Looking good, feeling good
Changing up how healthcare buildings are designed has brought about greater focus on the beneficial role floorcoverings can play, says Paul Stattersfield
SPECIFIERS and those involved in the design and maintenance of healthcare buildings are adopting a far more holistic approach towards how buildings not only look and function but also how they interact with patients, staff, residents and other users.
Following a similar methodology to healthcare itself, interiors are therefore now being based on how elements like design, colour, texture, even artwork, within quiet, appropriate, surroundings can contribute to recovery and well-being.
Not simply complementary factors, these aspects are becoming more mainstream components of product choices like flooring for healthcare buildings that must crucially also provide the highest possible levels of safety, durability, hygiene, infection control and air quality.
Specifying suitable floorings that meet the necessary standards, but which additionally have the beneficial aesthetical qualities to assist people with differing healthcare needs, is consequently becoming an important part of the healthcare design process.
So, once the fundamental specification performance requirements are identified, and in a move away from the more traditional, clinical and sterile approaches of the past, it’s now also about how spaces, surfaces and products work in relation to how people experience and react to them in different healthcare environments.
For example, the use of neutral colour palettes with a shift towards higher light reflectance values (LRVs) and matt, non-gloss finishes, without potentially problematical contrasts in texture and colour, are proven to provide a calming and safer environment for where people with mental health conditions, motor neuron disease and visual impairments, for example, reside or are treated.
Matt finishes for floorings used in dementia wards and care homes are also particularly important.
As another example, there’s a growing move towards the use of cushioned-back vinyl in wood effects and gentle, earthy colours that replicate a sense of home in care homes and places whose users include dementia and autism sufferers.
For these environments, residential quality vinyl floorings that meet the necessary slip-resistant, hygiene and overall performance criteria can provide the comfort and homely design options some contract floorings may lack. Cushioned-back vinyl floorings with acoustic properties also offer excellent sound absorption.
The public sector is also seen to be following the private sector shift by introducing more homely designs and lighter hues into hospital floorings. Plus, within many types of healthcare buildings the flooring design and colour is being used to differentiate areas as well as provide path finding.
It’s become an acknowledged way of helping patients, residents and visitors to more easily recognise and locate different parts of a building.
However, product specification for large public sector hospital building projects is now very much led by the Procure 22 (P22) Construction Procurement Framework. P22 is administered by the Department of Health & Social Care for the development and delivery of NHS and Social Care capital schemes in England.
It’s designed to streamline the procurement process to increase efficiency and productivity while supporting enhanced clinical outputs for patients and improved environments for staff and visitors. By creating this platform, stronger partnerships between clients, principal supply chain partners (PSCPs) and their supply chains are enabled.
Gerflor is part of the P22 Framework supply chain involving repeatable room arrangements and a standard components programme, which are evidence-based and informed by the experience of users and staff and through consultation with them.
The aim of the Department of Health and NHS England supported initiative is to achieve lower capital construction costs while also ensuring improved patient outcomes.
Repeatable room arrangements are delivered through the P22 Framework whereby supply chain partners such as Gerflor put forward examples of their products’ benefits based on standardised room concepts. In turn, these may form part of the main contractors’ bids.
However, products with innovative USPs are important to schemes that are delivered through the P22 Framework. And, it’s the next generation of vinyl flooring surface treatments, which are driven by advanced technology and which are integrated into the manufacturing process, that are taking infection control to another level.
By forming an impenetrable, safe surface which helps prevent the transmission of harmful bacteria on the ground and airborne contaminants alongside having in-built cleanability and disinfectionability properties, the risk of nosocomial infections can be lowered.
However, as hospital product specification must also be cost-conscious, the practicality of a flooring product is essential.
Vinyl flooring surface treatments can contribute to lower maintenance costs, especially if they don’t need re-treatment for the lifetime of the product and carry a lifetime surface treatment guarantee.
In addition, appropriate surface treatments for homogeneous and heterogeneous flooring products with in-built cleanability qualities can help floorings to look better for longer with only the need for simple, water-based best-practice cleaning routines and without polishing or waxing.
Architects, main contractors and end-clients in the healthcare industry are increasingly aware of how life cycle considerations can impact on budgets and environmental issues. Environmentally-friendly product innovations like vinyl flooring surface treatments that do not require complicated chemical-based maintenance procedures or retreatments and which eliminate the resulting labour and material costs, can improve lifecycle performance significantly.
Lifecycle costs may still be considered as simply a bonus but we’re moving towards a time when they may become more mainstream and accepted as a benchmarking standard.
Paul Stattersfield is northern region sales manager, Gerflor