Laminate Can Be Green
Laminate: A ‘green’ product that is safe and sound
Dr Theo Smet, convenor of the EPLF (Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring) technical committee for over 12 years explains how international standardisation helps to ensure constant quality assurance of laminate floors on the market.
A PIONEER in European and international standardisation, EPLF, based in Bielefeld, Germany, has been active in European and international standardisation work since it was founded. Many established standards could not have been achieved without the input and expertise of the EPLF and its members.
Standardisation ensures the constant quality assurance of the products on the market, thus sustainably promoting consumer protection.
Collaboration with the relevant CEN and ISO committees is essential for the EPLF to be able to conduct standardisation work successfully.
In the mid-1990s, laminate flooring was introduced as a new product by the CEN TC 134 standardisation committee (CEN: European Committee for Standardisation) alongside textile and elastic flooring. Any decisions by CEN concerning laminate flooring are in the CEN TC 134/WG9.
On ISO, EPLF is involved in ISO TC 219. This work is becoming more important, not least through the latest EU free trade agreement with Canada, but also in discussions on the free trade area between the USA and the EU.
n The first milestone: Some 13 years ago, the EPLF celebrated its first major success in standardisation. Thanks to EPLF’s pioneering work, EN 13329 was implemented in 2000, setting the first mandatory standards for laminate flooring across Europe.
With various detailed regulations, this new framework set high quality standards, while establishing a clear system of load classes for laminate flooring. With classes 21 to 23 for private living spaces and classes 31 to 33, it is now possible to classify laminate flooring according to its usage intensity, thus ensuring greater market transparency. In 2008, the special class 34 for public buildings was added as part of an update of standards.
Next on the agenda, coming some time after EN 13329, was the ISO (International Standardisation Organisation) standard for laminate flooring, ISO 14486, published in 2012 following eight years of collaboration between the EPLF and the ISO committees.
As a result the industry has benefited from a globally-valid standard for evaluation and testing of laminate flooring. The ISO committees drew on the detailed content from the European laminate flooring standard; for example, ISO 10874 standard adopted the load class system from the EN standard.
In 2007, the European Committee for Standardisation CEN TC 134 (Resilient, textile and laminate floorcoverings) implemented the Construction Products Directive, introduced in 1989, in the CE marking. The Construction Products Directive was transformed into the Construction Products Regulation in 2010.
It came partly into force in April 2011, although articles relevant to building product manufacturers did not become effective until July 2013. This regulation ensures the CE marking for this flooring type according to uniform guidelines across Europe.
n Recent success: There are more examples of standards and specifications implemented as a result of collaboration with EPLF technical committee. As an example, the new technical specification for Underlay Materials CEN/TS 16354 was adopted in summer 2013, after four years of preliminary work. It has detailed and consistent information about dimensions, mechanical and thermal properties, sound, fire and emissions properties, resistance to humidity and durability.
CEN/TS 16354 refers exclusively to loosely-laid underlay materials, not to insulating materials integrated into laminate flooring. This means, for the first time, there are mandatory criteria for testing and application of laminate underlay, which will benefit the quality of all laminate flooring systems. They also provide a basis for a future European product standard for laminate underlay.
To distribute the new insights as widely as possible across the market, EPLF issued a free technical data sheet in several languages in August 2013, entitled: ‘Underlay materials under laminate flooring elements – testing standards and key data’. It explains testing methods of the new technical specification CEN/TS 16354, and gives instructions and assistance for selecting the right underlay for laminate flooring for different types of use.
Only the right underlay can optimise the entire laminate flooring system and extend its service life. This also promotes long-term customer satisfaction!
Our EPLF data sheet gives producers, suppliers, planners, tradespeople, wholesalers and potential end users the information they need. It further enhances the safety of European end consumers with the active involvement of EPLF.
EPLF technical experts are currently working on the revision of the EN standards for laminate flooring EN 13329, EN 14978 (electron beam cured acrylic-based surface layer) and EN 15468 (directly applied printing) to align with the latest technological developments for products and testing methods.
The revision of EN 14041 (Essential characteristics), which aims to integrate potential hazards and environmental aspects into the CE marking, is also important. It mainly covers indoor air quality, VOC emissions and harmful substances. ISO 24338 (Falling Sand) and ISO 24334 (Locking Strength) standards are also undergoing a revision process.
n EPLF advocates sustainable construction: As a green high-tech product, laminate flooring can win over consumers with its positive environmental credentials, proven by the EPD environmental product declarations.
The laminate flooring industry was one of the first flooring sectors to hold this kind of proof concerning its products; in 2008 EPLF members created the EPDs, thus setting the standard for greater sustainability in the flooring sector. An EPD makes statements on the ecological properties of construction products, serving as an essential basic document for sustainable construction for architects and planners.
In 2009, the first EPDs for laminate flooring were published at www.bau-umwelt.de by the IBU Institute Construction and Environment. Since then, three sample EPDs for DPL, HPL and PDL flooring have been created, covering most of the products manufactured by EPLF members.
Technical progress means specific EPDs for laminate flooring can now be further revised by the EPLF Technical Committee. EPLF is currently introducing the new EPDs for laminate flooring.
Laminate: outstanding environmental credentials!: Interior design products which have a positive environmental impact and can demonstrate this in specific environmental declarations (EPDs) are increasingly being used in the commercial construction sector. These declarations are so informative that they could theoretically be used as the basis for a standard European eco label.
The EPDs certify the strong environmental credentials of laminate floors, with very positive figures in terms of primary energy demand and greenhouse gas potential. On sustainability and the environment, EPLF manufacturers have the best arguments for marketing laminate flooring.
EPLF will continue to work together with its members to raise the profile of the positive characteristics of laminate flooring.
This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.