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Flooring solutions with comfort and safety in education

ENSURING educational spaces have the best levels of comfort, safety and focus is now more important than ever. How an educational environment is designed significantly impacts a learner’s academic progress and key aspects of the design challenge can be supported through the selection of flooring solutions.

Value-based procurement is now a key theme in the education sector. It’s used to describe whole life costing and the means by which value can be delivered to stakeholders that’s over-and-above purchase price.

In higher education estates managers are aware of the impact of material choices in a range of different environments from lecture theatres to study areas and of course student accommodation.
Meanwhile school classrooms are dynamic spaces that need to support different styles of learning throughout the day.

Yet, despite being a constant in every classroom, flooring treatments are often overlooked for their impact on the experience of teachers and learners. Acoustics, comfort, and air quality all contribute to the health and wellbeing of students, while good design can help create inspiring surroundings.

Educational estates run on strict schedules throughout the year. To minimise disruption to learning, it is critical that projects like flooring installations can be scheduled to coincide with holiday times. Thanks to its carbon neutral manufacturing facility in Scotland, Shaw Contract’s In Stock programme is said by the company to provide consistent and fast-track supply for projects with quick turnaround times.

Consistency is key. The ability to replace a small section of flooring, or even a single tile, keeps floors up to standards and your carbon footprint down. Shaw Contract’s tiles with 100% recycled yarn and 75% recycled content backing also contribute to a sustainable choice, says the company.
It adds: ‘With modular flooring you can replace one tile at a time, as required and don’t have to plan for lengthy closure periods. Shaw Contract’s No Rules carpet tiles, with mergeable dye lots, provide the option to replace small sections of flooring, ordering material as needed instead of keeping ‘attic stock’.

When Castle Mead Academy, a new 1200-place eight form entry site in Leicester, required new flooring solutions within classrooms, corridors and the library, Shaw Contract carpet tiles were specified for a ‘durable, high-performance solution’, made in the UK, for this high-traffic educational setting.

Continues Shaw Contract: ‘Inspired by transitions in nature, the Auxiliary collection carpet tiles in styles Complement promote a sense of calm in the corridors, while the library area has styles Complement and Feature in blue and grey tones. The colour blue can represent both the sky and the sea, and is associated with intuition, imagination and inspiration. Cradle to Cradle certified, the Auxiliary tiles are also certified Indoor Air Comfort. And Auxiliary is part of Shaw Contract’s In Stock programme.’

Care and maintenance
Today, there’s an increased focus on safety and hygiene. Maintenance and cleaning considerations are also a key consideration for value-driven projects. Flooring offers options need to be easy to maintain and clean in education environments.

A substantial number of scientific studies now have found that chemicals, including VOCs, emitted from cleaning and sanitising products may have health effects, primarily in those using the products professionally.

Yet proper vacuuming is the most important process in the maintenance programme for carpet tiles – and this requires no chemical input at all.

Meanwhile no polish, no buff, resilient LVT products eliminates the need for moping, stripping or sealing hard surfaces with solvents and waxes. Shaw Contract’s ExoGuard finish on LVT provides excellent stain, scratching and abrasion resistance too, says the company.

Indoor comfort
Indoor air quality (IAQ) in classrooms affects students’ wellbeing on a fundamental level. Maintaining good IAQ facilitates regular brain development. With a firm commitment to material health, Shaw Contract carpet tiles reportedly meet strict European compliance for low VOC products and are all independently verified for Indoor Air Comfort GOLD by Eurofins. Cradle-to-Cradle certified also means throughout the production process material health and ingredients are a core focus.

Adds Shaw Contract: ‘Similarly LVT options such as Shaw Contract’s Nordic or Unite collections are formulated without ortho-phthalates and are certified to rigorous indoor emissions requirements as Low VOC Certified.

‘Our ability to learn suffers when we struggle to understand what is being said or there is excessive noise that breaks our concentration. Acoustics and noise disturbance significantly impact teaching and learning processes, particularly in earlier education where sound production (learning to pronounce the sounds that form language) is essential.’

Shaw Contract carpet tiles are available with TaskWorx or ComfortWorx backing solutions. Says the company: ‘ComfortWorx backing provides for improved acoustic performance as well as underfoot comfort. Loudness of impact noise can be halved when compared with standard tiles, while more than a 65% improvement in sound absorption can also be achieved.’

The study The Impact of Classroom Design on Pupils’ Learnings, from the University of Salford, Manchester, reveals that the physical aspects of a classroom such as colour, light, texture and air quality could improve a student’s learning progress by up to 16%. Therefore the right choice of flooring for these learning spaces can actually support a student’s ability to learn.

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