Monthly Archives: June 2010

Source for bamboo floors in Alexandria, Virginia and the Washington DC/Northern Virginia metro area

   Bamboo flooring has exploded in popularity in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area since I first started shipping it from Washington state nearly 15 years ago. In fact, when showing samples to clients, I got used to being the first one to open this door for them. This is no longer the case as many have seen it in place or at least heard about it.
   As a US Green Building Council LEED AP, I’m excited about the advances made in environmentally-responsible flooring, especially bamboo.
If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a nice surprise.
Not only is bamboo beautiful, it’s durable and stable.
Bamboo also grows quickly (renewing itself every 5 – 6 years). 
It’s technically a “grass” but performs much the same as hardwood, which grows much more slowly. 
It’s so tough, in fact, that it is used as scaffolding for building construction in some Asian countries.

 natural bamboo flooring installation  

One of the first things I’m often asked is how it performs.
Well, I haven’t had a performance call-back, although I’m sure there may be someone out there who is not 100% satisfied.
Since bamboo is so hard (harder than red oak), it can take abuse.
It’s also more moisture-stable than any hardwood floor and is suitable for below-grade applications (basements…)
One thing to note, however, is that the hardness figures most commonly discussed are for natural bamboo.
When using carbonated or “caramelized” bamboo (bamboo that has been steamed to darken the color) the hardness rating drops to about that of standard maple.

Natural Bamboo Flooring Advantages:
Installation Ease – Any good hardwood installer (or handy home-owner) can install bamboo, since it goes down just like wood. And, since it’s stable, it can be glued over concrete as well.
Hardness – Natural-finish bamboo is harder than maple.
Variety – Carbonized (bamboo that has been steamed to darken its color) is slightly softer. We have installed bamboo in a number of different applications and it has performed beautifully in each one. Some manufacturers now offer fantastic styles and we carry them all, including custom color options for quantities over 500 square feet.

carbonized bamboo flooring installation
ABOVE – Horizontal Carbonized Bamboo Flooring
…nice character variations plank-to-plank.
 

And here is a “green” flooring option video just to give as much info as possible to you:

Now, this being said, here is an email from someone who chose not to use my services: 

“Hi. You gave me an estimate some time ago for installing a bamboo floor on Ridge Rd in Old Greenbelt. Unfortunately I chose to go with a competitor (*** Floors) due to a sale they were having on materials and things didn’t go too well. The floor buckled in the humid summer months, possibly partly because it was placed without enough space for expansion. I don’t want to pay *** to fix the problem and was wondering if you would be willing to take a look and consider the job. I’ll also need a few finishing touches – thresholds and stepdowns in a couple of places. Look forward to hearing from you.” 

We always strive to be reasonably-priced, however, sometimes a “great deal” can turn out to not be worth what you’ve paid. The above homeowner will wind up paying more than double what I would have initially charged since she will get the job done twice.
If you would like information about “green flooring” such as bamboo and cork, if you are interested in oa specific product, or if you’re just as excited about great floors as we are, call us at (703) 370-0000 or send me an email. Chris. 

Commercial installation of bamboo flooring with a pattern of carbonized borders and natural field at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis, Maryland
Main Reception Area To Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis, MD.
This specific example shows a carbonized border with a field of natural horizontal plank.
For the utmost in environmentally-responsible choices, they opted for a wax finish over the polyurethane/aluminum oxide combination.
It requires more maintenance and shows scratches in the wax, but it is very “green!”
 

LEED AP green flooring professional in Northern Virgina and DC Metro area

Christopher Moline, LEED AP

 

 

Green building efforts trampled by end-users – the reason operations are a part of the USGBC LEED rating system

The following case study from my experience at the Bowie Town Center in Bowie, Maryland, shows the absolute necessity for end-user education in order to maximize efficiency and effectiveness of any building system. The following article was printed in the Bowie Blade newspaper after I had an eye-opening experience on a very hot, humid day…

“Taking the LEED

My son and I were recently at the Bowie Town Center on a 90-degree day and noticed several stores with their front doors locked open. The cool breeze was nice for a moment until I asked someone at each location why this was happening and if they knew how much energy was being wasted. I received responses ranging from “that’s what we do” (as the thermostat behind the cash register remained set at 72), to “we do that to attract customers” (and let the pleasant scent of candles waft over the sidewalk).

As a U.S. Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Accredited Professional, I was appalled. As a former Marine whose brothers are in harm’s way for various reasons, I’m more than a bit ticked at some of the wretched excess I see.

And it’s not a strictly emotional issue.

According to the EPA, the built environment accounts for over 40 percent of the energy consumption in this country. There are many thousands of dedicated professionals who do all they can to improve efficiency and be better stewards of the environment; and I’m sure many would love to chat with the few retailers at the Bowie Town Center, and anyone who walked by without saying anything.
It would be my pleasure to address this issue in detail with anyone interested. This wasted energy doesn’t just waste the store owner’s capital by increasing operating costs, it contributes to poor outdoor air quality issues on hot and humid days (from increased electricity production). Add to that the increased maintenance costs and shorter life-span of cooling equipment, and mix in some really bad PR (at least with green beans like me) and it’s a losing proposition in more ways than one.
Think about the oil spill in the Gulf and maybe this won’t seem quite so harmless.
Drill, baby, drill … into the facts.

CHRISTOPHER A. MOLINE
Bowie”

Here is a short video I took with my phone when I just had to ask someone at one of the stores why they were doing this. The response floored me.

Now that you and about 30,000 people have read this (based on the response I got after its publication), let me know if you see it the same way I do.  This is a perfect example of how an uneducated end-user can completely undermine an efficient system and waste far more energy than any project planner could have imagined.

To get specific as to how this relates to my specialty, LEED-CI, consider the following:
Several credits and prerequisites within the various LEED ratings systems come to mind whose merit are undermined in this example.
LEED for Retail 2009: Commercial Interiors has the following sections.
  Sustainable Sites
  Water Efficiency
  Energy & Atmosphere
  Materials & Resources
  Indoor Environmental Quality
  Innovation & Design Process
  Regional Priority
It’s obvious which section gets undermined by what’s happening in this video – Energy & Atmosphere – when you look at the credit categories:
Energy & Atmosphere breakdown of credits:
Prerequisite 1 – Fundamental Commissioning of Building Energy Systems
Prerequisite 2 – Minimum Energy Performance
Prerequisite 3 – Fundamental Refrigerant Management
Credit 1.1 – Optimize Energy Performance – Lighting Power
Credit 1.2 – Optimize Energy Performance – Lighting Controls
Credit 1.3 – Optimize Energy Performance – HVAC
Credit 1.4 – Optimize Energy Performance – Equipment and Appliances
Credit 1.5 – Optimize Energy Performance – Envelope
Credit 2 – Enhanced Commissioning
Credit 3 – Measurement and Verification
Credit 4 – Green Power
Credit 5 – On-site Renewable Energy
It’s easy to see how most of these count for nothing when the end-users completely undermine the intent of even the first prerequisite, that is, “To verify that the project’s energy-related systems are installed and calibrated to perform according to the owner’s project requirements, baseis of design and construction documents.” The benefits of commissioning include:
Reduced energy use
Lower operating costs
Fewer contractor callbacks
Better building documentation
Improved occupant productivity
& Verification that the systems perform as expected by the owner.

Please comment and let’s talk!
All the best,

Chris

Christopher Moline, LEED AP

about Chris Moline, LEED AP

Chris is our Residential Group Manager & a US Green Building Council LEED Accredited Professional

Gulf of Mexico oil spill and Kevin Costner’s centrifuge solution

Actor Kevin Costner may have the answer to the BP oil spill and Gulf Coast resident’s petrochemical woes – a centrifuge made by his company that separates oil from water at the rate of 200 gallons per minute… with 97% effectiveness. And now it’s been confirmed that BP has agreed to purchase and begin using the machines. What does this have to do with green flooring? Well, given that many flooring products contain petroleum derivatives and all use energy to produce and for transport, it makes sense to include this story here.

If you’re not familiar with how a centrifuge works, you may not be aware that you probably own one – the washing machine in your laundry room. By spinning your clothes at high speeds, it forces the wet clothes against the perforated walls of the tub. Then, since the perforations are too small for the clothes to exit, only water gets through. It’s basic, but it can help you understand. For more information on Costner’s amazing, hopefully gulf-saving device, click here.

Many of the flooring products I recommend use less energy in production or are not made from petroleum derivatives. The environmental disaster in the gulf is one reason it’s better to “drill, baby, drill” into the facts about green flooring.

All the best,

Chris

about Chris Moline, LEED AP

Chris is Residential Group Manager for CCA; a US Green Building Council LEED Accredited Professional & Judge for Floor Covering Weekly's GreenStep Awards

Being green and reasons why… start with “The Secret Life of Paper” and learn more.

I sincerely hope this helps foment understanding. And I can’t wait until “The Secret Life of Carpet” comes out… I’ll be first in line! 

As a LEED AP working in the flooring industry, I often find myself teaching other professionals about sustainable flooring, LEED certification and renewable resources. Videos like this are a great teaching tool and you will find many such examples throughout this blog.

All the best, 

about Chris Moline, LEED AP

Chris is our Residential Group Manager & a US Green Building Council LEED Accredited Professional

LCA, Invista and greenwashing on the carpet side…

I love green.
In fact, I have to work hard to take off my rose-colored glasses and be objective when someone makes a green claim with what even appears to be sincere effort. 
This one, however, is worth digging into because I agree with the spirit and conviction, but remain on the fence because of the logic (yes, I’m being diplomatic). 

Let me build a case for you.
As a LEED AP, speaker, green blogger, and the leader of a team of sales professionals with a track record of achievement,  I’m hounded by manufacturer’s reps. Once they find out my penchant for all things green, they’ll rightly do their best to put a green spin on everything.
If they are open, I help them understand everything from “don’t say this product will ‘get you LEED points”, to “did you think about this?” 

The latest in the long line of “claims to investigate” is Invista/Stainmaster’s push to emphasize longevity or LCA – Life Cycle Analysis (how long the product will last) and recyclability,  over production energy or sustainable/renewable content among other factors. 

Visual device to communicate the concept of greenwashing
Note how the above diagram shows where the burden is to realize the green benefit of a product – the lighter the green, the lower the GBI (Green Benefit Index).

   Doesn’t the burden belong with invested professionals, trained to know true green?
This reminds me of a pair of reading glasses I’d noticed in CVS the other day.
There were leaves pictured around a recycling logo… and I got excited.
Until, that is, I noticed the “raison d’vert” was the fact that the packaging was recyclable.
   That, my friends, is enough to tick off anyone looking for green truth… and willing to pay a premium for it, as many of our clients are.
In my opinion, this is why anyone focusing on LCA and recyclability is missing the mark, although LCA and recyclable content have their place.
My contention is that the end-user may or may not be concerned or capable of extracting the benefit.
And that is unacceptable.
   This is a fashion industry and we are in a highly-transient market (I only want to speak from my perspective in the DC area) and many folks change floors based on trends and color preferences, or they get transferred and have to move.
I can’t tell you how many times one of our over 40 crews have torn out perfectly-sound flooring just to replace it with a different color or style. At times, I’ve taken that old carpet (sometimes not even one year old) and installed it in a rental property for myself or a friend. In other cases, I’ve taken it to drop zones where I skydive and it finds a new home in the parachute packing loft. 
   We routinely, much to my chagrin, tear up, cover over, or otherwise destroy flooring with plenty of life left to cycle through.
In a sense, we kick it off its life cycle, a fact I’m not proud of.
But I will not shame a client who just purchased a home into keeping the former owner’s 1-year-old chocolate-colored cut-pile carpet, made of high-twist, premium branded nylon that would last another 20 years if properly cared for.
   Let me put some meat on this “thought” bone. It’s a sad fact that the general population has a lot to learn about sustainability and can’t tell greenwashing from truly-sustainable practices. Given the end-user factor, it’s up to those at the top of the food chain (so to speak) to make the changes less dependant on the end-user. Here is why I so firmly believe this.

   As a LEED AP, I’ve been trained to look at the whole building and how occupants affect its energy use and longevity. If it’s left to the users, the efficiency of a project will be drastically reduced. This is why automation and education are key, and the operations professionals must be trained to maintain systems. The occupants really just need to show up and, taken a step further, have a basic knowledge of what’s been done (to be candid).

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve got video of what an uneducated end-user can do to undermine product, process or project sustainability. Note, this video (albeit hastily prepared and not too professional) was seen by the Washington Post and led to an article to which I contributed:

Now, I’m not saying end-users/consumers are not intelligent. Far from it.
I am saying they may not control certain factors on the back end of a deal and the major burden should be on the manufacturers and suppliers who have a vested interest and professional knowledge.

 Given this, I’ve chosen to focus on products with balance since folks who are truly green are generally going to be better stewards of their floors any way. I also want to ensure the greenest process and whole-project picture (associated cleaning products as in Anderson’s enSurance package with product, adhesive and cleaners wrapped into one forward-thinking offering).

 While I agree LCA has its place, I believe that place is institutional and more property management-focused where a business model is engaged in managing choices and longevity. And, just because a product is recyclable, that places the “benefit burden” on the end-user who may or may not have a green mindset. Since I’m sure this will engender discussion, let’s start here with some comments…  

Chris  

about Chris Moline, LEED AP

Chris is our Residential Group Manager & a US Green Building Council LEED Accredited Professional

A day in the life… being a judge for Floor Covering Weekly’s GreenStep Awards

Green Step award logo for green initiatives in the flooring industry.

It was a surprise, pleasure and honor to be asked to participate on the panel of judge’s for the 2010 GreenStep Awards by Floor Covering Weekly’s Executive Editor, Kimberly Gavin. Even before earning the LEED Accredited Professional designation, I’d made it a goal to emphasize green flooring options whenever possible, and participating in initiatives like this is what I live for (in business, anyway).
After reviewing the four award classifications, I was glad to see consideration given to more than just materials in a product. In fact, without giving away my choices, I was looking for forward-thinking, risk-taking and systematization while going over the entries. Of course, my “greenwashing antennae” were on full alert, but only one entry made that list (and I’ll keep that one to myself).
Here are the categories:

Product
Green product attributes – This included products with recycled content (both post- and pre-consumer), as well as some whose production required less energy.
Process
Sustainable practices or process – Some manufacturers highlighted their use of renewable energy at their facility while others found innovative ways to incorporate previously non-recyclable material into products even outside of the flooring industry.
Promotion/communication
Educational, marketing or promotional activities that foster sustainable efforts – This included examples of advertising and PR materials.
Pinnacle
A person or company that has gone beyond the norm to embrace sustainable concepts – The flooring industry can be a tough audience to play to at times, and anyone who steps beyond the curve can take a few shots. This deserves some recognition.

Once the awards are announced, I’ll reveal my choices and the reasoning behind each and we’ll see how I measured up to the rest of the distinguished panel.

All the best,

Chris

picture of chris moline, leed ap, green flooring expert in northern virginia and the dc metro area