The primary goal in the design of any education environment is to provide an inspiring place that fosters learning, says Itec Contract Flooring. Flooring has a role to play in this, but not just in the foundation of an aesthetic principle. A floor’s impact reaches further, and it can also help to encourage learning through function.
It is well documented that acoustics can play a significant role in encouraging learning, and as pointed out in Acoustics of Schools: A Design Guide, jointly published by the Institute of Acoustics and the Association of Noise Consultants, acoustic design is now cemented within compliance of Requirement E4 of Part E of the Building Regulations, The School Premises Regulations 2012 and Independent Schools Standards 2013.
To meet Building Regulations, school buildings must comply with Acoustic Design of Schools: Performance Standards published by the Department for Education. This clearly states the performance standards for impact sound insulation of floors for various types of learning environment, ranging from classrooms through to laboratories, drama studios, circulation areas and administration and ancillary areas.
With the objective to control impact sound, Acoustic Design of Schools: Performance Standards sets maximum impact sound pressure levels to which the floor structure must adhere in refurbishment and new build environments. The most conventional way to meet this standard is through the subfloor construction itself, but careful selection of floor covering can also contribute to a significant impact sound reduction.
In fact, particularly in refurbishment projects, an acoustic floor covering can present a huge cost-saving, potentially negating costly subfloor structure revisions, or the need for specialist resilient acoustic underlays.
Carpet has long been known for its ability to reduce sound, but in education environments it can prove too compromised in function, particularly where ease of maintenance and appearance retention under high traffic are important. Vinyl flooring has long been favoured in education for these very abilities, but until quite recently, it did little to improve acoustics.
However, with the arrival of Itec Contract Flooring's acoustic flooring collection, the company says this changed dramatically, making vinyl a serious acoustic proposition that can make a real difference in achieving the requirements set out in Acoustic Design of Schools: Performance Standards. The chief advantage of Itec's heterogeneous vinyl construction is that the backing can reportedly be adapted to alter function without affecting these characteristics notably, said to make it possible to manufacture a vinyl floor that can combat sound through a compact foam back while providing high performance levels.
Floors within Itec's acoustic flooring collection can reportedly reduce impact sound by up to 19dB while still achieving the class 33 commercial heavy rating under EN ISO 10874. Simply, acoustic performance without compromise, the company says.
Itec acoustic flooring is said to deliver more than acoustic performance for the pound. Like other floors in the company's collection, it comes with a range of performance features that reportedly ensure it is easy to maintain, safe underfoot and even more hygienic.
All of Itec's floors are equipped with Hyperguard+ PUR, a technology that is said to provide a long-lasting low maintenance surface that resists scuffs and stains. Reportedly ensuring that Itec's acoustic flooring can slot straight in to existing maintenance regimes or newly-established ones without complication, Hyperguard+ is a real boost in education environments where floors come under intense pressure from pupils and activities alike.
Rated R10 under DIN 51130, also denotes a degree of slip-resistance, not safety flooring standard, but enough for Itec's Acoustic Flooring to be suitable for use in congregation and thoroughfare areas, as well as classrooms. With 19dB floors in the Optimise Timber and Optimise 70 collections also benefit from the addition of Sanitec, an antibacterial treatment that helps to provide a more hygienic floor.
Said to reduce impact sound by 18dB, Silento Design And Silento Timber ranges are available in both two and four-metre roll widths, ensuring that waste and seams are minimised. Fewer seams reduce potential failure ‘hotspots’ and this is said to be making four-metre wide vinyl flooring particularly popular in open congregation areas and classrooms. In thoroughfares, a two-metre wide floor makes more sense, and with Itec this can be achieved: the same décor can be selected in the most appropriate width.
A study by the UK design firm IBI Nightingale and the University of Salford, Clever Classrooms, one of the first studies looking at a holistic approach to the design of education interiors, reportedly found the physical characteristics of primary schools do impact on pupils learning progress in reading, writing and mathematics, by as much as 16%. Contributory factors include acoustics, light, temperature and air quality, but also a link to nature and colour among others.
The study references the use of bright colour on the floor as a way of introducing positive, stimulating accents to the environment, but also warns it can be overdone, particularly when other factors such as walls, textiles and furniture can play a role. The research also highlights the importance of a connection to nature, encouraging the use of wooden desks and chairs, as well as plants.
With what Itec describes as a diverse collection of looks, from blues and yellows known to have a positive impact on learning to natural wood effects that replicate a sense of nature indoors, the company says there is an acoustic solution to suit. Each can be accessed in two and four-metre widths, reportedly making it easy to put together a scheme that’s correct for the environment. This level of flexibility is said to be even more important in refurbishment projects where it may be prohibitive to change other elements of the interior’s design.
The company's Invisiweld installation technology, relying on an imperceptible chemical join, rather than a traditional unsightly weld, will do much to enhance the aesthetics of any of our wood or mineral effect floors. It is also said to provide a stronger joint, minimising risk of failure in these ‘hotspots’.
Itec Contract Floors says any of its sales representatives will be happy to help build a perfect acoustic flooring specification for your education project.