Making spaces into learning places

Janet Lowe discusses the need for choosing different floorcoverings for individual departmental areas of education buildings and advises on how contractors can recommend fit-for-purpose solutions.

AS the needs of the education sector are so diverse, HM government’s Education Skills & Funding Agency recently produced a Generic Design Brief for schools which provides broad guidance on the types of floor finishes that should be used across schools.

From creative art rooms and sports halls, to music blocks and science laboratories, it’s important contractors understand what materials are best suited for different areas to ensure the flooring scheme contributes to creating a safe, practical and inspiring learning environment.

First, contractors must carefully consider the specific demands of each application area, including what the room will be used for and how much footfall each area will encounter. For example, in in-design technology and art-rooms, where students will be getting creative, a floorcovering that’s hardwearing, attractive and most importantly safe should be chosen.

Meanwhile in music suites, enhanced acoustics are vital; indeed, the E&SFA Design guide states that they ‘should be designed to avoid sound disturbance to and from neighbouring spaces and satisfy the requirements of Building Bulletin 93’. In such locations, flocked floorcoverings can be the ideal solution for absorbing sound while offering the appearance and comfort of a carpet.

Flooring in practical teaching areas such as science laboratories, where regular chemical spillages are expected, need to be resistant to slips and stains as well as easy-to-clean, as incorrect floorcoverings can be problematic for pupils in a learning and safety aspect. And in ICT suites and rooms that use electronics, there are advanced looselay flooring systems designed to control static discharge, which will ensure equipment and pupils are safe from conductive charges.

Understanding the importance of examining the purpose of spaces in different departments, Veale Associates used Forbo’s STEP safety vinyl collection for the design of the University of Winchester’s new Physiotherapy facility.

Eloise Veale, creative director at Veale Associates, said: ‘In the practical teaching spaces where physiotherapy students would be using oils, liquids and lotions on a regular basis, specifying a safety flooring was essential in order to prevent potential slips, trips and falls caused by accidental spillages.

‘We wanted to avoid creating cold clinical environments that are often associated with these types of spaces and Forbo’s design-led STEP range was the perfect solution.

‘Owing to the nature of the large open plan space, the university suggested that we use a few different colours for the floor, rather than just one solid colour, to make the room more interesting, stimulating and visually appealing.

‘Therefore, we proposed a wavy pattern in three different colourways from Forbo’s Surestep Original range - Purple, Violet and Snow - which follows the contours of the room to add definition and fluidity to the space.’

About 240sq m of Surestep Original was installed and thanks to the hardwearing and durable properties of the safety flooring, the space is able to withstand the weight of 19 treatment benches, which are lined up around the perimeter of the room. Delivering guaranteed R10 sustainable slip resistance for the lifetime of the product thanks to the Step Crystals in the wearlayer, Surestep is ideal for high traffic areas susceptible to spillage risks.

Whether it’s a school, college or university, it’s inevitable that selecting the right floorcoverings for different departmental areas is vital for effective learning. With this in mind, contractors should liaise with a reputable manufacturer that understands the requirements of the sector in order to create education environments fit for the future.
Janet Lowe is head of marketing UK and Ireland at Forbo Flooring Systems