Services & Maintenance: Sustainable Carpet
By Robert Peoples, Ph.D.
Published in the March 2008 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
Facility managers (fms) are always searching for accurate and objective information on the availability of building materials that meet their performance and environmental requirements. Carpet is just one product area where this applies, and with so many facilities installing this flooring option, informed specification is very important.
Thanks to the recent introduction of an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved standard—NSF 140-2007—fms have a comprehensive tool to help make sound purchasing decisions for carpet.
The NSF 140-2007 is the unified standard for sustainable carpet in the U.S. For nearly five years, a multi-stakeholder group, which included federal and state government representatives, end users, and manufacturers, worked through a consensus driven approach to define the criteria for sustainable carpet. This process was conducted under the guidance of NSF International, a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization and a leading group in standards development, product certification, education, and risk management for public health and safety.
When fms select carpet products certified to the standard, they will know they are choosing products that meet performance requirements and have a lower environmental impact. So, carpet certified under the standard can contribute toward: LEED credits from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC); improved indoor air quality and lower emissions; enhanced health and safety for workers and consumers; measurable reductions in total environmental impact; improved supply chain performance; product and design innovation; and recognition of the importance of social improvement.
NSF 140-2007 is a multi-attribute standard, addressing factors in the life cycle of carpet from material selection to carpet recycling. It establishes performance and environmental requirements for: public health and environment; energy and energy efficiency; bio-based, recycled content, and Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP) materials; manufacturing operations; reclamation; and end-of-life management.
Levels Of NSF 140-2007
The purpose of the new standard is to provide a single rating system that recognizes levels of certification that define a more sustainable carpet. There are three levels of achievement to recognize reduced environmental impact (silver, gold, and platinum). To earn the silver achievement level, a product must earn at least 37 points; for the gold level, 52 points; and for the platinum level, 60 points.
Additionally, the NSF 140-2007 Gold/EPP and Platinum/EPP levels recognize superior performance.
Like the USGBC’s LEED rating system, there are prerequisites for achievement. All credits have the same weighting or value toward compliance.
There are five categories of quantifiable metrics. Points are assigned for each category, and requirements are established throughout the supply chain. The five categories are:
- Public Health and Environment (PHE): This category awards points to manufacturers and suppliers that substantially reduce harmful pollutants and other chemicals of concern. It also quantifies emissions to land, air, and water and promotes the use of life cycle assessment (LCA) to measure progress.
- Energy and Energy Efficiency (EN): This category documents energy used in carpet production, recognizes use of renewable energy, and identifies implementation of energy conservation and energy efficiency measures. It also quantifies the use of renewable energy by suppliers and inventories the manufacturer’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- Bio-Based, Recycled, and Environmentally Preferable Product Materials (MATLS): This category contains achievement levels ranging from taking inventory of bio-based, recycled, and EPP materials to requiring a substantial percent of bio-based and recycled materials at high levels.
- Manufacturing (MFG): This category encourages corporate wide environmental responsibility and achievements. Levels of achievement range from adoption of an environmental policy and an environmental management system or ISO certification to the use of supply chain activities like life cycle analysis. Carpet durability requirements, such as appearance retention, tuft bind, delamination strength, topical treatments, flammability, smoke density, electrostatic propensity, and colorfastness to light, are defined in this category. This assures fms that carpets certified to the standard will meet their performance needs.
- Reclamation and End of Life Management (EOL): This category encourages product reuse, recycling, and reclamation, thereby reducing waste to landfill and incineration. It requires extended life of the system including proper installation and maintenance.
Identifying Certified Products
There are two organizations offering independent certification services for NSF 140-2007; these are Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) and NSF International. Carpet products that earn the certification through SCS will bear the SCS Sustainable Carpet logo; there is no logo yet from NSF.
In order to be certified to NSF 140-2007, manufacturers undergo an audit process conducted by either SCS or NSF. Every plant involved in the manufacture of a product line being certified must be reviewed and audited.
The first carpet products certified to NSF 140-2007 are expected to be available in the market by the second quarter of this year. California is planning to transition 100% of its state carpet purchases to the NSF 140-2007 Platinum level over the next 12 to 18 months, completely transitioning from its currently mandated California Gold Standard.
Currently, 18 carpet products are certified to the California Gold Sustainable Carpet Standard, and an additional 11 products are certified to the NSF 140 Draft Standard.
Care And Maintenance
Carpets certified to NSF 140-2007 should be maintained as all carpets would be. Adherence to recommended installation, cleaning, and other maintenance procedures directly impacts the service life of a carpet product.
The new standard recognizes manufacturers that provide recommended installation and maintenance procedures to fms for a carpet product. These procedures may be manufacturer specific or may refer to existing industry methods.
Recommendations include using The Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) Carpet Installation Standard 104 and/or manufacturer’s recommended procedures. In addition, fms should receive, in writing, CRI Care and Maintenance and/or recommended manufacturer maintenance procedures. For example, the use of walk off mats for isolation of soil entering the building is described in the CRI maintenance guidelines.
End Of Life
In addition to the introduction of NSF 140-2007, the carpet industry continues to focus on reducing environmental impact through efforts such as the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE). CARE is a joint industry/government effort established as a result of a Memorandum of Understanding for Carpet Stewardship to increase the amount of recycling and reuse of post-consumer carpet and reduce the carpet waste going to landfills.
Currently, more than 50 carpet reclamation partners supply services across the country. These partners can work with fms to recycle carpet that has reached the end of its useful life. Services may include demolition (rip out), removal, recycling, and documentation. (Fms can find area partners by visiting the CARE Web site at www.carpetrecovery.org.)
In 2006, CARE members reclaimed approximately 261 million pounds of carpet. And since 2002, a cumulative one billion pounds of carpet has been diverted from U.S. landfills.
The tools to specify and maintain carpet in an environmentally responsible manner are available to fms. Seeking out the options is the first step.
Dr. Peoples was the director of Sustainability for the Carpet & Rug Institute and executive director of The Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), and is president of the Environmental Impact Group. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and chemistry and a Ph.D. in Physical Organic Chemistry from Purdue University. Effective mid-March, he will become director of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute. For more information on NSF 140-2007, Sustainable Carpet Assessment Standard, call (800) 673-6275, or visit www.nsf.org/info/carpet.