Three Manufacturers Leading the Charge on Transparency

These product innovators disclose ways they’re using technology, visionary designs, and manufacturing advances to make specifying greener and easier than ever.

Graham Capobianco, Sustainability Manager for AVA

Specify: We’ve heard that AVA is using QR code technology on its flooring units, which, if scanned, provide access to a set of data called a digital product passport with information on the product’s contents, embodied carbon, TVOCs, certifications, and recyclability, among other data. 

Graham Capobianco: Yes, we have published two digital product passports for the AVA RYME and AVA VRSE loose-lay planks, and we’re hoping to roll out the QR code on the backs of all products by 2023.

Specify: That makes a lot of information readily available to users. Is this level of transparency new?

GC: We already publicly disclose all of our ingredients via ILFI Declare labels and Health Product Declarations. But we’re the first flooring company in North America to use the QR code tech to make it this easy to access.

Specify: Many people feel that vinyl is the opposite of eco-friendly. How would you argue for its merits when it comes to sustainable construction?

GC: Those who feel that vinyl flooring is not eco-friendly may believe it emits harmful VOCs or contains hazardous phthalates. AVA products do not contain phthalates and often contain bio-based plasticizers. Flexible vinyl flooring is one of the easiest flooring materials to recycle, as it can be wholly and easily incorporated into other materials as a filler, such as car mats or PVC pipes. Though AVA products do contain PVC, the VOC emissions of our products have been independently tested to meet the most stringent requirements in the industry. Additionally, we aggressively screen our raw materials to make sure that our products contain no California Prop 65 chemicals or Living Building Challenge Red List chemicals other than PVC. 

Specify: What’s new from the company at this year’s NeoCon?

GC: We will be showcasing our AVA 2SPRK line and highlighting 18 updated color options. The collection features on-trend essential colors and a blend of coordinating neutral tones perfect for education, retail, corporate, hospitality, and health care, including high-traffic areas with heavy rolling loads.

interior showing colored pvc floor tile
Available in 38 colors, including 18 updated options, AVA’s 2SPRK line is designed for high- traffic education, retail, corporate, hospitality, and health-care environments. COURTESY AVA
portrait of Grpaham Capobianco
patterned wallcovering behind a brown couch
One of Smith & Fong Co.’s newest Plyboo collections, Cosmopolitan features perforations and cuts that give its panels acoustical properties. COURTESY SMITH & FONG CO.
portrait of Angus Stocks

Angus Stocks President and Co-Product Designer for Smith & Fong Co.

Specify: Smith & Fong Co. is known for its Plyboo flooring made of bamboo, a rapidly renewable and sustainable material. What makes the material so versatile for other applications? 

Angus Stocks: Our collections are fabricated using our special RealCore® technology to form a bamboo plywood that has a strong bidirectional core; that’s our foundational Decorative ULEF panel, which performs well for feature walls, elevator lobbies, reception areas, conference rooms, and ceilings. Patterns are carved into the panel’s face ply, and relief cuts made on the back provide the balance and flexibility to achieve a range of installations.

Specify: How do you make the green attributes accessible to designers working on LEED projects? 

AS: We offer standard three-part Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) specifications but also documentation related to FSC-certification and life-cycle analyses along with Health Product Declarations and Environmental Product Declarations. Our products meet ULEF standards for CARB II Declare® and are Red List Approved. 

Specify: What new products will you be introducing at NeoCon?

AS: Plyboo’s newest collections, Gravity and Cosmopolitan, feature designs with perforations and cuts that give the panels acoustical properties. 

Katie Kuffel Content Strategist for Watson

Specify: Watson has won 10 NeoCon awards in ten years and prioritizes sustainability. What’s a must-see introduction from them at this year’s NeoCon? 

Katie Kuffel: Edison Junior is a power, voice, and data rail system that bends to optimize any floor plan. It is also lightweight and can easily be reconfigured to suit spaces as staff density or department needs change. 

Specify: How does sustainability impact function and aesthetics?

KK: Maximizing function and building pieces to last—aesthetically and structurally—are some of the best ways to mitigate waste.

Specify: What about sustainable materials?

KK: Materials like Forbo—a biodegradable surface finish made from wood flour, pine rosin, and linseed oil—help us deliver greener options to our customers without sacrificing any of our core design beliefs: that function comes first, that our designs should demonstrate timeless beauty, and that everything is built with respect for people and planet. 

Specify: How do your manufacturing processes contribute to a lighter footprint? 

KK: Each stage in our production process is designed to maximize our ability to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Our nesting algorithms help minimize the number of resources we need, which creates less waste. We reclaim and repurpose powder, sawdust, and water, and rethink each piece of scrap to determine if it can be recycled—meaning the absolute minimum goes to a landfill. 

Specify: From a design perspective, how can you extend the life of the product? 

KK: Extending a product’s life means it won’t need to be replaced as often, and fewer things end up needing to be recycled or disposed of. ■

photograph of a desk with a stool
The HighLow table is part of Watson’s Haven collection, designed to fit the needs of a variety of users with the goal of a longer product life.
portrait of Katie Kuffel

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