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Sustainable Flooring and Green Interior Design

Updated on April 5, 2011

Recap of Green Interior Design

Green interior design is guided by metrics codified by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a body set up by the US Green Building Council to accredit green interior designers. If the principles of green interior design are looked at more closely it is obvious to see that sustainable flooring is key to the whole idea of creating environmentally friendly and people friendly interiors.

The 5 pillars of green interior design are: being energy efficient, conserving water, improving indoor air quality, better husbanding of natural resources and reducing carbon emissions. The two values underlying everything is being friendly to the environment and trying to make interior spaces better and healthier for people.

Cork oaks that have been harvested for their bark
Cork oaks that have been harvested for their bark

Cork Flooring and its Relevance to Green Interior Design

Cork flooring is made from the bark of the cork oak tree that is native to the Mediterranean area. 25,000 square kilometers of cork oak forests can be found throughout Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Algeria. The cork oak is protected by Portuguese law. The great thing about the cork oak is that it matures in only 25 years and the tree can be harvested every 9 to 12 years for its bark.

The cork oak is peeled by hand using traditional methods that doesn’t damage the tree and allows it to continue to contribute to the health of the forest. The cork oak forests of the Mediterranean are home to many species including the endangered Iberian lynx.

Cork is an easy material from which to make a variety of products including wine bottle stoppers, flooring and underlayment. Cork flooring is strong and durable. It is great sustainable flooring.

In terms of green interior design cork flooring is relevant because it is a good example of carefully using natural resources because no trees were harmed and natural habitat was left intact after the resource was harvested. Many cork flooring tiles on the market are made from recycled wine bottle stoppers. In this way cork flooring is from a recycled source that is in turn from a renewable resource.

Furthermore, cork flooring is allergen free and because it contains suberin is also mold resistant and anti-fungal. Such qualities are important for indoor air quality and thus make cork flooring and sustainable flooring in general relevant to the metric of improving indoor air quality.

Finally, cork flooring has energy efficiency implications. The process of making cork flooring has a low carbon count. Also because cork is composed of a honeycomb structure that is 85% air it has great insulating properties that can help reduce carbon emissions by reducing heating bills.

It is clear that one of the key aspects of making an interior green is to consider the flooring. Sustainable flooring is very relevant to green interior design and in particular cork flooring is of great relevance to green interior design.


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