Adhesives for Eco-friendly Flooring Installations

By Jeffrey B. Johnson

The pressure is on throughout the construction industry to build sustainably. With the advent of governmental regulatory frameworks, the days of discounting the environmental impact of flooring products are long over.

Eco-sustainability is not limited to floor coverings. It includes all the components that contribute to the installation, especially adhesives. Traditionally, adhesives have been formulated for their tack, cost-efficiency, working time and ease of application. Today’s specifiers still look for these qualities but they are also wary of whether every product chosen contributes to green building certification programs, such as LEED the WELL Building Standard and Living Building Challenge.

VOC Content and Emissions
A leading concern for adhesives is their levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Many manufacturers are quick to add labels like low VOCs or zero VOCs to their products without anything substantial to back up the claim. This is known as greenwashing. Of course, such claims do not mean these products are safe, won’t have any ill health effects or contain no toxic chemicals. VOC content (what’s in the product) does not correlate to VOC emissions (what the product gives off). Because of this, products with zero or low VOCs can still emit VOCs.

The Gold Standard for VOC Emissions
To confidently select healthy products, customers should look for adhesives that have been third-party tested and certified. The SCS Indoor Advantage gold standard certifies compliance with the most rigorous indoor air quality emissions standards in North America — the CDPH/EHLB method (CA 01350) v1.2-2017. To be certified, products must be independently tested following specific protocols for measuring VOC emissions. The standard ensures full compliance with the California Department of Public Health’s standard method for the testing and evaluation of volatile organic chemical emissions from indoor sources. Certification qualifies products to contribute to points under LEED, the WELL Building Standard and Living Building Challenge, among other building certification programs. This certification can also qualify products under the Collaborative for High Performance Schools and the Green Guide for Health Care for low-emitting materials credits.

Jeffrey B. Johnson is the business manager for Mapei’s floor covering installation systems line. Mapei has more than 375 products in Canada and the U.S. certified to the SCS Indoor Advantage gold standard, including wood flooring adhesive Ultrabond ECO 983, hybrid polymer-based Ultrabond ECO 985 and Ultrabond ECO 907, a gun-grade adhesive designed for basic wood subfloor construction practices. All Mapei products can be found on its mindful materials library, which aggregates product sustainability information that enables industry professionals to incorporate product transparency into their real-time decisions.

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