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The invention of carpet tiles is only one development in a truly ancient flooring history that stretches back to the earliest stages of civilisation. Back then they were pottery rather than recycled fibre carpet tiles though!
The earliest tiles were produced in the Middle East as much as 8000 years ago, at a time when only the most wealthy individuals could afford to have their home tiled from earthenware pottery. In Roman times tiles became very popular in high status homes and public and commercial buildings, from there they began to get cheaper and more readily available in a range of materials including ceramics and natural stone.
It has been over the last few decades that tiles have really diversified though with metal, glass, rubber and even wooden tiles being developed for various flooring requirements. Carpet tiles were a surprisingly long time coming given the popularity of carpets in any kind of building, but as offices grew in size and number a company called Heuga (now part of the Interface Group) invented carpet tiles as a practical alternative in 1955.
The thinking was obvious; many commercial environments wanted carpet floors without the cost of caring for or replacing deep pile or full sheet carpets every couple of years or whenever stains or fading showed up. Carpet tiles solved all those problems, with stained sections easily removed and replaced or the option to rotate tiles to even out sunlight fading, made from a combination of animal hair and man made fibres even the earliest carpet tiles took years to start showing any kind of wear.
Things started to get even more practical in the 1970s when Carpets International (also to become part of Interface Modular Floors later on) developed free-lay carpet tiles which did not even need an adhesive to stay in place. After that, things moved fast to develop carpet tiles into the best possible product. Interface developed a high performance backing specifically for carpet tiles, antimicrobial preservatives for adhesives and the first releasable adhesives, making it easy for anyone to rotate or replace modular carpet tiles.
In the 1990s Interface continued their domination of the modular flooring market and started thinking very seriously about the environment.
At the time their carpet tiles were made from lots of raw materials and products were not so eco-friendly manufacturing process, so the company developed a “less is more” policy and reduced consumption of fibre by 10% in just one year. The ReEntry reclamation program was also launched aiming to inspire the entire contract flooring industry to act more responsibly in the way it worked.
More environmental innovations followed; tree planting to offset travel emissions, 100% recycled fibre and climate neutral modular flooring systems began to make carpet tiles a seriously green choice as well as a practical one. The natural world also began to influence design with “biomimicry” products such as non-directional carpet tiles that create a more visually natural feel to any office in their mixture of shapes and colours.
Today, environmental concerns continue to shape the carpet tile market, small sticky patches are replacing adhesives to minimise waste and carpet tiles are made from things like recycled waste plastics and even come in an ever expanding array of designs and colours ranging from classic square, plain coloured tiles to planks and even hexagons some incredibly creative and great looking designer modular flooring.