July 2012

Sustainability and safety key for flooring company

by Brittni Rubin, Assistant Editor

In business for close to 100 years, family-owned flooring manufacturer and supplier Altro Transflor has become an industry leader in sustainability. With facilities in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and other international locations, the company is focused on finding the safest options for bus and rail systems worldwide. Whether it’s using the right materials or finding progressive ways to recycle, Altro addresses recent trends, helping customers meet even the toughest demands of their industry.

Green Operation
Environmentally sustainable floors are a sought after product in the current transit market.

“We’ve seen a lot of customers become more conscious about eco-friendly materials,” said Richard Finnegan, marketing manager for Altro Transflor. “They’re specifically looking for recyclable materials, or materials with recyclable content; flooring that offers some sort of green story.”

Today, sustainability is an industry priority alongside function, price and durability. In keeping with a green philosophy, Altro operates an in-house safety recycling facility based in the company’s U.K. headquarters called Recofloor. According to Finnegan, Recofloor is the only one of its kind in the world.

Rather than sitting in landfills, Altro’s waste is transported to the recycling center, and then, turned back into safety flooring. This is an arduous task as vinyl and other popular materials in transit flooring typically contain a high level of grit. While the tough grit helps ensure slip resistance and durability, it dulls out the blades of most everyday recycling machines. However, Altro’s heavy-duty machine does the job.
The company’s main fleet of flooring products — Meta, Chroma, Chroma Windmill and Timbersafe II —  all contain recycled content and are low volatile organic compound (VOC) emitting, which improves indoor air quality as well.

To reduce the greater industry carbon footprint, Altro collects scraps and waste not only from its own factories, but also from various job sites around the U.K., including its competitors’.

Effective Materials
Weight reduction is a large priority for Altro, as the company mostly manufactures flooring made from low weight sheet vinyl material. The company aims to make transit vehicles more than just street legal by taking as much weight off the wheels as possible.

The vinyl material is available in 1.8, 2.2 and 2.7 millimeters; the best option for a vehicle is determined by how much foot traffic it receives daily.

“For a heavy city transit bus with lots of foot traffic, we recommend a higher floor thickness,” said Finnegan. “For a shuttle vehicle for a hotel or airport, we could recommend a lower thickness. But by industry standards, even our thickest material is still pretty light.”

One competitive advantage to offering lighter floors is the ability to provide cost cuts for customers. “Saving a few pounds here or there is just another way of improving fuel economy,” said Finnegan. “Lightweight materials can make a bus more efficient.”

Therefore, some customers see these lightweight options as an environmental benefit in addition to practical savings.

“Transit agencies with green fleets will look to spin our products that way since most electric or hydrogen buses go even greener by installing lightweight products,” said Finnegan.  

Using effective flooring materials also means finding the safest options. Although safety has always been a built-in industry requirement, Altro reports seeing an increased awareness for safety among customers.

“It’s another trend we’ve seen; whereas in the past this was uncommon, customers will now ask for information like ‘how slippery is your product?’ There seems to be a greater concern with liability and litigation,” said Finnegan.

To address this growing concern, Altro has expanded their collection of safety accent pieces, for step nosing to prevent slips or walkway areas. The company manufactures over 15 different of safety flooring options.

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