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What Does the Future Hold for Sustainable Flooring?

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 3 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Flooring Sustainable Natural Climate

So what does the future hold for sustainable flooring? In a world where consumers are getting more and more conscious of the effect of their buying decisions, a world where climate change will affect the way we live in the UK, what trends and products will appear?

Climate Change and It's Impact of Flooring

Let's take the effect of climate change first. Despite the bluster of many popular commentators urging global warming on if it meant a Mediterranean climates for the UK, it should by now be clear that it's anything but.

Climate change appears so far to be delivering higher average temperatures and drier summers but more wind and rain at other times of the year and no perceptible increase in sunshine.

Flooring for Flood Conditions

The challenges for flooring may well mean developing coverings that are better at surviving flooding than carpets. Ground floors may see increased use of tiles and stone which can be washed out easily. Electric underfloor heating may not be such a good idea either, but hot water underfloor heating could be employed as long as electrical control devices are high enough to be out of the way.

As long as a flood doesn't go on for too long and weaken the substrate of the floor, hot water underfloor heating should survive. And if the interest in sustainability continues there will be more people using underfloor heating in conjunction with ground or air source heat pumps and solar panels. This will in turn increase the use of hard floors rather than carpets as they tend to work better with underfloor heating.

Ecological Awareness in Consumers

The affect of greater awareness by consumers of the ecological provenance of their goods is likely to force changes on flooring trends as well. The number of natural and recycled products on the market is growing and once they move past certain volumes they will get cheaper as economies of scale kick in.

As this happens the larger flooring companies will start to embrace ecological, natural and fair trade products. This can be seen already, with large flooring companies emphasising their green credentials on their website. Consumers will become more knowledgeable and begin to pick and choose companies on the basis of the ecological consideration they place on their raw supplies, manufacturing processes and transportation methods.

Reuse and Recycle Initiatives

Local initiatives such as freecycle (an email group where people in the same area can give away unwanted possessions), and government backed schemes to reuse surplus building materials rather than sending them straight to landfill, are making it easier to reuse flooring and other materials. This will decrease the effect on the environment of manufacturing new goods when there are perfectly good materials to be had.

Of course new flooring materials will still be needed and there is likely to be an increase in market share for natural products. As well as established materials like wool, cork and wood, bamboo may well crop up more in the future. Fast growing and versatile, it is being heavily promoted as a cash crop in a number of developing countries.

Science Fiction or Reality?

Finally a departure into the realms of science fiction. There are a number of companies currently looking at capturing kinetic energy and using it to generate electricity that can be used locally. Put simply this means that flooring in the future may collect the energy from the up and down movement of people walking on it and transfer it, via springs, pumps and wires, to electrical devices nearby.

This system is already on trial on a larger scale in the USA. Platforms set into roadways take the energy of cars pushing down spring loaded flaps as they roll over the top of them and turn that into electricity to power nearby road signs or tollbooths. It may not be long before a smaller system on your stairs is charging your mobile phone as you run up and down.

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