A new report from a Tufts University think tank and an environmental group contends that vinyl does not have major economic advantages over its competitors.
The Feb. 5 report, ``The Economics of Phasing Out Vinyl,'' jumps headlong into the controversial debate about the economic and environmental pros and cons of vinyl, and it comes as the U.S. Green Building Council is reviewing the environmental issues.
The Vinyl Institute said in a news release that it had not read the report, but said it seems inconsistent with other studies of life-cycle costs of vinyl, including work done by the U.S. government and Harvard University. Arlington, Va.-based VI said a study in Massachusetts looked at wire and cable and ``found that the switch to alternatives was not that simple.''
``This looks more like a political statement than an honest and thorough economic analysis,'' VI said. ``It seems to be based on marketing claims and old, isolated interviews rather than new, original research.''
The report, which also is being released by the Healthy Building Network, an environmental group that focuses on the construction industry, argues that in many cases, consumers with an environmental preference can avoid PVC without paying more.
``The economics are close enough that you can follow the environmental consideration without any big economic penalty,'' said Frank Ackerman, director of the Research and Policy Program at Tuft University's Global Development and Environmental Institute in Medford, Mass.
The report said that in an analysis of flooring products, vinyl was the cheapest initial product, but over its life, maintenance and other costs made PVC the most expensive.
It quoted a study by the U.S. Navy that compared vinyl flooring with Stratica-brand polymer flooring. The study found that maintenance costs make vinyl three times as expensive during a 10-year life span.
The Tufts report also said a 1997 Canadian government study that found that using non-PVC siding, windows, flooring and wire and cable would increase the cost of new construction between 0.4 percent and 2.4 percent.
The Tufts project was funded by grants from the Mitchell Kapor Foundation and the John Merck Fund, but Ackerman said they did not exercise any editorial control. Those two foundations also provide funding to the Healthy Building Network, said Bill Walsh, national coordinator for HBN.
Washington-based HBN is involved in a range of construction issues, from PVC to arsenic-treated wood.