UCLAx Cradle to Cradle: class 5

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This is one in a series of documents that follow my UCLA winter 2010 course titled Cradle to Cradle: Closed Loop Systems. This interdisciplinary course contributes to the school's Certificate of Global Sustainability.

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UCLAx Cradle to Cradle: class 5

  1. 1. UCLAx class 5 1 UCLAx Cradle to Cradle: class 5 Our fifth class was a field trip into downtown Los Angeles to visit the new showroom of InterfaceFLOR. Having seen company founder Ray C. Anderson speak just a few weeks before (posted here), we were treated to a tour and presentation or their efforts to reduce waste from every system. We did a soft start with food and drinks, donated by Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, and casual conversation. Our gracious hosts, Kim and Abby, gave the students a tour of the ground level showroom, demonstrated how some their carpet tile systems work, and outlined some the green design features of their USGBC LEED certified building. Their unit was designed as a live/work configuration, so the upper level is set up like a loft apartment that functions well for a group of our size. Abby led the tour and Kim gave the students a fairly in-depth presentation of InterfaceFLOR strategies for waste reduction. The company's efforts fall into three categories - modularity, product design, and conversion. Although not the initial reason for designing or producing carpet tile, an excellent byproduct of modularity is reduced waste. The average broadloom carpet (sheet carpet manufactured in 12’ wide rolls) produces 13-14% trim waste. Carpet tile, on the other hand, produces only 1-4% trim waste. So for every building where sheet carpet has been installed, an additional 13-14% of materials has to be manufactured, purchased, and then disposed of. And it’s typically the disposal that’s the real environmental problem. Composed almost exclusively of petroleum derived products, made to be durable and long lasting, and made to be chemically inert, that waste often goes to a landfill where it may stay for thousands of years. Actually, no one is absolutely certain how long it will last, and some estimate that it could be more than 10,000 years. Carpet tile, because of its modularity can fit more unusual floor plans and configurations to minimize waste. All InterfaceFLOR tiles have nylon fiber face material and a VCT backer. They don’t produce their own nylon, but work with their suppliers to ensure the product meets their agenda for reaching zero impact by 2020. Although the backer is made from essentially the same formulation they’ve used for years, there’s good reason for that. I’ve written many times about my own concerns with vinyl and how I’m working to rid it from any project I design, but InterfaceFLOR, after a great deal of internal debate, decided it would be better to keep the existing backer design and devise a way to recover and reuse the millions of tiles already in existence as food, or raw material, for new tile production. By maintaining the same backing material, which meets many durability requirements, they can divert existing PVC away from landfills where it will certainly do more harm. If done right, InterfaceFLOR www.threadcollaborative.com ➜ threadcollaborative 11250 morrison street no. 201, north hollywood ca 91601
  2. 2. UCLAx class 5 2 can use this scheme to create a virtually limitless supply of raw material by tapping into the existing stock already being used. They have continued to use what would normally be considered environmentally unfavorable materials, but are doing so in order to take responsibility for product they’ve already created after decades of production and which needs to be dealt with to minimize environmental impact. Another way they’ve attempted to reduce waste occurs with the pattern and color design of their products. They’ve launched a new approach called I2 which looks to nature for inspiration. They realize that one potential problem with carpet tile is matching one tile to another. This is especially true if you have to replace a tile due to staining or damage or wear. When doing that, you typically have to be concerned with pattern and color match. The new approach creates colors and patterns where no two tiles are the same. They look similar, but are not the same. When put together they create a unidirectional pattern not dependent on adjacent tile alignment. It doesn’t matter what order or configuration tiles are installed. This also relates into the issue raised above regarding trim. Since no two tiles are the same, trim from one tile can easily be used elsewhere without fearing pattern or color discontinuity. To close the loop, the ultimate way to reduce waste, InterfaceFLOR case created a program called ReEntry 2.0. They now have the ability to take any carpet, from any manufacturer, tile or broadloom, separate face material from backing, and convert it into new face fiber and backing. With this system, at the end of its typically short life span, carpet can be reprocessed as food for new carpet. Combine these three core strategies plus dozens more and InterfaceFLOR is far ahead of any manufacturer of similar size. It was a good discussion and presentation that gave us a lot to think about for upcoming classes. We then took a break and finished three profile presentations we missed the previous week. This time students presented about bottled water, coir (coconut husk fiber), and manganese. All three were informative. I hope to offer all the student shows as downloads or viewable slide shows in the coming weeks. We all learned about interesting materials and their backgrounds. Next week we’ll continue our conversation of waste reduction strategies and start looking at ways to preserve natural resources. Come back for more. www.threadcollaborative.com ➜ threadcollaborative 11250 morrison street no. 201, north hollywood ca 91601

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