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Flooring renewal contributes to circular economy

When it comes to sustainability, by changing mindsets and working together we can ensure continuous improvements that make a big difference over time, says Rohit Sharma.

ECO-friendly flooring choices have evolved significantly over the years and continue to, providing contractors and consumers with ever greater options to suit an equally wide range of requirements and budgets.

Products made with recycled or natural resources, particularly those that are long-lasting and have minimal impact on our global ecosystem fit the sustainable flooring bill, from reclaimed wood flooring, bamboo, cork, rubber, and linoleum to wool carpets.

Today’s environment is driving sustainability at a rapid pace. It’s not just about the products, an organisation’s sustainable practices and processes and its own ethos also demonstrates its commitment to sustainability. How an organisation interacts with the world is important; and durability and long-term sustainability is of profound importance at Bona.

For more than 100 years, Bona has cared deeply about our planet’s resources and has followed a path to minimised our impact on the environment and in turn the impact on contractors and ultimately consumers.

Having pioneered some of the most prominent innovations in the flooring industry, we have built a heritage of advanced expertise around the environment and sustainability. In the ‘70s Bona was the first to innovate a safer water-based hardwood floor finish that remains as durable and reliable as alternative finishing methods. Additionally, we were one of the first to insist on dust containment systems that remove carcinogenic wood dust from the air during the sanding process, and an early leader in other sustainable practices such as silane-based adhesives.

Family-owned and led by the third and fourth generation of the Edner family in Sweden, we’ve always focused on the entire lifecycle of a floor encouraging renovation of flooring material rather than replacing and actively drive development in research, education, and knowledge sharing. Our comprehensive annual sustainability report demonstrates the enormous commitment, extent of the steps already taken, and the long-term strategy to care for our planet and the people who live here.

Most recently, we launched an entire system to inspire the renewal rather than replacement of resilient flooring which offers a significant sustainability impact for large buildings such as hospitals, schools, and other facilities. Instead of replacing the floor material, the care, maintenance, and renovation of the floor could help safeguard the Earth’s finite resources.

Closely linked to this, Bona recently participated in a research study from the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, an environmental agency founded by the Swedish state and the business sector in the 1960s. The result of the research is positive proof of the environmental benefits of reviving rather than replacing flooring material and is a significant turning point that could help increase understanding across the sector, and highlight the shared responsibility of creating a sustainable future.

Renewing surfaces contributes to circular economy
The report from the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute confirms that renewing hard floor surfaces is more sustainable for the environment than replacing the flooring itself, and as a result, it contributes to a circular economy. In fact, renewing wood and resilient flooring surfaces creates a 78% and 92% reduction respectively in the carbon footprint versus replacing with a brand new material. On top of this, a minimum of 90% savings in resources can also be achieved.

The first part of the report reviews the environmental impact from refinishing wood and resilient flooring by performing a lifecycle assessment. The outcome was compared to the impact from producing and installing new flooring in terms of climate change and resource use. In addition, the result was used as a proof of concept that refinishing a floor can reduce the impact of climate change and minimise the use of resources when compared to producing and installing new flooring.

In the second part of the study, a roadmap was developed as a strategic plan to define desired outcomes and to outline important actions to overcome the barriers that separates the current state from the preferred result. The roadmap was developed together with stakeholders from the flooring industry including material suppliers, property owners, architects, and contractors.

While it’s common practice to replace surfaces with brand new flooring, these are compelling statistics that demonstrate the sheer extent of the impact of renewing surfaces not only on the planet, and our ever-stretched budgets, but also on the efficiency of the entire flooring industry.

Barriers to break
So what’s been holding the flooring industry back? The report also identifies the barriers that stand between the current and desired position. While floor renewing has been part of the flooring industry for a long time, a lack of technical, economic, and environmental information in the industry are a barrier preventing floor renewal. Equally, technical know-how such as what criteria to evaluate the potential of floor renewal – currently this relies on the contractor’s experience which takes years to acquire.

For instance, some people are simply not aware that renovation is an option or that it’s suitable in most situations. They look at a terribly worn floor with scratches, dents, and gaps and reach the conclusion that it is beyond repair and needs to be ripped out, disposed of, and replaced with new.

However, this course of action is rarely needed. Both wood and resilient floor surfaces that are in terrible condition, can generally be transformed through renovation until they look and feel like a brand-new surface.

Another aspect that has inhibited some contractors from adopting this route has been the perception that it is too difficult. On the contrary, renewing a floors surface is a very straight-forward process which is often much quicker than replacement, and needs less down-time.

A further aspect, of key importance to contractors and consumers, is the costs side, and again there are several attractive plus points. Renovation is up to 50% cheaper than new flooring, a significant resource-saving which, given the current situation with rising costs, is particularly important. Additionally, minimal downtime is required during the process which saves money too, and because the process also improves durability, the frequency of having to repeat the process again is also reduced, meaning it is a value for money option.

While controversially, the report notes the prevailing business model in the construction industry enables contractors to earn more money from selling new products than selling renewal as a service.

Despite these barriers, there are actions that can be taken to overcome the challenges. Let’s enhance knowledge and information sharing on which floorings can be renewed. Let’s adopt new business models that support the circular economy, and let’s focus on further development of maintenance services to ensure floor owners have the right information and knowledge about floor maintenance.

Extending the lifetime of flooring
While enormous strides have been made around sustainability, as a sector, there is always more work to be done, by changing mindsets and working together we can ensure continuous improvements that make a big difference over time.

Extending the lifetime of products before being disposed is a highly effective solution for the flooring industry, to reduce our impact on climate change and improve resource use, and there’s great potential for the renewal of hardwood and resilient flooring.
07775 844519
Rohit Sharma is resilient sales manager
at Bona

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