By K.J. Quinn
Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is bursting onto the scene of nearly all commercial sectors — and with good reason. Now sporting a greater variety of styles, patterns and sizes, the product is reported to be the fastest growing commercial flooring category today. Last year sales were estimated to have increased 8% to 10%, and there is a similar spike projected for 2016. Obviously expanded aesthetics is not all LVT has to offer.
“LVT is a great new addition to the flooring market,” declared S. Lee Wright, principal at S. Lee Wright Ltd., New York. “It is both beautiful and functional, two of the key characteristics I seek when specifying a flooring product on my projects.”
With this idea in mind, Green Operations sat down with some mills and members of the A&D community to learn exactly what innovations are driving LVT’s substantial growth across all segments.
Advancements in UV-cured urethane have improved LVT maintenance requirements while thicker wear layers are enhancing overall performance. For example, several Tarkett LVT products offer UV-cured urethane finishes with 20 mil or greater wear layers. “LVT is going into spaces where moisture and other conditions make it difficult to install laminate but a wood look is desired,” said Jeremy Salomon, senior product manger, Tarkett.
Case in point, Veronica Mazo, LEED AP and interior designer with Fanning Howey, Indianapolis, recently specified an LVT wood pattern from Mannington Commercial’s Amtico brand for the British International School of Houston in Katy, Texas. “Its wear layer was 40 mil, which provides great durability for the high-traffic area,” she said. “Not to mention, today’s LVT is offered in a higher thickness — 30mm/40mm — making it an even more durable material and great option for commercial spaces.”
Marlene Manzella, account executive, flooring specialist and A&D consultant at Consolidated Carpet in New York, agreed thicker wear layers are expanding commercial sectors’ interest in LVT. “Thick wear layers allow for ease of maintenance and wax/polish-free surface options that reduce routine cleaning budgets and schedules,” she said. “Retail and hospitality environments require aesthetically pleasing design options that need to be durable and promote long-term appearance retention.”
NEW DESIGN CAPABILITIES
Providing specifiers with greater design freedom is another one of LVT’s calling cards. Modularity is a significant draw for commercial spaces as it allows designers to develop creative floor patterns. New floating and click installation methods have pushed several LVT products into the modular floorcovering arena, increasing its design capabilities and lowering costs. “The modularity and floating installation options mean flexibility — both in design and renovation projects,” Tarkett’s Salomon explained. “The additional installation methods make it easier to change out or repair a floor, allowing hospitality, for instance, to keep rooms looking up to date and on trend.”
LVT offers this benefit along with more realistic visuals that resemble the look and feel of natural materials at a lower cost. “LVT is a very low-maintenance product and it represents high value for visuals and textures,” noted Mike Gallman, senior vice president of product management, The Mohawk Group. “It’s hard to tell today whether you’re looking at a real piece of wood, stone or LVT.”
Wright agreed with a nod to technology from the design community. “The new advances in technology continue to help colors be richer and grains be more realistic, which simply adds to the already positive attributes that LVT brings to the commercial flooring industry,” she said. “And its ability to come in a variety of shapes and sizes is something the design industry seeks for ways to be creative in our projects.”
ADVANCED GREEN QUALITIES
Members of varying commercial sectors are looking to LVT to achieve a more “healthy” built environment. “LVT actually con- tributes to people’s well being,” Salomon noted. For example, recent innovations have enabled LVT to satisfy one of the most important demands of a healthcare facility: clean material composition and a sustainable environmental impact. To that end, PVC-free LVT products have become a popular choice and even a standardized spec as they reduce toxic exposure during facility fires and do not add to PVC waste landfills.
LVT also complies with indoor air quality guidelines and FloorScore; it continues to improve, helping the design community specify quality products with lower environmental impacts for commercial areas. And further advances in loose lay and click floating floor options allow for adhesive-free installation, preventing down time for drying and eliminating odors and VOCs.
“As a LEED AP and designer who has focused on sustainable design for my entire career, LVT has helped provide a solution that is both beautiful, sustainable and easy to maintain,” Wright said. “It is not easy to find products that have all of these essential ingredients as well as the added component of a range in price points.”
Consolidated Carpet’s Manzella also cited the product’s many attractive attributes, pointing to its durability and resilience as LVT’s two key sustainability factors. “It’s a very suitable choice as an easily maintainable option that is flexible in design and price point yet still can perform in tough, high-traffic environments,” she explained. “It will continue to be a great solution for many applications in commercial spaces.”