Embracing the sustainability trend

With a history of caring for the environment, Danish solid wood flooring manufacturer Junckers aims to be a driving force in the campaign to use more sustainable flooring.

Junckers’s solid wood floors are tailored for sports floors

With a focus on working towards a net-zero carbon future in the construction industry and beyond, it has never been more important to choose wisely and carefully. The United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement aim to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 45% by 2030. The construction industry is responding by tightening specifications in their quest towards more environmentally friendly ways of building, and architects and designers around the world have pledged to design more sustainably.

After making the pledge, the challenge starts in earnest. Achieving net-zero carbon may mean new ways of working, finding alternatives to previously trusted options, or justifying the specification process for every part of a project. Every material needs to meet crucial criteria: Is it sustainable? Is it reusable? Is it recyclable? How long will it last? How is it produced? How can it care better for the environment? What may seem overwhelming at first can more easily be tackled when broken down into smaller parts, and one such component is flooring. Specifying a solid wood floor for a project can mean that one small part of the puzzle is taken care of.

Known for its environmental credentials, wood is a material that scores in all criteria. Wood is often touted as “the world’s most environmentally friendly material”, a renewable resource that does not produce waste or pollution. This is because wood acts as a carbon sink, removing harmful GHG from the atmosphere. What is more, wood continues to store the CO2 it absorbed during its growing period when it is felled and turned into a product such as flooring, which means its environmental benefits last for a long time. In short, growing more trees will reduce the amount of carbon in our atmosphere, reducing GHG, helping to slow global warming while at the same time providing oxygen. Wood is the only building material that has the natural ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it.

A floor made from solid hardwood is strong and durable. There are minimal layers of inferior quality and no harmful chemical substances which can adversely affect the air quality in a room. With a lifespan of 60-plus years, the longevity and lifecycle costs of a good quality solid wood floor are second to none. This means less waste management and ultimately, lower demands on natural resources.

The hard-wearing properties of a solid wood floor were of primary importance to Suhwon Architects of South Korea when it came to selecting flooring for the Kunpo Culture and Art Centre in Gyungee province1. The choice fell on Junckers’s solid Beech Sylvaket, a floor with a warm appearance and acoustic properties inherent in the wood. The new performance stage and seating area now have a durable, natural floor.

Junckers used its Beech Sylvaket for the Kunpo Culture and Art Centre

Hardwood is a natural, biodegradable, and recyclable material and it is non-hazardous when disposed. Most other flooring types will not last as long, which puts greater pressure on landfill. For example, a solid wood floor has a lifespan four times that of a synthetic or engineered floor, meaning the total amount of energy used for solid wood floors is further reduced as one solid wood floor is manufactured for every four engineered or synthetic floors. Many floor finishes will have to be stripped out and disposed after 10 years or less. At roughly the same interval, a solid hardwood floor can be sanded and sealed for a new lease of life. A structural floor, usually with a thickness of 20mm or more, can be sanded between eight and 10 times, which means a lifespan of 60 years can be exceeded.

More and more buildings are certified according to schemes such as BREEAM, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and German Sustainable Building Council (DNGB), where each product specified for a project is measured in terms of its sustainability credentials. The Lotte Academy in Osan, South Korea2 designed by A+U Architects was built adhering to environmental criteria, including specifying products with environmental credentials. Junckers’s solid Black Oak, a floor in a rich, dark colour which can be sanded and re-finished without loss of colour and performance, takes centre stage in the new building’s presentation space. The building has recently achieved an LEED certification level of Gold.

Junckers used its Black Oak for the Lotte Academy

Increasingly, there are ways for architects and designers to ensure they select responsibly sourced wood and products with minimal impact on the environment. A manufacturer who can offer responsibly sourced wood with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) accreditation along with an environmental product declaration (EPD) will aid architects and developers in achieving net-zero carbon buildings. An EPD assesses the manufacturing and material sourcing activities of a company and presents data in relation to the company’s environmental impact, resource use, waste categories, output flow, and recycling capabilities. The EPD, which represents a measure of the product’s embodied carbon, contributes towards BREEAM, LEED and DGNB assessments by providing the specifier with data pertinent to achieving sustainability accreditation for a building.

Another way to compare different flooring products is to use assessment tools developed by manufacturers. To help customers feel confident in their choice of flooring, Junckers has developed the Carbon Calculator3 to compare the global warming potential (GWP) and embodied carbon levels of several commonly specified floor types. According to Junckers, it is easy to use and requires no previous knowledge of GWP and CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent). Start by adding the required floor area, click calculate to compare several flooring options, and the results will show how some flooring products increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, whereas others reduce it. Products that reduce CO2 are referred to as carbon negative, such as wood.

There is no question that we need to take drastic actions to achieve the targets set by the UN and the Paris Agreement. Reducing the annual level of CO2 emissions is a matter of urgency which will require changes to collective as well as individual consumption habits. The more we commit to making crucial changes, the sooner we will be able to achieve our goal of halting the climate emergency.

Timber sports floor

Choosing a solid hardwood Junckers sports or dance floor will give an optimal performance. Shock-absorbing qualities, ball bounce, resilience and friction are key factors which determine the performance. The key factors are measured by the European standard EN 14904, which sets the rules of sports floor performance. The standard relates to both safety and sports technical properties, and sets demands in two classes: the standard performance class A3 and the higher performance class A4. Junckers’s sports floor solutions are tested according to the specified requirements and achieve performances for both A3 and A4 classes. The choice of the sports floor system depends on the desired performance. Other factors that affect the choice of floor system are the required construction heights and solutions for both even and uneven sub-floors.

Junckers sports floor comprises solid hardwood boards manufactured from two rows of staves with a thickness of 22mm. The beech staves then undergo a press drying process which increases the strength and stability of the wood. The tongue and groove on all sides of the board for optimum strength thus ensure quick and easy installation. Junckers sports timber are also pre-finished: Boards are surface treated with several coats of hard-wearing polyurethane lacquer under optimum conditions at the factory, which means the only thing needed after installation is the line marking paint. Once dry, the floor is ready for use.

Images: Junckers

  1. Junckers. Kunpo Cultural Center. <https://www.junckers.com/wood-flooring/inspiration/projects/cases-varekort/kunpo-cultural-center>
  2. Junckers. Lotte Osan Academy. <https://www.junckers.com/wood-flooring/inspiration/projects/cases-varekort/lotte-osan-academy>
  3. Junckers. The Junckers Carbon Calculator. <https://www.junckers.com/carbon-calculator>

This article has appeared on Issue 2, 2022 of Wood in Architecture, and September / October issue of Panels & Furniture Asia.