We’ve all got an eye on business sustainability. When a company can recycle materials that would have gone to landfill and produce products that are better for human health, that’s a big step in the right direction.
You’re at the gym doing your barbell lifts and overhead presses, and you drop your weights down quickly to the floor – they’re heavy! – to a cushioned landing. That flooring is designed to take a beating and make sure your workout is safe and effective. It offers stability, absorbs sound, and cushions the impact of those high-intensity circuit training moves.
And if there are 50-plus people who are working up a sweat regularly, flooring that is also water-resistant and easy to clean is important.
That’s where the innovative muscle of Dinoflex comes in. The British Columbia-based manufacturer has been producing super high-impact flooring for gyms, sports complexes with pools and skating rinks, kids’ playgrounds and all kinds of high-traffic commercial and institutional spaces both indoors and out.
“The sport and fitness industry has always been challenged in finding a flooring option for skate traffic, drop zones or any application that requires a heavy-duty solution,” says Mark Bunz, Dinoflex CEO. “Most will revert to vulcanized products that have extremely bad off-gassing that diminishes over time but never really goes away, which is a serious health concern for the industry.”
Dinoflex does things differently, with a focus on green and clean. The company uses the highest quality recycled rubber from tires, saving them from clogging up landfills.
Think about it this way: why does Michelin spend more than $800 million a year researching sustainability so it can make tires out of root vegetables? Because the modern tire (and more specifically, its disposal) is a filthy business. Each year, automobiles produce 246 million waste tires in the United States alone.
“Everything we do is focused on providing an environmental alternative product with the longest lifecycle possible and then 20 or 30 years later be able to recycle it and start all over again,” Bunz says.
“If you are going to be successful in business, your environmental efforts and goals, no matter how impressive, are simply a permission to play. It’s expected that you do everything you can to reduce your impact on the environment by lowering your carbon footprint at every decision point. If you don’t there is usually a competitor around the corner that can easily displace you. That is not just a construction industry issue, it is a global issue.”
Clearly, Dinoflex is doing its part. The rubber is cleaned before purchase, and then cleaned again to get rid of all the metals, plastics and unwanted materials. The manufacturing process itself does not pollute, and the recycled rubber is produced locally within a 500-mile radius of the factory in Salmon Arm, B.C.
Bunz and his team developed and recently launched Vulca-NO! in a 4’x6’ format for customers and designers to piece together as they wish. As the name suggests, this is not a vulcanized product, so there are no dangerous fumes lingering for people to breathe in. Vulca-NO!, like the full range of Dinoflex products, also carries FloorScore certification that has stringent criteria for protecting indoor air quality.
“Given it is tough as nails, the market response has been tremendously satisfied that they now have a quality alternative to an age-old problem,” Bunz says. “We are already at a point where we will be doubling our capacity over the summer to meet the product demand.” Dinoflex has the $3.5 million expansion project well underway, with added robotics and system automation.
Another key industry differentiator is no typical end-product curling or smell. Dinoflex doesn’t use a conventional roll manufacturing process where the finished flooring has a tendency to curl for the life of the product. The process involves producing the tile in block form and slicing it to the desired thickness.
While the company’s full product line is manufactured in North America, German engineering has propelled it forward. Dinoflex was founded by Sabine Presch, backed by her father Peter Presch, an early pioneer of polyurethane chemistry in Germany. Sabine operated the business for 20 years, primarily producing flooring for the sport and fitness industry. Sabine sold the business in 2008 to Vancouver-based Pender West Capital Partners, who expanded the offerings to all types of rubber flooring for different industries.
“If you can think about an application, it can probably be used there,” Bunz says. “As designers and building owners become more demanding for quality recycled rubber flooring products that are built with indoor air quality as a criteria on the end result, the past stigma of ‘smells like stinky tires’ disappears.”
The really great thing for architects and designers is the limitless number of ways you can customize floors. There are extensive color and texture offerings, and the web-based “Color Innovator” tool allows designers the freedom to get creative, since they are not limited to a standard or curated color. Dinoflex has low minimums and lead times so designers also don’t need to break the bank to create that special space with a true environmental foundation.
One example of the company’s flooring in action is at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta. The museum is expanding its use of Dinoflex square footage – and not just because of the name’s synergy with the dinosaur exhibits. The performance of the company’s Square Cut – Glued Down product has stood up for over 15 years, and the goal is to have Dinoflex throughout the entire facility.
Bunz explains that, “We also do a lot of toll manufacturing for companies that come to us with great ideas for products that are completely outside the box. Those projects are usually fun and challenging for our people, but they love it.”
So what’s next on the horizon?
“The recycled rubber surfacing industry as a whole is continuing to grow as people better understand all the applications outside of sport and fitness,” shares Bunz. “As designers become more acquainted with the vibrant, bold and pastel color base available and understand the applications are limitless, there is no ceiling for what we have to offer.”