Environmental Product Declarations: Wood Flooring Has the Lowest Carbon Footprint

Oak Trees
BigStock ©

The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) and the Decorative Hardwoods Association (DHA) have announced the completion of the cradle-to-grave Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) for industry average solid wood flooring products, and the cradle-to-grave EPD for industry average engineered wood flooring products.

EPDs quickly have become the international standard for measuring a product’s total greenhouse gas emissions, commonly known as the carbon footprint. What is evident in these studies is that both solid and engineered wood flooring have a noticeably smaller carbon footprint, or total Global Warming Potential (GWP), than all other flooring product categories. The wood flooring industry now has the scientific evidence to confidently claim that wood flooring is better for our planet and its people.

Global Warming Potential Chart
GWP impact data was taken from industry-averaged EPDs in all flooring categories except
Carpet Tile and Broadloom Carpet, which are not available. Carpet impact data was collected from a search of publicly available product-specific EPDs. GWP impact data is presented in kg of C02 equivalent gases per square meter of flooring.

There are a number of additional benefits for developing industry-averaged EPDs. Carbon efficiency and transparency increasingly have become determining factors for capital investments and procurement decisions. EPDs are used commonly by builders, architects, and specifiers to meet requirements for green building rating systems such as LEED v4.1. They also establish an industry benchmark that product-specific EPDs can be measured against, incentivizing manufacturers to design and build lower-impact products.

The wood flooring community is in a position to make this claim because of two cradle-to-grave wood flooring Life Cycle Analyses (LCA) that were developed by the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute. An LCA is a systematic approach of detailing the environmental impact over the entire life cycle of a product. It includes modules such as the extraction of raw materials, transportation, production, packaging, installation, use, maintenance, and disposal.

Participating Manufacturers

Solid Wood Flooring EPD

  • Aacer Flooring
  • AHF Products
  • Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring
  • Buchanan-Elite Flooring
  • Cumberland Lumber & Manufacturing
  • Cummings Lumber – Barefoot Flooring
  • Hull Forest Products
  • Lebanon Oak Flooring
  • Maxwell Hardwood Flooring
  • Mullican Flooring
  • Roberts Hardwood Flooring
  • Sheoga Hardwood Flooring & Paneling
  • Smith Flooring
  • WD Flooring
Engineered Wood Flooring EPD

  • Aacer Flooring
  • AHF Products
  • Appalachian Flooring
  • Mullican Flooring
  • Nydree Flooring
  • Owens Flooring
  • Shaw Industries
  • Sheoga Hardwood Flooring & Paneling

In order to accomplish this massive undertaking, a large group of manufacturers collected detailed production data for a one-year period, which included categories such as total material inputs, co-products produced, water usage, type and amount of fuel used, waste materials produced, atmospheric emissions, and total wood flooring output. Participating manufacturers are to be commended for their high level of cooperation, as the calculated environmental impacts would not have been representative unless a substantial percentage of the industry’s production data was collected and aggregated.

EPDs use the LCA data to quantify the lifetime environmental impact of a product in a more digestible, communicable way. They have been likened to nutrition labels on food products. Like nutrition labels, an EPD is not an ecolabel or sustainability claim. Instead, they transparently declare impacts in an accessible, comparable way. While nutrition labels are required to report categories such as calories, fat, sodium, and dietary fiber, EPDs are required to report impact categories such as global warming potential, ozone depletion, smog creation, and land/water pollution.

EPDs are developed using an international standardized approach, and are third-party verified. This enables industries and companies to communicate unbiased factual information about their products confidently. Furthermore, products that are intended for the same use are bound to the same Product Category Rules (PCRs). PCRs are important because they allow for a meaningful comparison of environmental attributes among similar products.

The complete wood flooring EPDs can be found on the NWFA’s website by visiting nwfa.org/environment.

John Forbes is the manufacturer services director for the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) in St. Louis. He can be reached at john.forbes@nwfa.org.


NWFA Refinishable Program Drives Sustainability

The industry-averaged Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for engineered wood flooring revealed that engineered wood flooring has a noticeably smaller carbon footprint compared to non-wood product categories. Engineered wood flooring is positioned to do even better, however, and the NWFA Refinishable Program is helping with that.

 

EPD impact numbers are calculated over the Estimated Service Life (ESL) of a commercial building (75 years). A key metric in determining the calculations is the Reference Service Life (RSL) of the product, or how long the product is expected to last before being replaced. Typically, the lower the RSL, the more replacements, and the higher the environmental impact.

 

The average engineered wood floor was determined to have a RSL of 25 years, needing to be replaced two times during the 75-year ESL of a commercial building. That is because although the majority of engineered wood flooring manufacturers in the U.S. produce products with wear layers thick enough to be refinished, perhaps half of the total volume produced does not.

 

However, that is changing slowly. End-users are demanding more-robust products with more realistic visuals. And, the NWFA Refinishable Program is promoting longer-lasting products and educating the consumer. If this market trend continues, the average RSL should increase, driving the EPD impact numbers even lower. The EPD is scheduled to be updated in five years. In the interim, engineered wood flooring is in an excellent position to boast of its low impact and prominent ranking.

 

To learn more about the NWFA Refinishable Program, or to view the complete list of participating manufacturers, contact John Forbes, manufacturer services director for NWFA at john.forbes@nwfa.org.

HFM Subscribe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.