CO2 assessment of floor coverings
The German Natural Stone Federation (‘Deutsche Naturwerkstein Verband – DNV’) has recently published a life cycle assessment study for different types of flooring and floor covering on a standard surface. The study was based on both the EPDs of the different materials and the life cycle assessment principles in accordance with the EN ISO14044 standard and was carried out by the Institute of Construction Materials of the University of Stuttgart.
The ecological impact of using different flooring materials was investigated. The full floor construction (screed, mortar, etc.) between the various materials was also compared where the same structure was used every time so that only the impact of the floor covering type could be studied. The intention of this study is to compare various floor covering types over a use period of 50 years both in a commercial and in private environments.
The following floor covering types were compared:
• Natural stone tiles
• Ceramic tiles
• Terrazzo tiles
• Fitted carpets
Global warming potential (GWP) impact category
In the Global Warming Potential (GWP) impact category, the production and installation of natural stone tiles shows a clearly lower CO2 equivalent than when compared to the other floor covering types. Natural stone, for example, achieves a CO2 equivalent that is 20 times lower than that of fitted carpets.
When comparing materials (natural stone, terrazzo and ceramic tiles) in relation to highly loaded floors, natural stone was also shown to have a significantly lower CO2 equivalent when compared to terrazzo and ceramic tiles. The ecological life cycle impact of natural stone is +/- 74% lower when compared to ceramic tiles.
The actual recycling of floor covering materials was not yet included in this study. Natural stone, however, will also score better with regard to this when compared to other materials since natural stone can be reused and can also be recycled without entailing a pollution risk at the end of its life cycle. Under floor heating was not included in the study either, but natural stone is a lot more efficient with regard to this too than other floor covering types.
Natural stone and it's benefits
Natural stone has clear ecological benefits when compared to other materials such as ceramic, PVC, laminate and carpets. Natural stone is a material that is formed over a period of several million years and can basically be used as a construction material in its natural condition. Additional energy is not required for the production of the material. As a construction material, natural stone does not contain any hazardous substances either and it can be easily used in contact with, for example, food. It does not release any hazardous substances when there is a fire and it is basically fireproof. The huge freedom and possibilities with regard to formats, shapes, colours and structures because of the large variety in surface finishes shows the versatility of natural stone.
Sustainability of natural stone
- No energy is needed to develop natural stone; it is formed by nature. (It does not need to be fired, cured, mixed, etc. as is the case with ceramic and terrazzo tiles.)
- Natural stone can be reused. Windowsills, floor tiles, door sills, etc. can be reused in new buildings. In addition, natural stone can also be crushed to produce granulates and aggregates.
- Natural stone has an exceptional life cycle. Existing natural stone floorings can be easily polished and will then again look as new.
- Natural stone does not contain hazardous substances and can therefore easily be recycled.
The extensive study (in English) can be consulted by visiting the DNV website (www.natursteinverband.de).