Solid Floor (FSC®C117337) tell their story and explain why FSC certification is so important, both to forests and their business.
© Solid FloorThe design-led timber flooring company Solid Floor was founded in 1994 by Dutch designer and entrepreneur Eelke-Jan Bles, who opened their first showroom in Amsterdam and decided to move to London after attending the Bartlett – the Faculty of the Built Environment at University College London. Rob Weems joined Solid Floor a decade later and is now, as well as the company’s co-owner, responsible for the day-to-day running of the business. With showrooms located in both Marylebone and Notting Hill, they have established a solid reputation as London’s premier flooring specialist.
Solid Floor collaborate closely with a client base of prestigious architects and interior designers.
‘It is really important to nurture those creative relationships and respond to their demands’, says Rob. ‘There is a strong desire from our clientele to move towards green living in general, and though our floors should last them a lifetime, we all feel that the origins of wood should be preserved for future generations too.’
To carry the FSC label, timber and wood fibre products have to be veryfied as coming from a certified source at all points in the supply chain, from raw material to the consumer. The Chain of Custody (CoC) certification connects responsible forest management practices directly with consumers, meaning that every floor has been tracked from forest to shop.
‘Holding the FSC Chain of Custody certification allows Solid Floor to trade in FSC certified timber floors and assures our clients that wherever possible timber is sourced from responsibly managed forests, often planting more trees than used for their floors’, says Rob. ‘Rather than leaving the choice with the client, we made the decision early on to always sell FSC certified floors if available. In the beginning this did have an impact on our margins but it has proven to be a worthwhile investment.’
Being a progressive flooring company - familiar with both interior design and new manufacturing technologies - selling certified timber has become a core element of their branding.
The origin of the timber used for a floor was not often questioned two decades ago, whereas nowadays it can be one of the first queries that comes up when a new client walks through the door.
“Because FSC certification is an asset, we are starting to see high-end developers demanding certified timber floors.”
© Solid FloorAnother important factor is the awareness of today’s ethical consumer towards issues such as energy consumption and further, social aspects regarding employment and impact on a rural community.
“The great thing is that FSC offers concrete reassurances to us and our clients on all these issues, in one go ”
With this in mind Solid Floor looked at ethical floorboard manufacturing and found two innovative timber mills, one based in Europe and another in South America. Wherever possible they purchase from these timber mills to ascertain that ecological and sustainable production processes are being used in the manufacturing of all their floors.
For example, the European mill is completely energy independent through having built its own bio-plant. All clean waste, woodchips sawdust, shavings and such, is burnt, and a large steam turbine transforms the produced steam into durable electricity. In return this energy powers the factory halls and offices and the heat is also used for the mill’s huge drying kilns. On top of this, the surplus energy created is fed back into the National Grid, thus supplying up to 3,000 local households daily with green electricity.
The South American mill owns and fully controls 80,000 acres of FSC certified forest in Bolivia. Each section of this forest is selectively harvested every 25 years only, ensuring a continuing and balanced timber supply. Through managing this forest, the mill has created and maintained roads and bridges to serve not only their factories but also neighbouring villages. Having provided employment to hundreds of local people, this supplier has established long-term relationships with native communities to support people with the financial means and equipment to utilise their forest profitably.
‘Let’s not forget that if we don’t promote the demand of sustainable harvested South American timber, more and more small Bolivian land owners will cut their forests to use the land for cattle grazing or sell up to soy plantations. This way can do our bit to ensure South America’s ‘green lungs’ and its inhabitants are being protected’, says Rob. ‘Our timber suppliers’ on-going investments and innovations will benefit us all and we are keen to be actively supporting their businesses.’
Solid Floor were one of the first timber floor retailers in the UK to have joined FSC as a certified trader and Rob believes that it has added value to the company as a whole. However he points out that obtaining the certification does mean making a strong commitment which takes time and investment. All the staff, including the fitters and the transport company, have been trained and attend regular re-fresher meetings. Getting all the staff behind the decision is the key to success, according to Rob. ‘There is a fair amount of paperwork involved and getting everyone on board can be a major challenge. Being a relatively small company we employ a third party certifier which keeps us in the loop of changes made in the rules and regulations so we can focus on doing what we do best, selling and fitting premium bespoke timber floors’.