Apartment and condominium hunters are presented with numerous options that impact their overall selection decisions. Things like cost, size, amenities, and location are often primary considerations. Despite accounting for more surface area than anything in a residence (except for the walls), flooring’s contribution to the space is often overlooked.

This oversight could be a mistake as the importance of environmentally responsible products has become magnified. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentration of pollutants has increased in recent decades. This fact, combined with the growing ecological awareness of consumers, has led to an increased demand for sustainable building products at all levels.

Floors Go Green
Environmentally friendly flooring allows for a balance of all competing needs within a high-rise living space – true sustainability and attractive aesthetics.

In the past, it was common for building owners and facility managers to specify lower-cost interior products in order to maximize facility profits. Today, however, the benefits recognized through sustainability have revealed a new way to improve earnings. Manufacturers are not only developing environmentally conscious flooring solutions using materials that are recyclable, rapidly renewable, or made of recycled content – or that offer improved health benefits – but materials that are also durable, require little to no maintenance, and last for decades.

Reduced maintenance requirements and longer lifecycles reduce costs for flooring upkeep and replacement, ultimately contributing to green building goals. In addition, the strong desire for enhanced environmental options from consumers can allow building owners and facility managers to increase rental fees when they incorporate those kinds of products.

Work with One Manufacturer
Considering single-source distribution channels may also make it possible to minimize the amount spent on searching for the right flooring solutions. By working directly with manufacturers that offer flooring options for all areas within a high-rise residential building – living and common areas – multi-family building owners can maintain a consistent, sustainable environment and potentially reduce costs.

Improve IAQ
The right flooring can help maximize the quality of the indoor environment while minimizing damage to the atmosphere – and offer tenants safe, healthy, comfortable, and beautiful living spaces. Why? Because many of today’s environmentally sound flooring solutions require fewer chemicals for maintenance. Less chemical use can not only improve the bottom line for building owners, but also attract renters (who will also see an improved bang for their buck).

Health issues related to indoor air pollution include everything from cancer and pulmonary diseases to upper airway inflammatory diseases, respiratory infections, and cardiovascular diseases (to name just a few). As part of efforts to minimize the potential hazards associated with flooring products, some manufacturers offer third-party-certified flooring options.

These certifications (such as Cradle to Cradle, FloorScore™, GREENGUARD, asthma and allergy friendly™, etc.) can help facilities managers make informed choices about the products they select. Whether replacing old materials, renovating, or building a new high-rise, understanding the qualities that certified products have to offer can help you find products to improve indoor air quality.

Keep Tenants Safe
In addition to significantly better air quality and allergy relief, some sustainable flooring options also offer safety performance features. New textured options reduce slip, trip and fall incidents. Certain textures and surfaces are designed for easy cleaning and maintenance, and provide added levels of slip resistance – ultimately leading to reduced liability and accidents. The right type of flooring can also provide shock absorption and warmer surface temperatures.

Quiet Heavy Foot Traffic
Durable and resilient flooring surfaces play a part in dampening sound attributed to foot traffic and activity as well.

According to a recent study titled Acoustics in Condominiums, the most common noise and vibration problem in multi-level residences is sound transmission through the floor. “People want their apartments to be quiet and free from intrusions,” the study states. Different floorcoverings, such as vinyl, linoleum, carpet, and textile composite flooring, all control sound differently.

Many added acoustical properties in sustainable flooring can baffle and diffuse sound through the floor. The result is improved noise reduction and, when combined with the other favorable qualities of sustainable flooring, better overall occupant comfort.

With benefits ranging from health and acoustics to safety, sustainable flooring can provide improved living conditions for tenants.

As the population continues to increase, and more people move into cities, high-rise residential buildings will become progressively more common. Advances in green building design and technology, as well as strong commitments from building product manufacturers, will continue to drive positive environmental and design change.

Interior spaces are designed to address the needs of the people who occupy them, and flooring is a large piece of the puzzle. Consumers want to know that their high-rise living space will be durable, safe, and healthy – from the floor up.

Photo courtesy Tarkett North America

Bruce Ziegler

Bruce Ziegler is Tarkett North America’s director of product development – residential.