expected, due to the fuel resources used in production. American hardwoods compared favourably to the alternatives. Most important, while hardwood trees are growing, they sequester carbon and release oxygen, making wood the only carbon-negative material.
  • Water consumption occurs in the production of each floor covering. However, hardwood flooring and generic vinyl composition tile use substantially less. The production of hardwood flooring confines most water on-site to boilers, also used for heating.
  • Total primary energy consumed was compared during manufacture. Solid hardwood flooring used the least amount of primary energy. This is significant given the emphasis in the life-cycle inventory process of energy sources and use.
  • Service-life expectancies are an important comparison because longer service-life means less replacement and associated production impacts. With a service life exceeding 70 years, solid hardwood flooring is positioned to outlast all of the competing floor coverings that were considered. The nearest competitor was generic vinyl composition tile with half of the expected life of hardwood flooring.

 End-of-life scenarios also are considered. Unlike the alternatives, hardwood flooring does not assume complete disposal in a landfill. It may be recycled or used as a combustible fuel.

 LCA has an important role to play in green building, as it is the only approach that scientifically and objectively validates a product's impact on the environment through manufacture, distribution, use, and disposal - essentially from cradle-to-grave. All things considered, science documents solid North American hardwood flooring is an environmentally responsible, green flooring material.

The Hardwood Council maintains a web site at www.hardwoodcouncil.com
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