How cork flooring improves health and wellbeing
When we talk about the benefits of cork flooring, we tend to focus on its environmental credentials. After all, when you find a material that actively tackles climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, that’s something you really want to talk about!
But there are other huge benefits of cork flooring that can get a little overlooked in our passion for sustainability. These benefits relate to the incredible impact that the unique natural properties of cork can have on health and wellbeing.
A need for healthy building materials
The suitability of building materials, and how they contribute to health and wellness, has been a key theme in the construction industry for some years. The COVID-19 pandemic only served to strengthen this focus, with both owners and occupiers keen to understand what buildings are made from and how this might affect the wellbeing of anyone that uses them.
Nowhere is this trend more obvious than in office spaces. As employers rethink the role of the workplace, and reconfigure offices to provide more collaboration zones, better airflow and increased space for the individual, they are looking for materials that will promote employee wellness. Not only is this simply the right thing to do, it also increases workforce productivity and drives positive organisational outcomes.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at three important ways cork flooring positively contributes to health and wellness, wherever it is used.
Health benefit one: Clean and healthy air to breathe
When it comes to indoor air quality, there is a great deal of concern around volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, such as formaldehyde or acetaldehyde. Because these compounds are in gaseous form and have small molecules, they can enter our respiratory systems and cause irritation. They can also contribute to conditions such as asthma and eczema. VOCs are released in a variety of ways but building materials are the biggest source, accounting for around 40% of total indoor VOC release.
Cork flooring is the ideal choice for improving indoor air quality because it has exceptionally low levels of VOCs. Using our cork flooring products in a building project achieves an air quality credit for BREEAM, and for LEED via Greenguard Gold. This is the highest certification possible in the US and indicates a material is suitable for use in education and healthcare facilities. Our cork collections also have the French certification A+, which indicates the lowest possible levels of VOCs, and TÜV-PROFICERT which is a transnational certificate proving exceptional air quality and low VOC emissions.
Health benefit two: A peaceful and productive environment
Choosing building materials to minimise noise pollution is essential to the wellbeing of anyone that uses those buildings. And once again, the importance of noise reduction in office premises is particularly relevant.
While offices have always been noisy environments, a multi-country study from POLY reveals that long periods of home working during the pandemic have significantly reduced our tolerance for noise. When participants were asked about their concerns over returning to the office after working from home, noise was a very popular answer, second only to commuting. Among the UK workers that responded to the survey, almost half were worried they might be prone to ‘noise rage’.
Fortunately, cork flooring can be used to limit noise in office buildings as well as many other commercial or residential environments. This is because it has a natural and unique cellular structure – a little like honeycomb – that works as an acoustic insulator to absorb sound. It helps to create a calm, peaceful environment that promotes individual wellbeing.
Cork flooring minimises two distinct types of sound. The first is walking sound, which cork typically reduces by over 50% when compared with laminate flooring. The second type is impact sound, which comes from the room above. By providing a buffer between floors, cork can reduce impact sound by around 18 decibels, making it an ideal choice for large-scale residential properties and healthcare facilities as well as commercial office buildings.
Health benefit three: Warmth and comfort underfoot
When we consider the comfort properties of cork flooring, the most noticeable thing is that it feels warm to the touch. It is an exceptional thermal insulator thanks to the same cellular structure that helps with acoustic insulation. This means it holds warmth longer than other materials and avoids the thermal shock associated with timber, laminate and LVT flooring. Because cork retains an optimal temperature all year round it works particularly well in hotels and apartments.
But the comfort of cork flooring extends beyond just temperature. Softer than laminate and more rigid than carpet, cork flooring achieves the perfect balance between stability and comfort, helping to minimise heel strike impact and reduce body fatigue. These properties of cork flooring mean it is well suited to locations where users are standing or walking for long periods of time, such as healthcare facilities or hospitality venues.
A true wonder material
So, there you have it. Cork flooring isn’t just an exceptional choice for improving the health of the planet it also has a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of anyone using it. These unique qualities certainly qualify it as a wonder material, but let’s not forget cork flooring is also truly beautiful and a stunning addition to any building. Cork really does have it all.