Luxury Vinyl Tile has taken over the world of flooring. It is cheap, easy to install, and durable. But, what’s so luxurious about a toxic material that’s causing harm to humans and the planet?
If you’ve stayed in a recently renovated AirBnB, stumbled upon quickly-flipped properties on Zillow, or tuned into the DIY corner of YouTube in the last couple of years, you’ll recognize a common interior design trend: imitation wood or stone floors branded as “Luxury Vinyl Tile.” It’s not just DIYers that have hopped on the LVT train—vast numbers of high end hotels, schools, affordable housing units, and office buildings have plasticized their floors. The popularity of these tiles and panels have exploded in recent years. By 2022, vinyl flooring made in China alone became the most common flooring sold in the United States, accounting for over one-quarter of all flooring sold in the U.S.
Behind the slick rebrand and influencers stamp of approval, LVT manufacturers are hiding a “dirty climate secret.”
In a new series for Architizer, we are digging into the question “What’s so luxurious about LVT?” In part one, titled The Dirty Secret Behind a DIYer’s Dream Material, we look behind the slick rebrand and influencers’ stamp of approval to uncover the “dirty climate secret” that manufacturers are hiding. Based on research from the Center for Environmental Health, we examine the true toll that the LVT boom is taking on our bodies and planet and offer a list of healthier, affordable flooring options on the market now.
Part two, How LVT Supply Chains Are ‘Built on Repression’, traces the long history of worker endangerment by the vinyl industry. A groundbreaking report from the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University and Materials Research L3C uncovered how this legacy continues today. Forced labor and human rights abuses against the Uyghur community in China are propping up the U.S.’ main supply of vinyl flooring.
Finally, in The Poison Plastic and Why ‘Recycling Will Not Save Us’, we examine the dramatic shortcomings of plastics recycling. If there is a future for a circular plastics economy, a material as toxic as LVT has no place in it. The most effective thing that we as designers and architects can do to protect humans and our planet is to stop specifying plastics (especially PVC) wherever possible.
You can find a list of healthy, affordable alternatives to vinyl flooring in our materials collection.
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