Function and aesthetics drive flooring choices

Dur-A-Flex Inc
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Manufacturers prioritize noise, comfort, cleanliness and appearance

Health facility managers are looking for flooring materials that provide noise reduction, comfort underfoot, cleanliness and aesthetics. Surfaces that provide an ergonomic solution for staff and prevent slip-and-fall accidents also are in demand. In response, manufacturers have developed a variety of hard flooring innovations that meet those needs.

Driving factors

Cleanliness and infection control are top priorities, according to Dan Alan, director of marketing at Dur-A-Flex Inc., East Hartford, Conn., who sees many hospitals focusing more on seamless options. “Health care facilities also are incorporating the overall experience into their patients’ health,” he says. “Warm tones create a more inviting environment, low-glare surfaces reduce eye fatigue and sound-deadening properties reduce background noise.”

Natalie Jones, marketing director at Shaw Contract, Cartersville, Ga., sees a shift toward modular formats in non-aseptic areas of health care. “Luxury vinyl tile continues to take share from traditional resilient sheet,” she says. “Acoustics is a key factor, along with ease of maintenance. There is shifting preference for no-polish or polish-optional flooring. We also see interest moving away from traditional wood visuals in resilient sheet to more abstract aesthetics.”

Hospitals are looking for abstract designs in lighter colors that are easy to clean, agrees Al Boulogne, vice president for commercial resilient at Mannington Commercial, Calhoun, Ga. “At the same time, health care budgets have been pinched, which means managers are trying to increase room turnover rates, which means less time for cleaning and maintenance,” he adds.

With this shift in mind, Mannington has made dramatic changes to the way the company designs its hard flooring products by changing its urethane technology, rethinking embossing textures and manipulating gloss levels, Boulogne says.

Another trend: Hospitals are making a major shift to value-based patient-centered care, according to Sandra Soraci, marketing leader for health care and education solutions at nora systems Inc., Salem, N.H. Because of this shift, the focus is now on factors such as patient satisfaction and the ability to improve quality while reducing the cost of care. “Because flooring encompasses every square inch of the built environment, it can significantly impact patient and staff experience as well as operational efficiency and the clinical processes of care and safety,” she says.

Flooring that provides a calming environment is important as well. “We recently re-launched our noraplan environcare product line with a modernized color palette,” Soraci adds. “The adaptable, multipurpose premium rubber flooring offers 48 new harmonious shades that help evoke a sense of calm.”

Flooring challenges

Understanding the needs for each hospital space and selecting materials that balance those often-conflicting requirements are among the key challenges to specifying health care flooring.

“Soft surfaces provide ideal acoustics but aren’t conducive to infection control or heavy rolling loads,” explains Jeremy Salomon, director of channel and segment marketing at Tarkett North America, Solon, Ohio. “So, it’s critical to understand and prioritize these demands.”

“Health care facilities are 24/7 operations, so you are always fighting against the clock to get a floor installed quickly,” Alan says. “Also, you never know what kind of surface you are dealing with for installation.” Thus, proper preparation is essential to a successful installation and long service life. Price comes up from time to time, but performance and timelines usually go a long way to making that less of a factor, Alan adds.

Jones says that ease of maintenance and product performance is the primary concern that Shaw Contract continues to hear from health care clients. The time between patient room turns is increasingly compressed, she adds, noting that in some facilities environmental services teams are given only 10 to 15 minutes to clean and sanitize a room. “Facilities require hard flooring that can be easily maintained and kept clean in these challenging conditions,” Jones says. “Thus, product performance is a key consideration.”

Having the right labor to do the installation is becoming much more of a challenge, according to Boulogne, who notes that skilled labor must do a thorough job. Trying to deal with a bad installation in occupied health care space becomes disruptive and expensive. “Important details such as moisture testing, adhesive selection, proper acclimation, flash coving and heat welding are often overlooked when specifying flooring,” he says.

Key features

The latest hard flooring products incorporate features that promote safety, comfort, acoustics, mobility, ease of maintenance, infection control and aesthetics.

Stonhard Inc., Maple Shade, N.J., manufactures and installs Stonres, a urethane, seamless and resilient floor system that delivers optimum performance and the aesthetics needed in the hospital market, the company states.

Features of Stonres flooring systems include resiliency, ergonomic comfort and durability for high-traffic areas. “Stonres RTZ is poured in place to eliminate seams, joints and the need for costly repairs without compromising design,” says John Walsh, vice president of business development. “Its resilient properties not only offer comfort underfoot but also the sound dampening benefits desired in hospitals.”

Reflecting a trend toward hard flooring that promotes healing, Lonseal Inc., Carson, Calif., has introduced a sheet-vinyl product line, Lonstrand Topseal, which is designed to contribute to restorative responses such as reducing stress, improving cognitive function and creativity, and improving well-being and healing. The design mimics the bark of a tree, which reflects a harmonious relationship with the earth and offers a sense of healing and tranquility. Also, its long, fibrous-like strands can visually expand a space.

“The product gives a peaceful, harmonious effect when connecting with other architectural details such as floor moldings,” says Lace Greene-Cordts, marketing director. “Also, Lonstrand has a multiple design purpose. It is subtle enough to provide a smooth transition between rooms and interesting enough to help emphasize a focal point.”

Combining style and durability is another feature of new hard flooring. For example, Patcraft, Cartersville, Ga., has introduced a range of products for the health care market over the past year. “EcoSystem is an example of our commitment to innovation and sustainable design,” says Kieren Corcoran, director of performance markets. “The product is easy to maintain, and with our exoguard+ top coat, it can withstand the punishing conditions of the health care environment.”

Shaw Contract recently unveiled a bio-based resilient sheet and tile collection, Innate & In Tandem, to answer multiple converging market drivers in health care. “Our clients are seeking products that address material health concerns, have seamless transitions between sheet and modular formats, and can be maintained without the use of polish, stripping and waxing,” Jones says. “Innate & In Tandem are bio-based, polyvinyl chloride-free resilient products that feature health product declarations, environmental product disclosures and Cradle-to-Cradle silver certification. In addition, the collection meets the Health Care Without Harm healthy flooring criteria at the silver level.” The sheet and plank are the same construction at 2.5-millimeter thickness to provide seamless transitions and ease of installation.

Mannington Commercial has introduced the Discovery Collection, a sheet vinyl product designed for health care. It features three coordinating abstract visuals in a segment-relevant color palette, as well as a new satin emboss texture and a wear layer that creates an easy-to-maintain floor. The product is available in 6-, 9- and 12-foot rolls, which helps to eliminate seams and material waste.

Dur-A-Flex Inc. offers Accelera, a seamless floor designed to solve problems inherent in health care. From its chemical-resistant topcoat to its monolith, seamless makeup, the flooring supports the long- and short-term goals of facility managers, the company states. Harsh cleaning agents such as vaporized hydrogen peroxide can be used without damaging or staining the floor. Also, its nonslip surface reduces the likelihood of recovery room falls.

Off-site challenges

As the health care model continues to shift to more community-based, accessible locations and outpatient care, flooring vendors are seeing more installations in these settings.

Corcoran sees an increase in off-site facilities as well as highly concentrated centers that place specialty clinics under one roof so that patients can move from their general practitioner to a specialist or have a test completed on-site. “These facilities come with their own challenges, including the need for multiple types of flooring to perform well in different spaces, such as an exam room or a cancer treatment center, while maintaining a coordinated aesthetic,” he says.

Mark Huxta, director of sales for health care at Ecore International, Lancaster, Pa., sees a surge in activity with off-site facility projects that mirrors the capital focus of providers. Health systems are investing in behavioral health and pharmacy renovations to meet new code and application requirements.

“At the same time, the thought that on-campus expansion and renovation would fall off does not seem to be the case,” Huxta adds. “With an expanding aging population, the need for acute care has only increased.”

There are differences in product requirements between small, off-site ambulatory installations and hospital installations, manufacturers say. “The main difference in product choices is that small facilities do not have the high volume of traffic that hospitals see, so they do not typically require high-performance flooring systems,” Walsh says.

Flooring selections for off-site locations depend on the services being provided, according to Salomon. For example, if magnetic resonance imaging machines are present, the facility will need static dissipative surfaces. Wherever procedures are being conducted, infection control will be important. “Ambulatory locations owned by larger hospitals will likely follow the design aesthetic of the organization to carry a consistent experience,” he adds.

Corcoran says that small ambulatory centers offer more time for cleaning, which allows for a wider variety of flooring including soft surfaces, if appropriate for the center. “Other than cleaning methods, we generally see consistent performance and style needs within the health care category,” he adds. “One exception to that is the size and format of products, which can change to adequately scale within various spaces.”

Off-site facilities may or may not be system-owned, which differentiates dollars spent to build out these spaces, says Huxta. “Leased space build-out budgets are typically less than what may be used for system-owned facilities. Short-term leases would lead to minimal investment and focus on long-term performance and return on investment.”

Greater responses

Corcoran says technology will continue to advance within the flooring category, allowing for greater responses to various design needs. He adds that Patcraft is advancing durability as well as offering products that increase the ease of installation and maintenance, while also offering design flexibility.

Function and aesthetics drive flooring choices