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Floored by Choice

10 September 2010

Specifying flooring for the commercial and public buildings already requires various factors to be considered, but the latest design developments have extended the possibilities, broadening choice and scope.

WITH A NEED TO CREATE communal spaces that are functional, practical, attractive – and above all else, safe – while satisfying issues of environmental responsibility, quality and longevity, FMs have quite a remit. However, the building entrance is a good place to start.
In entrance areas, selecting the most suitable flooring product for this part of the building is particularly important. It’s the area that gets the highest volume of foot traffic, with people bringing in dirt and the wetness from outside. Entrance systems can stop 90 percent of what is walked in from getting any further and the toughest high performance products, such as engineered entrance mats, will last up to 15 years. Thus, entrance systems preserve aesthetics and reduce repair and maintenance costs. Indeed, cleaning bills alone can be cut by 65 percent.
Entrance areas can be considered in terms of zones, with each requiring a tailored flooring solution. The product chosen for the first zone, located outside the building, should scrape the coarsest dirt from the soles of shoes before people cross the threshold. On stepping into the building itself, the secondary matting zone should remove moisture and finer particles. For the third, the circulation zone, which leads away from the entrance and includes corridors, stairs, reception area etc, a product that can withstand heavy traffic and intensive cleaning is required.
For all of these areas, heath and safety and the prevention of slips, trips and falls is key. While excellent moisture absorption properties play a role in putting a stop to dirty footprints, they are also essential in terms of preventing slipping and sliding.
Moving beyond the entrance and onto the rest of the building, hazardous areas can present their own flooring requirements. For accident hotspots in stairwells and kitchens – where there is a potential for spills – the flooring needs to be easy to clean, but with a level of resistance to avert slips; here safety vinyl would be ideal.
Any doubts this high performance floor surface will limit design scope need not be a concern. The Step range from Forbo comes in an extensive choice of resistance levels and colourways to suit all requirements and introduces new Safestep wood & Safestep design with aluminium oxide to retain clarity of design.
Likewise, bathroom or shower areas will require a hygienic waterproof product with specialist slip resistant qualities. Tile and grout may be the traditional option, but with this option there can be associated infection control issues. Providing a more hygienic answer, there are alternative wetroom solutions.
For areas in which a softer, less industrial looking interior design scheme would be preferred, the latest technological advancements are a marvel. A hybrid product that combines the advantages of a textile with the anti-slip properties of a resilient, Flotex is a flocked flooring range, from Forbo.
Giving due attention to their colour offerings, the best manufacturers offer well considered ranges comprising complementary colourways. So it’s perfectly possible to mix and match tones and combine several different colourways in a single scheme, for a winning look.
Different colours can also be used to define separate zones according to their function, or highlight walkways and routes to staircases and corridors. To ensure that a unifying theme is retained across the space though, specifiers should look out for manufacturers who offer core colourways that run throughout their ranges – from entrance matting through to carpet tiles. Some manufacturers offer bespoke designs too, presenting the opportunity to really add a personal touch. For example, company logos, special designs and motifs can be incorporated into Marmoleum.
When it comes to choosing a supplier, stick to flooring manufacturers that adhere to strict environmental guidelines. Dedicated to improving environmental performance, some manufacturers are developing products and production processes with excellent green credentials. Check for BREEAM scheme ratings and the entire lifecycle of the product, from the materials used to make it and the production process, to the expected product lifespan and potential for end of life recycling.
Marmoleum, for example, is truly sustainable. Made from 97 percent natural raw materials, it has an overall recycled content of 37 percent. While its expected lifespan is over 25 years, it is entirely biodegradable and rated A+ in many key segments by the BREEAM scheme.

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