I’ve blogged in the past about how we can use universities and colleges as business resources. Well today, one of them is using us as a resource. A student contacted me asking for help regarding green finishes. I can talk about regulations and VOC conditions and measurements, but he wants to know about market demand. So I offered him blog space to ask you. Can I ask folks to help him out, either with an email or a post here on the blog for everyone to see and discuss? Here’s his request:

Hello! My name is Ryan Brown, and I’m a student working on my MBA at the University of Akron. This summer I am working on a market research project through the EDGE Fellowship Program. This fellowship teaches students the principles of entrepreneurship through real life experiences.

This summer we are excited to be researching opportunities for environmentally friendly coatings in the hardwood flooring industry. The findings we submit to our fellowship mentors will be used to educate business leaders in Northeastern Ohio about these opportunities and will promote the use of eco-friendly coatings across North America.

Ms. Baldwin has graciously allowed me to post a few questions to see if there are some people interested in providing some resources or information that will help us find ways to make floor coatings more environmentally friendly.  We are specifically looking at polyurethane coatings (which can be used with a variety of coatings systems) but are most interested in learning about the segments that are experiencing the most growth in hardwood flooring and the trends that are driving this growth.

Many of the people we have talked to are concerned about the quality of green coatings (such as water borne systems that have zero or low VOC content), particularly in the area of matte finishes.  Our goal is to motivate businesses to provide more environmentally friendly coatings by identifying segments or niches within the hardwood flooring market where these products can succeed. Information on factory applied coatings or on site applications would be very much appreciated!  Your help can make a difference in the marketplace and help protect the environment from unnecessary harm.

Below are some questions that we are focusing our research on:

1) What are the segments that have the greatest opportunities for environmentally friendly coatings?

2) Are environmentally friendly coatings perceived as being lower in quality in this industry?

3) What is the demand for matte finish coatings in the hardwood flooring industry?

4) How much of the market is factory applied coatings and how much is on site?

5) What trends (customer preferences/regulatory trends) may incentivize a move towards more environmentally friendly coatings?

Thanks!

Ryan Brown

So how about it, folks—can you help a student out? Ryan, we’ll expect you to come back and post followups here after your paper is done to discuss your findings.

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")