Premium Partners

Let's Look at LEED, Part 2: Specific Credits for Flooring

Elizabeth Baldwin

Since there are different types of LEED projects (new construction vs. remodeling, for example), exact credit codes might differ, but conceptually, most of the following concepts categories are valid for all LEED projects.

Rapidly Renewable Materials: One of the most commonly referenced LEED categories, Rapidly Renewable covers raw materials that can be "renewed" within a 10-year period. Bamboo and cork are the most common products meeting this standard within the flooring industry, but some engineered floors that include cores (usually plywood or HDF) from plantation woods might also meet the standard. It is important to know the percentage of the product made from the rapidly renewable component.Certified Wood: This is the other category that is most frequently referenced. LEED recognizes only FSC certification at this time, and will allow properly FSC certified floors to contribute toward credits within a category. This is a fairly controversial category, as other certification programs such as SFI or PEFC would like to be considered LEED-compliant as well, and the U.S. hardwood industry also feels that they should be recognized by LEED for their sustainable nature. As with the rapidly renewable category, you must know the percentage of FSC material within the product if it less than 100%.

Recycled Content: Products that are made with post-industrial recycled material (ex. sawdust from a mill turned into HDF perhaps) and post consumer recycling (ex. staves from whiskey barrels turned into flooring) can contribute toward LEED certification. Again, knowing a content percentage may be necessary.

Regional Materials: Products that are sourced from less than 500 miles away can contribute as a "regional material."

Low-Emitting Materials: Composite wood products, low-VOC adhesives and finishes all have the potential to contribute in a LEED project.

In the case of composite wood products, a floor that uses a CARB-certified core is not automatically LEED-compliant, since CARB is an emission-based standard and LEED is a content-based standard. For an engineered floor to be LEED-compliant, it must be produced with no added urea formaldehyde.

On the other hand, glues and adhesives are on an emission-based standard, and to comply they must meet a specified VOC emission level.

Those are the primary category for wood flooring. That said, there can be several other credit categories where flooring might contribute. My favorite challenge would be gaining recognition within the Innovation and Design Process category, which provides projects with an opportunity to be awarded points for exceptional performance above the requirements set by LEED and/or innovative performance in some way that is not specifically addressed in another way by LEED. Be creative with your product, and you might find yourself LEED-rewarded!

Resource Book
Looking for a specific product or a company? Wood Floor Business has the only comprehensive database of the industry.
Learn More
Resource Book