UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into alternatives to PVC flooring at the University of British Columbia Wittstock, Peter; Major, Bryan; Lee, Frederick; Hussain, Ibnul


The University of British Columbia (UBC) is well known for its commitment to innovation and environmental stewardship. UBC has consistently been one of the most sustainable Universities in Canada over the last 5 years, lacking only in the shareholder engagement category (The Sustainable Endowments Institute). The UBC Social, Ecological, Economic, and Development Studies program (SEEDS) is part of UBCs plan to address this issue and continue to lead sustainability initiatives on other fronts. This report addresses the possibility of using flooring materials that do not contain Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) within UBC buildings. PVC has been a common choice for flooring material around North America because it has a low initial cost as was originally believed to be a safe option. Over the years it has become more apparent that PVC is not the miracle material it was hailed as. We now know that the production and disposal of PVC releases a large amount of Green House Gasses (GHG) into the atmosphere, along with many other harmful chemicals such as NO2, and SO2. The epoxies used to install PVC flooring in buildings is also a source of carcinogens. This report focused on alternative flooring types that are both more sustainable than PVC, and practical for use in UBC’s public buildings. All the alternative flooring options were compared using a Triple Bottom Line analysis. The options of cork and polished concrete were determined to be the most sustainable, although each of the two options are better in certain circumstances. In new buildings that are constructed with minimal concrete, cork flooring would be ideal. Buildings that contain concrete sub floors should use polished concrete as their finishing option. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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