Let’s start with the good news. The market for laminate flooring continues to expand. Turnover statistics collected by the EPLF European Producers of Laminate Flooring reveals very encouraging growth for the second and third quarters of 2007, which reflects higher turnover by EPLF members in the world market. The good performance is based on the global quality and innovation leadership of the European laminate flooring industry combined with an acute awareness of environmental and sustainability issues.
In recent years, laminate flooring made in Europe has developed into a high-tech product for the international market. It has a reputation for high technical standards and an exceptional variety of designs, making it an increasingly attractive option for commercial projects. Load and Traffic Class 34, which is going to be incorporated into laminate flooring standard EN 13329 as an addendum, is a new “commercial grade” with very stringent requirements which goes beyond Class 33. Producers can now target airports, department stores, office buildings and other segments of the commercial market where flooring must be designed to withstand very demanding loads and high traffic.
The EPLF Technical Commitee supports ongoing development of normative standards for laminate flooring at the European and international levels. One result of this effort is EN 15468 which was recently released by CEN/TC 134 (European technical committee on textile, resilient and laminate floor coverings). This standard defines the requirements and test methods for direct print laminate flooring. In Chapter 3.2 of the standard, the flooring is referred to as Printed Decor Laminate (PDL) – Elements with directly applied printing and resin surface layer. The term “décor” was deliberately chosen rather than “direct” to make it clear that EN 15468 includes criteria for digital print and foil-coated laminate flooring as well as direct print flooring.
Group approval for laminate flooring
There is also good news to report from Berlin. The DIBt Deutsches Institut für Bautechnik (German institute for structural engineering) has given the green light to group approval for laminate flooring in Germany in respect to emissions in indoor air. VOC and formaldehyd testing was performed on a selection of standard laminate floorings representing a cross section of the products available on the market. The result of this test row confirmed that emissions of laminate floorings are to be classified as very low. All laminate floorings corresponding with the generic description of this group of products will be admitted with a minimum of bureaucratic overhead in future.
The environmental impact and sustainability of products are currently hot topics. Two years ago, EPLF asked BASF to compare different floor coverings in an ecology efficiency analysis. Laminate flooring received very good marks for energy efficiency, resource consumption and recyclability. EPLF recently participated in an CEN/TC 134 initiative for the development of an environmental assessment standard Environment Product Declaration (EPD). The European construction industry is a stake holder in the CPD Construction Product Directive which requires environmental protection requirements. Although these requirements are not yet mandatory, this initiative is a pro-active action.
New ecology report from WKI
Prof. Rainer Marutzky, head of the Fraunhofer Wilhelm-Klauditz Institut für Holzforschung in Braunschweig (Germany), has recently issued a report dealing with various aspects of the environmental impact of laminate flooring. The report examines the composition, production, emissions, hygienic and cleaning aspects and disposal of the product. Prof. Marutzky concludes that “laminate floor coverings are very advantageous in all functional aspects of their application, and they largely met the actual requirements in relation to the protection of health and environment”. The report is available for download at eplf.com/en/information-material.
The best performances, however, are meaningless without communication to consumers. The environmental aspects will be a major theme in EPLF’s press and public relations activities during the coming years. Communications work will be focused on collaboration with the consumer press, radio and TV. The association will continue to provide information to the trade press on current developments in the laminate flooring industry.
Ludger Schindler, President of EPLF, made the following observation: “Current sales figures prove that laminate flooring has a good image. But no matter how good you are, you can still get better.” The association fully agrees, and it continues to drive the product and the industry forward. We want to make sure that the success story continues and that laminate flooring made in Europe retains its leadership position in the world market.