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Textiles for Green Interiors A Self-Study guide


TEXTILES FOR GREEN INTERIORS This self–study course examines fabrics for commercial interiors through several different lenses. The first approach is to look at textile products using Green Decision-Making guidelines. This section defines green terminology related to textiles and breaks down the decision-making process into components of a product’s lifecycle. Secondly, a number of national and international green product certifications and standards are discussed as another approach for evaluating sustainable textiles. Single-attribute and multipleattribute certifications are examined. Finally, the comprehensive rating system of LEED for Commercial Interiors is described and LEED credits that are relevant to fabrics are explained.

GREEN DECISION MAKING Just when you think you have something nailed down, it gets turned on its head (ie, “I knew Organic food was good, but now what’s this talk about local?”) As with the organic vs. local debate, there is similar disparity across the “green” spectrum – there can be equally important, but equally distinct, green aspects to products such as textiles. One way that Designtex has chosen to look at products is from a life-cycle perspective. A “Green Decision-Making” tool is utilized to guide sustainable development through the various phases of a product’s life. Origins deals with the beginnings of a product’s life – its design and creation. What factors can be affected in origins? The inputs (or selection of contents) that make up the product should be considered from the outset. This can include designing fabrics with rapidly renewable or recycled content. Image: Time Magazine – Mar. 12, 2007

Safety in Use considers the aspects of a product while it is in use by the consumer. This may include analyzing the dyestuffs and other chemistry present in the fabric. Safety in use can encompass indoor air quality and emissions as well as chemical optimization to assess for human and environmental health. End of Life involves what happens to a product after its useful life is over. Where does it go? To the landfill? Or, can it be re-utilized? Is it biodegradable or recyclable? Are the materials made of homogenous or compatible materials, for easy biodegradability or recycling? Does the manufacturer offer a take-back program? These issues make up the end-of-life scenario.


TERMINOLOGY ORIGINS Rapidly Renewable: A resource capable of being replenished in 3 years or less y natural ecological cycles. Example: Wool fibers from sheep are annually renewable. Recycled Content: Product content that has been recovered from a solid waste stream. Example: Recycled polyester typically comes from PET bottles (soda or water bottles).

Eco Intelligent Polyester Upholstery and Panel fabric: Low-emitting, Chemically Optimized and Compatible for End of Life


Biodegradable: Materials which are capable of being de-composed by microbial action. Example: Ingeo polylactic acid fibers can safely break down in a landfill and/or be composted.

Low Emitting Materials: Products that can be shown through testing or certification not to emit harmful levels of indoor air contaminants. Example: The Crypton® Green finish has been certified for low VOC emissions.

Compatible for End of Life: Products made up of one fiber type or compatible types, with no contaminants, to maximize biodegradability or recycling value. Example: Fabrics made up of 100% nylon or 100% recycled polyester with either no additives, or with a finish such as Nano-Tex™ Resists Spills, which does not interfere with biodegradability or recyclability.

Chemically Optimized: Product content has been optimized to eliminate toxicity to human health and the environment. Example: Climatex Lifecycle fabric has had all its chemistry and dyestuffs optimized to eliminate carcinogens, mutagens, and endocrine disrupters among other known toxins.

Take-Back Program: Products for which a retrieval system for recycling is operational. Example: Fusion architectural panels can be returned to the manufacturer for recycling at the end of their life. The customer simply packs the material and calls for the manufacturer for pick-up.

Climatex® Lifecycle™ Upholstery fabric (left): Rapidly Renewable, Low-Emitting, Chemically Optimized, Biodegradable and Compatible for End of Life.



How do you sort through all the “green” product certifications out there? Like this egg carton, the number of certifications and claims can sometimes be overwhelming. What can certifications tell us about the sustainability of a product? Certifiers analyze data, such as test results provided by an outside lab, and verify that the results comply with the standards set for their certification mark. A manufacturer or distributor can then use the certification mark as a signal to the consumer about certain aspects of the product. There are certifications that look at a single attribute of a product, such as emissions, and verify claims regarding that particular aspect. There are also multiple attribute certifications which analyze several criteria, often looking at data from several stages of a product’s lifecycle, such as material inputs, chemistry, emissions, and end-of-life scenarios. ANSI, the American National Standards Institute, is a not-for-profit that coordinates the development and use of standards in the U.S. One new ANSI-accredited standard that is currently being created is the Sustainable Textile Standard. It is being developed by the Association for Contract Textiles and NSF, and will launch in 2010. The standard will specifically address textiles and look at multiple attributes throughout a product’s lifecyle. This standard is voluntary and can be used as a benchmarking tool, or can be certified through a third-party certifier. The following page presents an overview of some of the more widely-recognized certifications presently in use by the textile industry.


multiple attributes

multiple attributes

CRADLE TO CRADLE CERTIFICATION McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry

EU FLOWER CERTIFICATION European Commission on the Environment

Measures achievement in environmentallyintelligent design and helps customers specify and purchase products that are pursuing a broader definition of quality.

The EU eco-labelling scheme is part of a strategy to promote sustainable production and consumption. The label guarantees that the products comply with established ecological criteria and have been tested by independent third parties.

The five aspects considered for certification are: ƒ Material and chemical inputs ƒ Energy ƒ Water ƒ End of life ƒ Social equity

The EU Flower: ƒ Analyzes product life cycles in order to study all potential environmental impacts ƒ Is awarded to products with the lowest environmental impact in a given product range.

multiple attributes

OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100 International Oeko-Tex Association

single attribute

The Oeko-Tex 100 Standard comprehensively addresses the human ecology component of textile products. It evaluates and screens textiles for any harmful substances present within processed textiles that come into direct or near contact with the skin.

[SEVERAL CERTIFICATIONS] Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) SCS is a third-party provider of certification, auditing and testing services, and standards. SCS offers certifications for the following: ƒ

Specific Environmental Claims, such as biodegradability and recycled content


Indoor Air Quality, which certifies low emissions for products in enclosed indoor environments

GREENGUARD INDOOR AIR QUALITY Greenguard Environmental Institute (GEI)


GEI has established performance based standards to define goods with low chemical and particle emissions for use indoors, including building materials, interior furnishings, and furniture. Greenguard certification only measures indoor emissions.

Environmentally Preferable Products (EPP), which recognize building and construction materials that have the least impact on the environment


SCS also conducts Life-Cycle Impact Assessments on individual products

single attribute


LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) is a nongovernmental, non-profit organization. USGBC developed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building standards, which launched in 1998. Since 2000, membership in the United States Green Building Council has more than quadrupled.


LEED sustainable building standards are rating systems for green building projects.

The standards are voluntary and are developed by the consensus of building industry professionals who are members of the USGBC.

LEED Certification applies only to building projects, not materials, products or services.

LEED FOR COMMERCIAL INTERIORS RATING SYSTEM (LEEED CI) Textiles and wallcoverings fall under the Commercial Interiors (CI) rating system. Of the credit categories under LEED CI (Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovation and Accredited Professional), the most relevant category for green textiles is Materials and Resources (MR). The following two pages describe relevant MR credits in more detail.


Pertinent LEED CI Credits and Their Point Values: Materials and Resources Credit Materials and Resources Credit Materials and Resources Credit Materials and Resources Credit Innovation in Design Credits:

4: 5: 6: 7:

Recycled Content Regional Materials Rapidly Renewable Materials Certified Wood

1-2 points 1-2 points 1 point 1 point 1-5 points

Point System: (Out of 110 possible points) LEED LEED LEED LEED

Certified: Silver: Gold: Platinum:

40-49 points 50-59 points 60-79 points 80+ points

LEED CI Credit Descriptions MR Credit 4: Recycled Content 10%-20% (post-consumer + 1/2 pre-consumer) 1-2 points Use materials, including furniture and furnishings, with recycled content such that the sum of post-consumer recycled content plus onehalf of the pre-consumer content constitutes at least 10% of the total value of the materials in the project. The value of the recycled content portion of a material or furnishing shall be determined by dividing the weight of recycled content in the item by the total weight of all material in the item, then multiplying the resulting percent by the total cost($) of the item.

The Regeneration collection made of 100% post-consumer recycled polyester.

MR Credit 5: Regional Materials Manufactured / Extracted Regionally 1-2 points Use a minimum of 20% of the combined value of construction and Division 12 materials and products that are manufactured regionally within a 500-mile radius of the project. (1 point) – OR – Meet the above, and use a minimum of 10% of the combined value of construction and Division 12 materials and products that are extracted, harvested or recovered, as well as manufactured within 500-miles of the project. (2 points). Note, manufacturing refers to the final assembly of components into the building product that is furnished and installed by the tradesmen.


Innovation in Design Credit 1-4 points Substantially exceed a LEED performance credit such as energy performance or water efficiency. Apply strategies or measures that are not covered by LEED, such as: acoustic performance, education of occupants, community development, or lifecycle analysis of materials. Projects can earn Innovation in Design credits by using the Cradle to Cradle certification program for certified building products, as well as products certified by other established systems.

MR Credit 6: Rapidly Renewable Materials 5% of total value 1 point Use rapidly renewable construction and Division 12 (Furniture and Furnishings) materials and products, made from plants that are typically harvested within a 10-year or shorter cycle, for 5% of the total value ($) of all materials and products used in the project.

MR Credit 7: Certified Wood 50% of new wood-based products 1 point Use new wood-based products and materials that are certified in accordance with the Forest Stewardship Council’s Principles and Criteria, for 50% of the total value ($) of all materials and products used in the project.


Continuing Education Credit Exercise 1. Products that have been chemically optimized aim to eliminate toxicity to a) Human health b) The environment c) Both of the above 2. Recycled polyester for the textile industry typically comes from: a) Styrofoam containers b) Water & soda bottles c) Polyester clothing 3. Products that are considered Compatible for End of Life can have a non-interfering finish such as Nano-Tex Resists Spills applied. TRUE or FALSE 4. The Cradle to Cradle system takes social equity into account when certifying products. TRUE or FALSE 5. Greenguard is a multiple attribute certification. TRUE or FALSE 6. Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) is a third-party provider of numerous certifications. TRUE or FALSE 7. LEED Certification applies to building projects as well as materials, products and services. TRUE or FALSE 8. For LEED MR credit 5 for Regional Materials, the manufacturing location refers to: a) The site of the registered LEED project b) The location of the finishing plant for an upholstery (for example) c) The location of final assembly of components into the building product 9. A 50% wool and 50% silk textile could contribute to LEED MR credit 6.0 for Rapidly Renewable Materials. TRUE or FALSE 10. The LEED Innovation in Design credit can be achieved by substantially exceeding an existing LEED credit. TRUE or FALSE