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Natural Interiors® Designers' Forum spotlights new look for old furniture from Sterling Interiors By now, everyone has seen artwork and other creations made from trash, or worn out objects that were about to become trash. But when was the last time you saw one and seriously considered it useful? Can’t remember? Then it’s time to take a closer look at a growing interior design trend called “upcycling.” It’s not quite the same thing as “restoring,” or “refinishing” as upcycling usually gives a worn out piece of furniture a different look than it had before, along with a whole new, useful life. While this helps the planet by reducing waste, concern for the planet is not the top force driving demand for upcycled products.

Studies that show what “fringe,” green proponents warned of all along are an overdue validation of the environmental products industry I distinctly remember a small group of co-workers who voiced concerns that the windows did not open while everyone else was extolling the beauty of the newly constructed newsroom we worked in, complete with new cubicles, new computers, carpeting, paint, ceiling tiles and everything else that makes up a building’s interior. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) had not been created yet. Employees who raised questions about indoor-air quality were “strange,” possibly unbalanced.  You could have heard a pin drop when one of them asked what I now know was a very natural question: “Does the ventilation system bring fresh air into our work area?” Natural or not, the managers responded as though the question bordered on insubordination. Accordingly, it would have been beyond insane had the employee suggested that toxins in the indoor air be scientifically measured or a control group of employees be selected to have blood tests to determine what chemicals they were being exposed to.

Requirements for damp basements might challenge use of all natural, chemical free carpet pads Q. I want to put carpet that has low chemical emissions in my basement. I also had planned on using a natural fiber carpet pad. I have not ever had water leak into the basement, but there is some moisture, due simply to the fact that it is a room below ground level. Do natural fiber carpet pads hold up to moisture and would it be better to use a sheet of plastic as a vapor barrier under the carpet pad? A. Installing carpet in the basement you describe requires a moisture- and mildew-resistant carpet pad, which will be glued in some spots to the basement’s cement floor. Putting a vapor barrier under the carpet pad would allow the pad to move and bunch up in spots under your carpet, which is not desirable. If the basement does not leak, my usual recommendation would be a ½-inch rebond or rubber pad that is water-resistant and treated with an antimicrobial agent to prevent mold and mildew. If you were looking to install laminate or any hard surface floating floor, a vapor barrier would be needed.

Competition in strand bamboo means quality products and competitive pricing from many manufacturers Not long ago, we would have told you that there were just a few reliable brands and several hard-and-fast rules to follow when choosing a strand bamboo floor. But as sales of strand, stained and hand-scraped styles have soared and now dominate in the bamboo flooring category, it’s difficult for any manufacturer to claim leadership.  A number of companies now supply strand products that in some markets have become more visible than those introduced about a decade ago by industry pioneers.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This article was accurate as of the date it was published, and was signed off on by all of the manufacturer sources quoted. That said, manufacturers frequently change their formulations and ingredients, so this article, given its age, becomes background. DO NOT rely on this article for purchasing these manufacturers’ current products. The questions are relatively simple, but if you would like help in getting guaranteed answers about certifications on a current product, sign up at: https://www.naturalinteriors.com/consumer-subscription/ “Green” certifications that test chemical emissions don’t require compliance until long after the paint is dry GREENGUARD®, Green Seal and SCS Indoor Advantage Gold. They’re all top third-party certifications designed to help us choose paint that will not make the air in our homes dangerous to breathe. But while these labels mean chemical emissions have been measured -- or in the case of Green Seal dangerous ingredients have been prohibited -- none of them tells us what we are breathing at the time the paint is being applied. And certifications that test chemical emissions don’t require compliance with safety limits until 14 days after the paint is dry. “When it comes to verifying sustainable claims, it may be wiser to start by being a ‘doubting Thomas’ instead of a ‘gullible Pollyanna’ …,” says Michael Mauch, AIA, LEED AP and principal of RWA Architects in Cincinnati, OH. “Third-party verification is supposed to work like Politifact -- an organization to sort out the truth. But third-party verification is not a perfect system. In theory, it works, but in reality, there are many influences that can sway the outcome.”

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.”

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.”

Wanke Cascade president was a leader in flooring, “green” products and friendship [caption id="attachment_1740" align="alignleft" width="135"] Jim W. Johnson, 3/25/54-9/18/11[/caption] Every time I talked to Jim Johnson, I got stronger. The first time was at a panel discussion during a Surfaces trade show, where a past-president of Teragren LLC was to speak. I was a Teragren bamboo flooring distributor, Jim was Teragren’s West Coast sales manager. When he sat down at my table, I was looking for a misplaced receipt, worried that an attendant would be around to verify that I had paid to get in. “Why did you pay?,” Jim pressed. “You’re a distributor here to support a vendor.  You are entitled to just walk in.”

You have served me well for a very long time, but there has to be something that holds dust better Dust containment. This is the term on my mind this morning as we near completion of our bathroom renovation project. My aging vacuum has done a commendable job, sucking up the sanded drywall compound and other mess that left a trail down the hall. But the unseen microscopic remnants are lingering. I know this every time someone sneezes, including the cat and the dog. While this website has focused on chemical emissions when discussing  Indoor Air Quality, dust, particulates and other allergens deserve equal attention. In keeping with that, I am coming to terms with reality: My vacuum cleaner is no longer the top of the line. It has seen me through every tough job, and it operates with admirable suction power. But too much of what it sucks up comes back out of its filter and it’s polluting my indoor air.

Measuring moisture content in strand bamboo can puzzle even experienced hardwood flooring installers Q: In Part I: Bamboo 2011-Style, you told consumers to consider their climate and the humidity of the environment before installing strand bamboo flooring. What you didn’t talk about is that the typical moisture meter a flooring contractor has on hand might not give him an accurate reading of the moisture content in the floor. This is needed when installing the floor, as well as later if any moisture problems arise. When we needed accurate moisture readings a few years ago on a very large commercial installation, the strand bamboo manufacturer told us that we would have to send a piece of the floor to a laboratory for an oven-dry test.  Sending pieces away and waiting for answers or trying to do a bake test in a home oven isn’t practical. Is this a problem across the industry or an isolated incident?