Testing Specifications vs. Brands: Learn about Thirteen Fifty

There is a public specification developed by the State of California to quantify emissions of VOC’s which is officially and currently known under the long title of: “California Specification 01350 (Standard Method v1.1, effective January 1, 2012).” It is often just referred to as “Section 01350” in writing or “Thirteen-Fifty” when spoken. (There are a few other short forms sometimes which refer to different revisions of the protocol–to the best of my knowledge, 2012’s version is the latest–but if it changes again, it still should be recognized as “Section 01350.”)

Section 01350 looks for a specified performance from finished products that are “job-ready” like engineered flooring or office furniture. The CARB (and soon EPA) regulations are performance based standards covering emissions from certain unfinished composite wood products—most of which are destined for further processing downstream.

The specification is very detailed. It outlines the testing methodology: how and when to collect samples, how to package and then prepare them, how to test them, what to look for in the test results, and what levels of emissions are acceptable. It was originally used mostly by the vinyl and carpet industries, rather than for wood. It is an ‘expensive’ test because it requires a long time in the test chamber, multiple readings over several days and it covers a huge range of chemical emissions (very few of which anyone would ever expect to find in wood). However due to some aggressive marketing and because there wasn’t a specific alternative created for the wood industry, it has become the green building default for establishing “green” air quality emissions from any flooring surface.

Section 01350 is used as the underlying testing specifications for programs created by a number of private certification/testing companies. So while Section 01350 may be the test protocol followed, most will only really recognize the brand names of the programs using the specification. Probably the best known at this time is “FloorScore,” a brand name owned by Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) and managed by SCS. It was used originally only by the resilient flooring industry but has now spread to being applied to other materials—including not only wood flooring products, but also even non flooring items.

Other certifiers test to the 01350 guidelines and brand under names such as Green Guard for Schools and Children and VOC Green. No matter what the brand name of the program, the product has been tested under the same conditions and using the same methods and must meet the 01350 emission standard. There may be some tweaking between programs (including some differences in other things beyond 01350 they look at) but the bottom lines is that this is THE most current definition we have for ‘green’ in the world of air quality.

So be sure you understand the difference between a Testing Specification and a Branded program and you can select the program that works best for you.

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