Thursday, July 16, 2009

Los Angeles Interior Designer Has Wrong Idea About Carpet

Wall-to-Wall Gorgeous: Fabrica's Mallorca broadloom carpet
Fabrica's Mallorca broadloom carpet
I’ve read so many articles lately featuring interior designers who turn up their noses at carpet that it no longer comes as a surprise to me, but it still makes me mad -- particularly when they have the wrong ideas about carpet. Most irksome is the designer who speaks as though he or she simply assumes we all understand the reasons why they see carpet as a home furnishings faux pas. On TV, in magazines, and online, designers pooh-pooh carpet in lofty, conspiratorial tones, as though they are sharing a joke about the party guest who leaves the bathroom with toilet paper stuck to his shoe – something simply too gross to acknowledge in polite company.

As an example, I refer to an article from Southern Accents magazine’s January/February issue that features the winning projects from a national interior design contest co-sponsored by the magazine and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

The winner in the Green Design category was designer Lori Dennis, of Dennis Design Group in Los Angeles, for her design for a master bedroom. Ms. Dennis, who has earned her LEED AP (Accredited Professional) designation from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, says in the article that, “One of the best areas to focus on green design is in the bedroom, because of the importance of indoor air quality in a place where you spend so much time.” I agree with her so far, but listen to what comes next. The article continues:

One issue was that the bedrooms were already carpeted. “As a rule, we don’t install wall-to-wall carpet, but instead of sending it to a landfill and purchasing something new,” says Dennis, “We compromised by fully ventilating the bedrooms by opening windows and running full air-conditioning for at least 48 hours.”
This is wrong on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin. In the first place, used carpet doesn’t necessarily have to go to a landfill. In fact, the largest carpet collection and recycling facility in the U.S. is right there in Los Angeles. LA Fibers recovers post-consumer carpet and either recycles it or makes it into other products. For example, the company’s Reliance brand carpet cushion is made of 100% recycled carpet fiber.

I commend the designer for leaving the carpet in place rather than pulling it out and adding it to the waste stream, but I question her effort at “compromise” that involved opening the windows and running the AC on full blast for two days or more. Why did she feel the need for such excessive measures to ventilate the room – did she think the carpet was still emitting Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)? That’s unlikely. One of the lowest-emitting of all household products, carpet emits essentially harmless VOCs only for a few days, and even then, an open window and maybe an electric fan are sufficient for adequate ventilation. Running the AC all weekend only wasted time, money, and resources, and expanded her project's carbon footprint. CRI’s Green Label Plus testing on thousands of sample carpets definitively shows that after 72 hours, VOC emissions from carpet are virtually undetectable.

The article makes it sound like the carpet in the bedroom had been installed for longer than a few days, and in that case, the designer might have just vacuumed it with a CRI Seal of Approval vacuum, or at most, had the carpet cleaned by a CRI Seal of Approval Service Provider in her area – they’re listed by zipcode on the CRI website.

And as the veteran carpet industry troubleshooter Lew Migliore reminded me earlier this week, “It’s amazing how people look at carpet and call it toxic, when no one has ever dropped over in a mill.” He’s right.

On another issue, there’s the persistent myth that carpet aggravates asthma and allergy symptoms. Though stubborn and pervasive, this particular bit of misinformation is simply not supported by research. A quick look at a paper written by toxicologist and author Mitch Sauerhoff titled, Carpet, Asthma and Allergies – Myth or Reality? reveals multiple studies that associate carpeted bedrooms with fewer allergy symptoms and/or decreased use of asthma medications.

• A 1996-97 Norwegian study of 2400 hundred adults – those with carpeted bedrooms had fewer symptoms

• A German study of 781 asthmatic children – those with carpeted bedrooms had fewer symptoms

• An Australian study of infants and bedding – the absence of carpet in the bedroom correlated with increased wheezing

• A 2003 U.S. study examined over 4,000 U.S. elementary students that found that not only did carpet in classrooms have no affect student health, but that carpet in a child’s bedroom was associated with lower rates of asthma medication use and school absenteeism.

Then there’s the Swedish Study – a report from the Swedish Institute for Fibre and Polymer Research states that from the mid-1970s until 1992, the use of carpet in Sweden declined from 40% to 2% of total households, while at the same time the incidence of allergies among Swedes increased approximately 400%. The study authors concluded that allergic reactions in sensitive individuals were not directly associated with carpet.

For exact study references, email me at brichmond@carpet-rug.org, or leave a comment below.)

Thankfully, not all designers take such an unfavorable view of carpet as Ms. Dennis. Carpet is widely specified in the commercial market by a broad cross-section of designers. CRI has such a wealth of information to offer interior designers, not only on health-related topics, but cleaning and maintenance, installation, specification guidelines, and more. I reach out to any designer with questions or misgivings about carpet to contact me at brichmond@carpet-rug.org. I will help in any way that I can, and CRI’s president Werner Braun is always available for a frank discussion on any topic of interest to designers. As for Ms. Dennis’ rule against installing wall-to-wall carpet in a home, I can only say: some rules are meant to be broken.

Thanks to Osby Borchardt, vice-president, marketing and product development for California-based Fabrica Carpets for bringing this article to CRI’s attention.

~ Bethany



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6 comments:

Jeff Branch said...

Bethany - I feel your frustration. I vent in a somewhat similar tone on my blog post here. Carpet can be a beautiful, highly fashionable floorcovering for those that are open minded.

Bethany Richmond said...

Jeff,
Thank you for your comments here and on your own blog. I read the post you indicated and you brought up some excellent points. It's great to have such an able ally in the fight (or perhaps a partner in crime?!) Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I know! When I read that article I was amazed that Southern Accents gave her an award for her rather silly "green" tactics. Serious green designers would hopefully design with more subtance and a lot less spin.

Bethany Richmond said...

Wow, great comment. "Serious green designers would hopefully design with more substance and a lot less spin." That sentence is so good I may have to steal it. If you see it pop up in a future blog post you can call me out on it, but in the meantime, thanks for reading, and I appreciate your support. Bethany

Los Angeles cleaning company said...

I have read a lot of topics that says carpets may be related to various breathing sickness. Although there were no documentation to support their claim. But you did your research well. I did not know that there were a lot of study already conducted that supports non-relation of carpet fibers to escalating asthma and other related sickness. Now, I have a different opinion about carpets and I should always remind myself to look at both sides of a coin.

Bethany said...

Hello Los Angeles,
Thank you for your cemment, and your objectivity! CRI has some excellent research, and it is gratifying to have someone recognize its value. If you have any further questions, there are many other supporting posts on this blog, or you can email me directly through this blog. Bethany

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