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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?

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?

An everyday choice on the West Coast, linoleum is misunderstood in some regions In some areas of the country, people think linoleum is the same thing as vinyl. But on the west coast and east – where green products have been in greater demand for years – consumers not only know that linoleum is a natural, sustainable product, but they also depend on it for high style. And there is one manufacturer – Forbo -- that is dominating the market by meeting the all the needs of these green-savvy consumers, says John Hill, ecological coordinator at Interstate Flooring in Portland, OR. “Forbo’s colors have kept up with design trends, and they are the only ones offering a click product that homeowners can even install themselves,” Hill says. “Until last year, Marmorette (from Forbo competitor Armstrong) had a color pallet that was way too ‘pastelly’ for the west coast, and even though that has improved, they don’t offer a click.”

FSC-certified manufacturing facility does not mean certified flooring or healthy indoor-air quality If DuChateau Floors were the only company offering a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified hardwood floor with an oil finish that emits no chemicals, we would not be living in the United States of America. In the land where competition abounds, customers who want the “greenest” product – one that is best for human health and also benefits the planet -- are a priority for a number of manufacturers. But so are those who do not have the budget for an FSC-certified product with a finish proven to have low-chemical emissions. The end result is a selection of products that range from the “greenest,” to the not so “green,” and it is often up to you to know how to tell the difference.

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/ Low-VOC, zero-VOC and “non-toxic” don’t mean "safe" Looking for a “non-toxic” paint?  There’s a reason for putting the word in quotes. You will have some work to do before you pick up a brush or roller. Paint manufacturers don’t have to list the ingredients they use on the can. Some chemicals in paint are difficult to eliminate because they are present in earth materials used to make paint. Unless you’re experienced in chemistry, you might not know what to look for on the Manufacturer’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). And, many toxic irritants don’t have to be listed there anyway. There are multiple standards and differing certifications for what makes paint “safe.” And knowing which chemical to avoid is a task all its own. “For those of us who place indoor-air quality on our list of building objectives, responsibility must begin and end with ourselves,” says Jay Watts, marketing director for AFM Safecoat.

A decade of mistakes I wasn’t wise enough to learn from others guides my New Year My father always said that a wise person learns from the mistakes of others. But what happens when you don’t know anyone who made the mistake you’re about to make, and you don’t know you’re about to make a mistake? When I hired a flooring company to install solid strip hardwood flooring in 1998, I was not yet working in the flooring industry. How was I supposed to know to ask about the chemical emissions that would fill the house when they finished the floor with a toxic, oil-based polyurethane? Okay, some people would argue that I should have investigated when the installer mentioned he had liver damage, and assigned the cause to his profession. He did not expound about finishes or less-toxic, water-based options. So, I assumed he was talking about a different liquid all together.