PVC cannot compete with wood in terms of sustainability
Autore: Robin Fisher in Environment
I would simply like to react to the interview published by CyberArchi of Emmanuel Champenois.
As principal founder partner of Design Day, a corporate identity agency that works also on retail design he is giving a presentation at the Expobois tradeshow on how to overcome barriers to use wood in interior design fittings. In his interview the latter underlines the strong competition from other materials in terms of sustainable design. « Although wood bears all the qualities for sustainable design, it is not that sustainable in practice. Wooden flooring is a blatant example: the use of nails and varnish make its recycling complicated not to say impossible. The wood industry should be aware that in parallel competing materials are very active on this front. For instance, the PVC industry has come up with solutions that are 100% recyclable and are free of any VOC emissions »
I fear Mr Champenois has not really grasped yet the intrinsic qualities of wood in terms of sustainability. Manufacturers of PVC as indeed other competing materials with wood tend to focus on recyclability which of course is only limited aspect of sustainability. But are recyclable materials necessarily renewable? To my knowledge we have never seen PVC grow in the countryside? PCV is a product derived from petrol and the current hike in oil prices is not likely to disappear overnight.
Secondly the choice of flooring as an example of poor recycling seems to me particularly inappropriate. Firstly because solid hardwood flooring can last for 50 years or more. Broadloom and tile carpeting, on the other hand, has a four- to-six-year life span. After 15 or 20 years of use, hardwood flooring can gain a fresh, new appearance with refinishing for roughly half the cost of replacing carpet or other flooring options.
Furthermore one of wood’s major intrinsic properties seems to be completely cast aside: namely its ability to store carbon (one cubic meter of wood stores roughly 1 tonne of C0²). This explains why the organisation I represent (the American Hardwood Export Council) has launched a vast Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) study across the whole industry from the forest to the final product so as to supply architects and other specifiers with third party verified scientific data through Environmental Product Declarations (EPD’s) as provided by an increasing number of building product manufacturers. In the wake of increasing ‘green washing’ from competing materials we feel that environmental credentials of wood are not sufficiently put forward. The arguments that Mr Champenois develops in his interview only come to confirm our analysis.
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