Design & Décor

Past and present green building trends mean 2012 will bring increased interest in healthy indoor-air quality, reclaimed and recycled products, and smaller homes Residents on the West Coast have been walking the green building walk longer. But even in the Midwest, which often lags behind, people who build or remodel in the New Year likely will be doing more than talking the talk. From seeking smaller, more energy-efficient homes to using low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints, finishes and furniture, healthier, planet-conscious trends have a firm foothold that can only grow in the future, experts say. “Clients are now asking for sustainable strategies in the first meeting,” says Michael Mauch, architect, LEED AP and principal of RWA Architects in Cincinnati, OH. “We do not have to bring it up. They bring it up. What homeowner does not want clean indoor air? Lower energy bills? And smart design? Now they know they can ask for it up front.”

Styling, price and performance determine engineered hardwood flooring sales, though environmental attributes abound If you’re thinking about putting engineered hardwood flooring in your home, style, performance and price – rather than the product’s planet friendliness – are probably the points you are pondering. More people in the Midwest are choosing engineered hardwood because of a growing demand for wider plank flooring, particularly the 5-inch wide hand-scraped products. The fact that these products use less premium hardwood than solid wood floors, along with other green attributes, is not the focus.

Toledo customer wanted a planet-friendly product that also offered healthier indoor air Ordering and installing Nature’s Carpet “felt great for a number of reasons,” says Julee, who now has “Clearwater,” part of the “Dark Green” line, in her home in Holland, OH. She found the carpet at Carpets by Otto, which has several locations in the Toledo area. The “Dark Green” line from Nature’s Carpet is made from New Zealand Wool, with no synthetic materials or chemical additives. Julee wanted a product that was good for the planet and would not emit chemicals in her home. “After having lots of negative symptoms with new carpeting, I was wonderfully surprised at the lack of odor with Nature’s Carpet, which means, of course, there were no chemicals to off-gas,” she says. “I purchased the wool felt padding as well. For the first time in my life, there literally was no odor from the carpet. With my chemical sensitivities, I had zero problems with the carpet. It was a true Godsend.”

Part I: Engineered hardwood flooring can be a greener option than solid, but there are many factors to consider before you buy We knew the day would come. Many of us in the green products industry pushed engineered wood floors because they require less premium wood to manufacturer than solid hardwood floors. Many customers resisted. Solid wood is stronger, lasts longer and doesn’t echo when you walk on it, they argued. Not true, we countered. When properly manufactured and installed, engineered wood floors can be more durable and feel almost the same underfoot as a solid, hardwood floor. Today, the argument has dwindled. Engineered hardwood is a top pick for people building green homes on the West Coast. And the trend also has spread across the country. It’s even apparent in the Midwest.

More than a decade after its U.S. entry, chemical-free carpet gets mainstream attention and could be part of a market that is “ready to explode” Some rolled their eyes and suppressed laughter at the idea that a chemical-free, biodegradable, un-dyed carpet could make it in mainstream America. But when Brian Cox saw Nature’s Carpet in the early 1990s, something told him it would be a winner. After seeing this wool carpet at a Domotex trade show in Germany, Cox returned to his office at the Colin Campbell distribution company in Vancouver, BC, he organized his presentation, and he began calling on retailers.  After the Canadians started selling it, Cox crossed the U.S. border and called on one of the country’s first green-building gurus in Bellingham, WA. The builder in turn installed the product in several green homes, including his own, and he helped Cox introduce Nature’s Carpet to the Environmental Home Center in Seattle, which would later be known as EcoHaus. “That’s what broke open the United States market,” Cox recalls. “It went from there, all the way down the West Coast to California.”

Popularity of commercial rubber flooring is boosting residential interest on the West Coast A lot of homeowners are using underlayment made from recycled tires under their hardwood floors. But a lot of them are using rubber flooring, too. “We have sold and installed rubber in retail stores and gyms, but we’re also installing it in residential homes,” says Sam Snow, owner of EcoFloors in Portland, OR. “One of the best sellers is Zip Tiles from RB Rubber.”

WE Cork demonstrates that “Eco” also stands for economics They have said it themselves: The newest line from WE Cork is the “Eco”-Nomical series. So when they mention that it is made of recycled wine stoppers, remember that this is not the thrust. [caption id="attachment_1581" align="alignleft" width="90"] Eco Ash[/caption] All cork flooring is made from the waste of the wine-stopper industry. When bark is harvested from the Evergreen Cork Oak Trees – about every nine years – the first thing that happens is the punching out of wine stoppers. The leftovers are then ground up and made into other items, including flooring. “The manufacturing process of the Eco line does not differ,” says Sheila Furtney, WE Cork sales manager. “The stoppers are not actually all from used stoppers, but rather the stoppers that did not make the grade.”

So many choices, so few that are fast and reusable Tile – made of baked clay – is an original, natural product that sometimes gets overlooked. Its  simplicity might be one reason. Its subfloor needs, thinset, grout and installation that spans days also might add to your hesitation. But an interlocking porcelain tile floor that can be installed over most existing floors -- in a third of the time it would take for a traditional installation -- has removed the obstacles for those who want real tile fast.  Avaire® Floating Porcelain Tile also reduces waste because you don’t have to tear out your existing floors, and because it can be moved and reused. “The whole idea that it is reusable is a big attraction for our customers,” says Gary Cissell, director of flooring for Nebraska Furniture Mart, where Avaire tile is the third-highest seller out of the store’s eight tile lines. “It is a great environmental story.”

Reader says shopping for chemical-free carpet spurs confusion Dear Natural Interiors: Your blog and the Natural Housewife got me thinking about indoor-air quality, and wool carpeting, because I am getting ready to replace old carpet in my home. But after going to a local flooring store, I am really confused. The salesman showed me some wool carpets, but they all had been treated with mothproofing chemicals, and some contained synthetic materials, too. I said I did not want chemical emissions, but he said I would be okay with any brand in the store – even synthetics made from petrochemicals -- because they all had CRI Green Label Plus. When I named Nature’s Carpet, the salesman pulled out a box of small carpet pieces from under the counter. But I know from going online that there are a lot more styles than the ones he had. He said that he only kept the box for people who specifically asked for it, and that it really wasn’t needed because of all the advances in limiting chemical emissions. So, what’s the deal?

From narrow planks that look like hardwood to large, defined tiles, cork’s design possibilities keep increasing As this year began, two manufacturers anticipated huge consumer attention on their newest products – cork flooring planks designed to look like wood. With this introduction, Wicanders Cork  and USFloors revolutionized the appearance of cork floors, which until then, was limited to larger panels and  squares. New is good and consumers are taking note. But panels and squares are in no danger of extinction. “The hottest trend we have seen in cork has been the large-format cork tiles,” says Sam Snow, owner of EcoFloors in Portland, OR. “They offer a unique look by having micro-beveled edges that really make the large format stand out. It’s a look of cork with a layout more similar to tile. The skinny cork planks have also gained some interest . They provide more of a hardwood look that works great in smaller, galley kitchens and little spaces where a larger format is not as appropriate.”