THE GAME OF FLOORS

The installation of sport flooring at the gym in King, London, has led to a very satisfied customer. By DAVID STRYDOM LONDON

BRONDIE McNamara has seen her fair share of poor flooring products – and poor installations. Sometimes she’s had issues with tongue-and-groove, a method of fitting similar objects together, edge to edge, used mainly with wood, in flooring, parquetry, panelling, and similar constructions.

She’s also seen ‘unacceptable gaps’ appearing on cheaper vinyl tiles, and when flooring lifts it creates a trip hazard which Brondie, the group workplace project manager for King in London, describes as ‘a frustrating waste of time because you have to rip up a floor that’s already been glued down and do it all over again’.

Then there’s the inconvenience caused when floor-layers place a solid floor over services, rendering them inaccessible. ‘When I’m project managing a build, I always check where we’re planning to place the solid floor so I can run the services along the ceiling.

‘Mainly, my irritations are caused by frustrating products that don’t clean properly or, after the site has been signed off, change after they’ve been installed.’

Fortunately, Brondie hasn’t had those experiences with all flooring contractors and manufacturers – one notable exception being French manufacturer Gerflor which has its UK headquarters in Warwick and which has specialised in vinyl sports flooring since 1947 with its Taraflex brand.

It’s been used in every summer Olympics since 1976 and is available in 17 colours and two wood-effect designs.

The product has also been used in several other high-profile venues. For instance, in Metro Fitness in Stockport owned by European boxing champion Matthew Hatton and his father, Ray Hatton, Taraflex flooring was used for the gym complex.

ProFIT28, a ‘new concept’ fitness and wellbeing centre based at Westbourne House in Leeds, saw a mixture of Gerflor’s Tarasafe Ultra H20 vinyl safety flooring, together with its Taraflex vinyl sports flooring and Creation CLIC LVT for the reception area.

When council-run Eastern Leisure Centre in Cardiff urgently needed modernisation Taralay Impression Control safety flooring together with Taraflex sports flooring were specified.

‘With Taralay Impression Control and Taraflex Sport M Performance from Gerflor being included in the original tender document the project was clearly aiming for quality products throughout the 1600sq m element of the re-fit,’ the company pointed out.

Gerflor’s Taraflex Sport M Performance, in Silver Grey, London Light Blue and Pink, was used in King gym after the company’s relocation to Wardour Street, Soho in December 2015.

Taraflex vinyl sports flooring is designed for sporting and non-sporting activities, the company says. It caters for elite sporting performance and everyday education, leisure and community life and is said to be versatile enough to be used in various multi-specialist applications and affordable for new projects and refurbishments.

The benefits of Taraflex Sport M Performance sports flooring are reportedly that it offers optimal safety and performance and that it can be used in education facilities, in competitions and in clubs.

FOUNDED in 2003, King is an interactive entertainment company for the mobile world, with people all around the world playing one or more of its games. It’s developed more than 200 titles, and offers games that include Candy Crush, Farm Heroes, Pet Rescue and Bubble Witch.

It has 342m monthly active users as of the first quarter 2017 across web, social and mobile platforms and says it designs games with a broad appeal, which allow people to play for a moment, then move on with their day and pick up their game later.

King has game studios in Stockholm, Malmo, London, Barcelona, Berlin and Seattle, along with offices in San Francisco, Malta, Tokyo and Bucharest. Acquired by Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq ATVI) in February 2016, it operates as an independent unit of the company.
With an international reputation, King prides itself on its treatment of its employees – hence the need to promote healthy living by introducing gyms in its main offices.

‘One benefit we offer employees is access to a gym, whether that’s membership of a nearby gym or in our bigger offices,’ says Brondie,

‘It’s vitally important as it means staff can exercise anytime they wish during the working day or before and after work or at weekends so they can just come anytime, use their pass. It makes it more likely people will exercise as they don’t have to go far. It encourages healthy living along with the healthful drinks and snacks we offer.

‘We have full inductions for new staff members who want to join, and we offer subsidised training programmes,’ she adds.

Brondie likes the fact Gerflor products are available in a range of bright, vibrant colours, ‘which is very King’. She says the product fares well in terms of wear-and-tear, looking ‘brand new’ after a year of use. ‘Importantly, it doesn’t show heel prints, is aesthetically pleasing and is a floor without negative side effects

‘The installation went down nicely,’ she says. ‘In my experience, my main contractors automatically choose something like Gerflor over many other products as it’s easy to use and can be cut out, among other benefits.’

AFTER 16 years as a facilities manager, Brondie realised what she enjoyed most about her job were the projects such as office moves and refurbishments. She became a freelancer for eight years, helping various companies with workplace management. That brought her into her current role, where she still works closely with the FM department.

‘At King, a small team that consists of me and my colleague Craig, is responsible for the fit-out of new offices and if there’s a FM person in place we’ll work closely with them, finding out what their needs – and those of the staff – are, and ensuring that’s incorporated into the design and including them into the practicality of the day-to-day running. We work closely with FM but it’s a completely different role.’

Brondie says in her experience, FMs have a day job and run the office, and that’s sufficient to keep them very busy.

On the other hand, project managers are responsible for bigger projects but they work closely with FMs and ensure they’re leaving a space that can run effectively.

Brondie’s job involves long-haul international travel to King offices. ‘There’ll be a month or two when I’m not travelling much but if I’m on a project I need to be there every other week. Just recently I’ve been doing projects in Tokyo, Shanghai and before that Seattle.’

Versatility is key for King, Brondie says. This means that when it comes to project management, there needs to be a space the company isn’t going to want to tear down and recreate a year later.

‘We try to create dynamic spaces that can be changed quite easily if necessary; that ranges from the flooring to the meeting rooms to the way we use the space to how many desks we can fit in etc. I think about that at the start of a project, trying to make it as agile as possible.’

Brondie’s role entails immersing herself in every detail of the building, from door handles to light-switches. ‘When specifying, we’re given things within our budget to choose from and there’ll be high-end items we may have to turn down. I love my job, particularly the level of detail.
‘The brilliant thing is if you’re doing it fulltime you can concentrate on the project and every little detail; if you’re doing it as well as other things, your level of involvement will be reduced.’

With respect to specifying flooring, Brondie says the most important thing is that it still looks ‘as good down the line as it was when installed’.

A particular bugbear for Brondie is when designers specify flooring that is aesthetically pleasing but isn’t practical. ‘There has to be practicality across the board as well as aesthetics,’ she says. ‘Flooring shouldn’t be dented by heels, it should be easy to clean and it needs to be ‘the whole package’. What’s the point of a swanky product that’s impossible to clean and maintain.’

As far as the gym at King is concerned, Gerflor provided the answer without Brondie having to ask the question. ‘Gerflor knows what we like,’ she says. ‘Gerflor was originally suggested to me by a designer because we wanted vibrant King candy stripes on the floor.

‘It could produce our orange which was a huge plus as it’s hard to get a colour that perfectly matches your brand. That was when I was introduced to it – it was durable, looked great, striking, and there was a large range of colour. From then on it was my go-to product for that kind of flooring in gyms and receptions.’

If King’s international offices have a requirement for gyms, Brondie says she specifies Gerflor where necessary. ‘I always ask for Gerflor to be an option although quite often it’s not because our global offices outside Stockholm, Barcelona and London don’t have gym facilities.’

EVERY building has its peculiarities which make flooring installations challenging. Brondie points out that raised floors are always a concern. ‘Once you put a floor down, it’s down; in fact, anywhere we put down flooring that can’t be lifted, we have to carefully plan to secure enough power and data access points for future needs.’

But every problem has a solution and the King way is about being more agile. ‘We’ve come up with a design with our furniture company; it’s a fence system that sits atop the floor where all the power and data is run down and the desk just plugs in. That means users can unplug their desks and roll it to a new location themselves, which negates the need for FM and IT.’

And that, says Brondie, is a method that works for Gerflor products. ‘We’ve tried to come up with truly agile solutions so you’re not cutting holes in floors anymore, which works with Gerflor floors. That was the biggest challenge we had previously in offices with a raised floor.’

Another benefit of Gerflor flooring, says Brondie, is its non-slip qualities, which means it’s not a health and safety concern. ‘I’ve never seen anyone slip on Gerflor flooring, even when it’s had liquids on,’ she says. ‘Even though health and safety is primarily an FM function, the slipping hazard is the only potential risk I can think of.

‘It certainly never peels up or lifts if it’s laid properly, and it doesn’t have the tendency to bubble up. It’s quite a heavy, solid product. Sometimes when you put down things they have a trip hazard bubble, but that isn’t my experience with Gerflor.’

Brondie believes in using contractors with a can-do attitude. ‘I can’t work with contractors who bring up problems rather than solutions. I need someone who’s able to see our vision and says ‘Yes, I can do that!’’
‘At King, we have carpet tiles laid in different patterns – some carpet contractors wouldn’t go near that so we must have someone who can say: ‘Yes, we can do that for you’. And that’s what we get from Gerflor.’

Brondie’s relationship with Gerflor came about after she worked with design build company, Claremont CGI. ‘My way of doing business is to use a main contractor which employs subcontractors – it’s the only way we can get all the timings correct.

‘We originally put out a tender to three or four companies, provided them with the same information, and asked them what their vision was. Claremont’s was completely out there but we chose them because they were enthusiastic and thought very differently about how to design an office space. We thought it’d be easier to rein in someone rather than buoy up people with no imagination. And they were brilliant.’

Claremont CGI describes itself as a provider of commercial interior design, fit-out, furniture and technology. ‘Using our expertise alongside inspirational design, we help organisations move beyond the limits of their space, improving how people work individually and collaboratively to enhance the performance of their business.

‘We create spaces that enable people to communicate and collaborate more effectively, streamlining business processes to deliver increased performance while reducing associated costs. ‘Our solutions combine physical space with furniture and workspace technology to enhance the way your organisation operates. In doing so, we also create environments that emphasise workplace wellbeing, that express your brand values and that motivate and inspire your people.’

(Several attempts to obtain comment from the relevant personnel at Claremont CGI went unanswered, which meant CFJ was unable to source and contact the flooring contractor).

For Brondie and her colleagues, the move to King was particularly pressurised; the company was moving two London offices into one with networks and server rooms. ‘We couldn’t move in stages,’ Brondie explains.
‘We had to move 600 people at once after only 13 weeks’ preparation, which is an incredibly short period. We were designing as we were building and had to finalise everything between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. It was very tight, it nearly killed us,’ she laughs.

Nonetheless, once the move was complete, King employees were reportedly thrilled with their new workplace, which was compounded by the impressive gym and its Taraflex flooring.

‘Supplying our Taraflex Sport M Performance vinyl sports flooring for the new King fitness studio in London’s West End was a prime example of how Gerflor can make a real difference to a host of projects,’ says Navjot Dhillon, marketing manager, Gerflor.

‘It’s vital for us at Gerflor to be able to provide a tangible solution that is not only fit for purpose and performs brilliantly but it also looks amazing and will stand the test of time.’n