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Green

Raphael Hardwood Flooring Flooring is committed to offering a complete line of green and LEED-compliant wood flooring products, as well as eco-friendly and LEED-compliant companion products such as adhesives, stains, finishes and underlayments.

We also strive to be a resource for accurate, no-nonsense information on the key environmental issues that impact our industry such as:

  • FSC Certification
  • Sustainable Forestry
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Recycled/Reclaimed/Salvage Content
  • Green Building Programs
  • LEED Credits Relevant To Our Industry
  • FSC Certification

    Today, nearly every wood flooring product seems to carry some sort of environmental claim. Some are accurate, but others are misleading or exaggerated. How can you distinguish a genuine ecological forest product from one that has been "greenwashed?" The answer is credible, independent certification for forestry and forest products.

    Forest certification is a voluntary process that ensures consumers that the wood products they buy were grown and harvested in a way that protects forests for the long term. Certifiers assess the on-the-ground forest practices of a given operation against a stringent set of environmental and social criteria. Operations that meet those standards may identify their products as originating from a well-managed source. The certifier also audits the "chain of custody" of the certified wood to ensure that it is tracked through each stage of the manufacturing and distribution process from forest to end user.

    The Forest Stewardship Council is a not-for-profit organization that accredits certifiers whose programs conform to its internationally recognized Principles and Criteria, thereby providing a consistent and credible framework for independent certification efforts worldwide. The leading FSC-accredited certifying agencies in North America are SmartWood and Scientific Certification Systems.

    FSC certification enjoys the support of most major environmental groups, including World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Rainforest Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society. In addition, the LEED green building rating system of the US Green Building Council offers credit for FSC-certified wood products, but does not currently recognize any other forest certification system.

    Among many other things, in order to be FSC certified, a forest owner or manager must:

  • Meet all applicable laws
  • Have legally established rights to harvest
  • Respect indigenous rights
  • Maintain community well-being
  • Conserve economic resources
  • Protect biological diversity
  • Have a written management plan
  • Engage in regular monitoring
  • Maintain high conservation value forests
  • Manage plantations to alleviate pressures on - NOT replace - natural forests
  • Green Building Programs

    The green building movement is exploding in California and across the U.S., led by a number of innovative green building programs. Most green building programs attempt to organize and codify green design and construction practices by creating one or more rating systems. The two leading green building programs in California are U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program and the Build It Green program.

    LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a family of green building rating systems that cover a variety of types of commercial and residential construction. LEED is currently the most popular green building program in the United States. It was created and is administered by U.S. Green Building Council (www.usgbc.org). For more information on LEED credits that are relevant to our industry, click here.

    Build It Green is a non-profit organization based in the SF Bay Area whose mission is to promote healthy, energy and resource efficient buildings in California. Unlike LEED, Build It Green does not address commercial construction, instead focusing exclusively on residential construction in three areas: remodels, single-family new homes, and multi-family. Build It Green is the most widely used residential green building program in California. For more information, see build it green

    Indoor Air Quality

    The issue of indoor air quality (IAQ) gained attention in the 1980swith the identification of sick building syndrome. Sick building syndrome (SBS) is a combination of ailments associated with an individual's place of work or residence. The causes of SBS are frequently tied to flaws in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, but are also attributed to contaminants produced by out-gassing of VOCs from some types of building materials.

    Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemical compounds that under normal conditions vaporize and enter the atmosphere. One of the main VOCs implicated in SBS is formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is an important chemical used widely by industry to manufacture certain building materials, as well as numerous household product). Building materials that contain high levels of added formaldehyde are of concern because they can "off-gas" formaldehyde into building interiors and affect interior air quality long after the products are installed.

    Formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent-smelling gas, can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, fatigue, and difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.1 parts per million). Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, while others have no reaction to the same level of exposure. High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and is believed to cause cancer in humans.

    The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen (cancer-causer) under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), however, upgraded its initial classification of formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen to a known human carcinogen in 2004. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) supported the IARC findings by classifying formaldehyde as a "toxic air contaminant" after state experts concluded that, based on current research, there is "no safe exposure threshold [for formaldehyde] to preclude cancer."

    In residential and commercial construction, the most significant sources of formaldehyde are likely to be pressed wood products made using adhesives that contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins. Engineered wood flooring, which is basically multiple layers of wood glued together to form a single piece, is one example of a pressed wood product whose adhesives more often than not contain urea-formaldehyde. Other pressed wood products made for indoor use include particleboard, hardwood plywood, and medium density fiberboard (MDF). MDF contains a higher resin-to-wood ratio than any other UF pressed wood product and is generally recognized as being the highest formaldehyde-emitting pressed wood product.

    Other pressed wood products, such as softwood plywood and oriented strandboard, are produced for exterior construction use and contain the dark, or red/black-colored phenol-formaldehyde (PF) resin. Although formaldehyde is present in both types of resins, pressed woods that contain PF resin generally emit formaldehyde at considerably lower rates than those containing UF resin.

    Relevant LEED Credits

    The information on this page is our attempt to explain in plain English how the LEED Credits that are relevant to the wood flooring industry work.

    This task is more complicated than it seems, in part because there are separate LEED rating systems for different types of construction: There are several commercial rating systems, but the two that most impact our industry are LEED for New Construction (LEED-NC) and LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI), and they both have the same credits as concerns floor coverings and associated products. There is just one residential rating system - LEED for Homes - but its credit structure is completely different from that of the commercial rating systems.

    LEED Commercial (LEED-NC & LEED-CI)

    MR 4 (Recycled Content Building Materials)

    To achieve a point under MR 4.1, the LEED project must use materials with recycled content such that the sum of post-consumer recycled content plus one-half of the pre-consumer content constitutes at least 10% (based on cost) of the total value of materials in the project. To achieve an additional point under MR 4.2, the sum of post-consumer recycled content plus one-half of the pre-consumer content must constitute at least 20% of total materials costs.

    Thus, if project contractors purchase $10,000 worth of a wood flooring product with pre-consumer recycled content, and the total value of project materials is $1 million, then project managers can add of the value of that product ($5000) to other recycled-content materials, and the total must equal or exceed $100,000 to gain a point under MR 4.1. To gain the two points offered by MR 4.2 in this example, the total value of recycled-content materials (with pre-consumer recycled-content materials counted at 50% value and post-consumer at full value) must be $200,000.

    MR 6 (Rapidly Renewable Building Materials)

    To achieve a point under MR 6, the LEED project must use rapidly renewable building materials and products (made from plants that are typically harvested within a ten-year cycle or shorter) for 2.5% of the total value of all building materials and products used in the project, based on cost.

    Thus, if project contractors purchase $25,000 worth of a flooring product made from rapidly-renewable materials, and the total value of project materials is $1 million, then project managers have achieved this credit.

    MR 7 (Certified Wood)

    To achieve a point under MR 7, the LEED project must use a minimum of 50% of wood-based materials and products, which are certified in accordance with the Forest Stewardship Council's (FSC) Principles and Criteria, for wood building components. These components include, but are not limited to, structural framing and general dimensional framing, flooring, sub-flooring, wood doors, and finishes.

    Thus, if project contractors purchase $10,000 worth of a wood flooring product that is FSC-certified, and the total value of wood building components is $100,000, then project managers will need to source another $40,000 of FSC-certified wood products to achieve MR 7.

    EQ 4.1 (Low Emitting Materials: Adhesives and Sealants)

    To achieve a point under EQ 4.1, among other requirements, "[a]ll adhesives and sealants used on the interior of the buildingshall comply with the South Coast Air Quality Management District Rule # 1168" which sets the following VOC limits:

    Wood Flooring Adhesives: 100 g/L

    EQ 4.2 (Low Emitting Materials: Paints and Coatings)

    To achieve a point under EQ 4.2, among other requirements, "[c]lear wood finishes, floor coatings, stains, sealers, and shellacs applied to interior elements [shall] not exceed the VOC content limits established in South Coast Air Quality Management District Rule # 1113" as follows:

    * Clear Wood Finishes: varnish 350 g/L, lacquer 550 g/L

    * Floor Coatings: 100 g/L

    * Sealers: waterproofing sealers 250 g/L

    EQ 4.4 (Low Emitting Materials: Composite Wood and Agrifiber Products)

    To achieve a point under EQ 4.4, "[c]omposite wood and agrifiber products used on the interior of the building (defined as inside of the weatherproofing system) shall contain no added urea-formaldehyde resins" Under EQ 4.4, composite wood and agrifiber products are defined as particleboard, medium density fiberboard (MDF), plywood, wheatboard, strawboard, panel substrates and door cores. Engineered wood flooring is also considered a composite wood product.

    LEED For Homes

    MR 2 (Environmentally Preferable Products)

    The intent of MR 2 is to increase demand for environmentally preferable materials (EPPs) and products or building components that are extracted, processed and manufactured within the region.

    The credit has a mandatory prerequisite that requires that all tropical woods used in a LEED for Homes project be FSC certified.

    It awards half a point each for a number of different building systems/components (e.g. framing, flooring, siding, roofing etc.) up to a maximum of 8 points for the use of environmentally preferable products and/or products that are extracted, processed and manufactured within 500 miles of the home.

    Environmentally preferable flooring products include linoleum, cork, bamboo, FSC-certified wood, reclaimed wood, sealed concrete, and recycled-content flooring. A half point is earned if these products are used alone or in combination in 45% of the home's floor area. A bonus half point is awarded if they are used in 90% of the home. An additional bonus half point is awarded if NO carpet is used in the home.

    Recycled/Reclaimed/Salvage Content

    Recycled-Content Wood: Most recycled-content wood incorporates by-products of another manufacturing processes (such as sawdust) and is called "pre-consumer" or "post-industrial" content. Pre-consumer recycled content is considered less desirable by recycling professionals than so-called "post-consumer" recycled content: that is, content derived from waste paper, glass, aluminum, plastic etc. which are recycled into new products.

    Reclaimed and Salvaged Wood: These terms are often used interchangeably. If there's a distinction between them, it's that "reclaimed" wood more often refers to already-manufactured wood products that are remanufactured into new ones -- examples include timbers from the deconstruction of old buildings that are remilled, and more unusual sources such as old crates and pallets. "Salvaged" wood more often refers to the straight reuse of wood products (salvaged doors) or logs that can be salvaged from a variety of sources: street trees, river and lake bottoms, orchards, and even forests (diseased and dead wood or small diameter trees that are thinned out as part of fire prevention measures).

    Sustainable Forestry

    In both the developed and the developing world, forests are being cleared to make way for other uses - whether housing developments, cattle grazing, or subsistence agriculture. Around the world, original (old-growth) forests are shrinking and species extinction rates are mounting as habitat disappears. Deforestation in the tropics has been identified as the second largest source - after the energy sector - of human-caused emissions of the greenhouse gases that threaten climatic stability. In most places, irresponsible logging compromises the health and integrity of forest ecosystems, soils, and waterways. In many areas of the developing world, illegal logging is rampant.

    Sustainable forestry is key to halting global forest degradation and deforestation. Well-managed plantations that are not established at the expense of natural forest can divert pressure from the latter while providing fast-growing wood fiber for a variety of applications. Truly responsible natural forest management - and markets for ecological forest products - provide incentives to local people and companies to preserve forest as forest, managing some areas for the full range of values, and leaving others intact as biological and ecological preserves.

    Truly sustainable forestry has social and economic as well as environmental components. Well-managed forestry operations take into account ecosystem health, habitat for wild flora and fauna, environmentally-sensitive areas, the rights of local communities, and water and soil quality. They generally have long-term tenure to their lands and are committed to maintaining current patterns of land-use.

    In some countries and regions of the world - Scandinavia and much of the hardwood region of the U.S., for example - forest management practices are generally quite good. As noted above, many countries and regions have poor records, but even in these countries many individual forestry operations are as well-managed as any in the world.

    In the end, there is no assurance that your wood comes from well-managed sources unless it comes from a forest that has been certified by a credible forest certification program.

    information provided courtesy of our primary wholesale wood floor distributor Golden State Flooring

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