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Focus On Healing Environments From The Floor Up

Emma Goulding, of Altro, explains recent changes in the role of flooring in healthcare settings:

THE traditional priorities for flooring in hospitals, health centres and care homes remain the same – safety, hygiene, ease of cleaning and long-life. Important new research on design for therapeutic environments, however, shows flooring having an increasingly important role.

This creates a valuable opportunity for skilled fitters, as well as flooring manufacturers!

Just one year ago we could not have foreseen how hospitals would embrace bespoke and customised flooring. Projects like the award- winning refurbishment of the children’s unit at Salisbury District Hospital illustrate the role of skilled fitters.

This was a collaborative effort. Devereux Architects and ArtCare, the hospital’s in-house ‘arts in health’ team, worked with hospital staff and over 1,100 local schoolchildren and students from a nearby college to design a healing environment that encompasses clinical requirements and also distracts and delights children

in hospital.

The ambitious project was made possible by funding from the hospital’s charity the Stars Appeal which receives huge local community suppor t.

As well as customised design elements, such as cur ving cut shapes, and colour ful images, the flooring at Salisbury District Hospital is the first example of flooring being used for clinical purposes. The bespoke turtles in the flooring not only look great, but they aid the therapy team in clinical assessments of patients’ mobility. The flooring also features bespoke, waterjet cut designs to help with way-finding around the building.

This is a sea change from the merely practical grey safety flooring we associate with hospitals. The choice of colour for healthcare environments is now carefully considered, fuelled by important research, particularly with dementia patients and those with visual impairment. This challenges flooring manufacturers to be more ambitious in their colour options. Flooring ranges offering specifiers the widest choice have seen exceptional sales growth.

There are similar trends in care home and health centre settings. Here there is a demand for products delivering levels of performance associated with ‘commercial’ flooring, with aesthetic properties of domestic flooring. For example, there is a move to create a home-from- home without any institutional feeling.

This might mean contractors looking outside the usual product ranges to find harder working products, for example newly-launched safety flooring suitable for both bare feet and shoes, that is easier to clean than flooring with a studded surface. This is a classic requirement for care homes and social housing, where residents are assisted in their bathrooms by carers.

Finally, valuable opportunities are arising in the healthcare sector for flooring fitters who can install hygienic wall cladding. Having both products installed from a single source was not such an issue when there was plain white wall cladding at the lowest price. It is now common for a hospital ward to feature bespoke designed hygienic wall cladding and co-ordinating flooring. If you can provide both, it can put your company in a very healthy position.

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.