GreenBuildingTalk: Furniture, Flooring, and More at NEOCON ’08

June 19, 2008

Editor’s note: You might expect a post about an event called NEOCON to appear on Red, Green & Blue, but, as our friends at GreenBuildingTalk point out, NEOCON is a trade show for interior furnishings (with no particular ideological leanings, we’re guessing). The show took place in GBT’s hometown of Chicago, so they got a first-hand look at NEOCON’s green offerings. This post was originally published on Tuesday, June 17, 2008.

The National Exposition of Contract Interior Furnishings (NEOCON) was held this past week in Chicago, and GreenBuildingTalk was there to check out the unique combination of over 1,200 residential and commercial showrooms and exhibits. With our goal of discovering new green products, Josh and I made our way through the maze of office furniture, flooring, wallcoverings, and hundreds of chairs.

Amidst the legions of chairs, our first discovery was RealForm Technology’s plant-based polyurethane foams, products used for seating applications. The polyurethane foams contain 20% bio-based content, and the company’s laboratory trials have achieved even higher Bio-Polyol substitution, foams capable of being molded for any type of furniture, including sofas. RealForm’s Realbio foam product is leading the way in eco-friendly furniture foam, and is one to keep an eye on.

Among the dozens of flooring types, cork, sustainably harvested woods and recycled carpeting and tile were on our list to check out. Our first stop was at the Haro Flooring booth. Certifications for all of their wood, wood tiles, cork, laminate and linoleum flooring products include PEFC, FSC, Blue Angel, Real Wood, LEED, and the company is in compliance with the latest standards in all business processes. Those certifications include ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. We captured their stylish product line on video, which you can watch here at GBTs blog. Cork has established itself as an environmentally preferred flooring product, and CERES also offered a stylish cork flooring display at their booth. All of CERES flooring products meet the USGBC guidelines for high performance sustainable products, and the company also holds ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 1400:2004 certifications. Their cork flooring is sold with a protective ceramic oxide finish on it so that the buyer won’t need to add a polyurethane finish; this oxide finish is durable enough to handle pets and high traffic, and can last for decades with proper maintenance.

Also, Forbo Flooring Systems was showcasing their new Marmoleum Composition Tile, which is made up of  66% bio-based content. The top layer is linoleum, a natural, ecologically produced material made from linseed oil, rosin, limestone and environmentally friendly pigments. Behind this is a layer of water-repellent HDF (High Density Fiberboard) which is backed by a layer of cork. Another very stylish flooring product was Crossville, Inc.’s recycled porcelain tile. Their SCS certified EcoCycle porcelain tile is the first of its kind on the market that contains 40% recycled content. Crossville also introduced their new Echo recycled glass tile line at the show. The tile is recycled from car windshields, and can be used for walls, countertops and even floors! According to Crossville, the tiles are durable and are attached to mesh mounts which make for a less-labor intensive installation process.

While most companies at NEOCON were marketing products for commercial application, some, including Aquafil USA carpet fibers, are also used for residential applications. Aquafil’s Econyl75 carpet fiber is made up of  70% certified post-industrial recycled content, and their carpet fibers are sold to Interface, Shaw and Mohawk for some residential applications. Aquafil is a zero-waste company and their factory is powered by a co-generation power plant with natural gas-powered turbines. Also, Aquafil uses a technology developed by Tricycle to simulate carpet samples by using paper. Currently, designers use real carpet samples in the design process, which is quite wasteful and costly. In fact, the energy used to make a traditional carpet sample is astounding–one quart of oil, 5,750 BTUs of Energy, and 2,225 gallons of water for just one traditional carpet sample! Tricycle and Aquafil use a “digital tufting” software that simulates the actual placement of yarn in a tufting machine to create amazingly realistic images. The paper sample requires only about 5% as much energy and water, and is realistic in pattern and color.

Anji Mountain Bamboo Rug Co. showcased a bamboo office chair mat, a plastic mat alternative at the show. This item is made from 100% Anji Mountain bamboo, the strongest and hardest bamboo in the world. They also showcased some beautiful bamboo shag rugs and bamboo mats that you can view on video at GBT’s blog.

Our last stop was at MechoShade Systems booth to take a look at their non-PVC shadecloth. Their EcoVeil shadecloth is the first Cradle to Cradle shadecloth that can be reclaimable and recyclable. Cradle to Cradle design is an innovative approach to sustainability which models human industry on an integrated process of nature’s biological metabolism-or its productive eco-systems-by developing an equally effective technical metabolism in which the materials of human-industry safely and productivity flow. Using the Cradle to Cradle model, products like EcoVeil are developed for closed-loop systems in which every ingredient is safe and beneficial, either to biodegrade naturally and restore soil or to be fully recyclable into high-quality materials for subsequent generations, again and again. EcoVeil shadecloth allows you to see out of your window, but provides a signification reduction in solar heat-gain.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to see every product that we wanted to, but we were able to attend a couple seminars on green building, and will have transcripts of those events posted shortly. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out some of our videos from NEOCON that will give you a better idea about some of the products mentioned.

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