A study undertaken by international consumer research firm Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung (GfK, Nuremberg) on behalf of PEFC Deutschland e.V. * published in March 2013 shows that German consumers want to see independent quality seals provide evidence of environmental credentials and sustainability claims used for advertising purposes. 80.1 percent of those surveyed believe that companies which use environmental and sustainability claims for advertising purposes need to be able to demonstrate them in full. Four out of five Germans consider independent certificates suitable for this. The European brand-name manufacturers of laminate floors committed themselves to the principle of sustainability, set new standards in environmental compatibility and advocated independent test commissions at an early stage.
Sustainable products aren't just a fad. Customers in Germany and on global markets are increasingly rejecting superficial "greenwashing". Instead they want credible suppliers who don't just promise environmentally-sound and socially-responsible actions or ecological product features in their advertising but also actually deliver them.
Sustainability is increasingly becoming a selling point – not just with architects and contractors, but also in the private domain amongst people building or renovating their own homes. For these clients, laminate flooring has proven to be a sustainable product for all life phases.
Laminate: high environmental compatibility standards
The flooring sector has an exemplary and pioneering role to play in the debate surrounding sustainability. The European brand producers who have come together in the Verband der Europäischen Laminatfußbodenhersteller e.V. (EPLF) have, for example, long been committed to observing environmental declarations. And they have enjoyed success from this approach. Interior design products which have a positive environmental impact and can demonstrate this in specific environmental declarations (EPD) are now increasingly being used in the commercial construction sector. In shopfitting in particular where cycles of innovation are dynamic and getting shorter all the time, unmistakably "green" high-tech products are in demand. Customers want high-quality products from renewable sources offering flexible use and which can be fully recycled.
The values of consumers are now changing again. An awareness of sustainability is on the rise amongst many groups of customers. As is confirmed by EPLF President Ludger Schindler, this is very encouraging for the association's members: "The EPLF and its member companies made a clear commitment to sustainable construction early on. For years our members have been continually investing in the development of innovative and environmentally-friendly products. The EPLF was one of the first groups in the flooring industry to prompt the development of EPDs and therefore paved the way towards increased transparency and product safety for the consumer."
The EPLF has been a member of the Institute of Construction and Environment (IBU) e.V. since 2009. Representatives of the EPLF's Technology Working Group are involved in official standardisation committees throughout Europe and the rest of the world, currently working, for example, on the revision of EN 14041. This aims to integrate hazardous substances and environmental aspects into CE labelling, including indoor air quality, VOC emissions and harmful substances. All the changes required to adapt the current European Construction Product Directive (CPD) to the future European Construction Product Regulation (CPR) are also being made. This regulation will then prescribe standard requirements of construction products throughout Europe.
The best that nature has to offer – perfected by cutting-edge technology
According to the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen (German Sustainable Building Council), sustainability revolves around three factors: ecology, economy and socially sustainable solutions – for example where and under what conditions production takes place. Ludger Schindler: "Here the EPLF association members have very strict requirements for themselves which they need to communicate to the end customer. Through their purchasing behaviour, consumers can help to maintain jobs in Europe. And are therefore opting for the more sustainable product."
The laminate flooring products of European manufacturers can't win over customers through their numerous decors and outstanding usage characteristics alone - but their environmental impact can do the trick. The sustainable origin of the wood used, guaranteed by seal of approvals, rules out controversial sources. Modern use of technology enables an authentic decor and pore pattern. For example, you can create the look of rare and exotic timbers in the home without any harm to forest resources. The same applies to the big trend setters of the 2013 season: large rustic boards with all-over printing in various widths, a wide range of techniques for popular oak looks, sometimes with distinct cracks and branches – the latest collections of laminate floors offer the customers an infinite wealth of creative options that would not otherwise be available on the market because of the limited resources of natural timbers.
Long-lasting and fully recyclable
All laminate flooring components used by all EPLF members are manufactured without the use of pesticides, organochlorine compounds or harmful heavy metals. And unlike other floor coverings, laminate contains no PVC and no softeners. Decorative flooring finishes are printed on certified paper with a high proportion of recycled material using natural water-based inks. Eco-friendly resins and adhesives are used as the binder. Fitting laminate flooring therefore helps promote a healthy indoor climate.
The durability of products, which cuts follow-on costs for the user, is also proving to be an important factor in positive statements on the sustainability of laminate flooring: even after years of use, the boards maintain their shape and look as good as the day they were bought. Customers therefore benefit twice over from laminate flooring and their value for money is proven once again.
And if the laminate flooring has to replaced when the customer moves home, it can be easily lifted using modern click systems and disposed of or recycled if need be. At the end of their life cycles, laminate floors produce totally safe waste which causes harm to neither man nor the planet. There is no need to dispose of it as special waste. In fact, once chipped, it can be returned to the production process or even use as a growing medium in agriculture.
For information about laminate floors and an overview of members of the European brand producers in the EPLF, visit www.eplf.com and www.mylaminate.eu
*PEFC: Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes
elne1303_b1: (Motif: Classic 1040 natural oak, end grain) - Photo: Parador
elne1303_b2: (Motif: Kronoflooring Variostep Classic) - Photo: Kronoflooring
elne1303_b3: (Motif: Meisterwerke LD 300, 20 Melango, mid oak) - Photo: Meisterwerke