Smarter Carpet Initiative

In 2010, Penn State Office of Physical Plant, Procurement Services, and the Smeal College of Business launched an ambitious collaborative effort: to develop a new standard for carpet purchasing, installation and removal that would reduce the first cost by 3-5% and the total cost of ownership by an estimated 20% and ensure 100% of Penn State carpet never sees a landfill.

480 Acres of Carpet

With 30 million square feet of building space, Penn State could have as much as 480 acres of carpet. Imagine 480 football fields set end to end, each covered with carpet, covering 32 miles and you would have an approximation of Penn State’s carpet “footprint.” Fortunately, this carpet provides many benefits such as noise reduction and improved indoor air quality but there are costs as well to the university and to society: for the carpet itself, for installation, for maintenance, and for removal.

Annually, Penn State purchases approximately 45,000 square yards of new carpet tile per year at a cost of around $1,125,000.

That means we also remove and send to the landfill many tons of carpet annually. Nationwide, Americans send to the landfill around 3 – 4 billion pounds of carpet every year. But more and more carpet companies are finding innovative ways of capturing and recycling old carpet into new carpet.

480 acres of carpet is a big footprint and a big opportunity to save money and improve our environmental performance.

Student Research Lays the Foundation

Enter the world-class students from the Smeal College of Business Masters in Business Administration (MBA) program. Under the leadership of Dr. Terry Harrison, a team of MBA students completed a thorough analysis of:

  • the carpet industry to expose for the committee the major environmental and human health issues
  • existing sustainability standards such as those from the Carpet & Rug Institute and National Science Foundation
  • business process analysis highlighting environmental and human health impacts and possible inefficiencies within Penn State’s gate-to-gate carpet process.

The student research helped the committee quickly advance its understanding of relevant issues. On this foundation, the committee created a powerful process of analysis that would involve four major activities:

  • Request for Information
  • Request for Proposals
  • Company Interviews
  • Mill visits

Penn State chose National Science Foundation 140-2010 guidelines at the Platinum Level as our minimum specification. In addition, we augmented these guidelines with additional specifications that further improve carpet durability, performance, and reduce total cost of ownership.

There are three vendors that meet the new Penn State standard and with whom we have exclusive contracts for carpet tile:

The final carpet report and related materials are available upon request.

The Office of the Physical Plant re-carpeted several corridors and office spaces in the East Area Locker Room on Penn State’s University Park campus this past summer with navy-blue carpets made from recycled materials. (Image: Penn State)