Forbo Flooring Systems’ Lewis Cooper explores the correct specification of floor coverings for education environments
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The UK education sector encompasses an exceptionally diverse variety of buildings, each with its own set of design challenges. From tiny village primaries, to high-tech purpose-built Academies, the requirements vary enormously. Even within an individual school, different classrooms and facilities require their own flooring solutions. Lewis Cooper, Segment Marketing Manager for the Education Sector at Forbo Flooring Systems explains more.
When it comes to any project, designers and specifiers need to understand how the building will be used to determine what materials are specified – and this shouldn’t be anything different for the education sector. Indeed, there are many different environments within an educational building, ranging from toilets to kitchens, laboratories to sport halls, and canteens to libraries, all of which require their own flooring solution. So what factors need to be considered? And what are the suitable floor coverings for each application?
With large numbers of pupils passing through a building every day – most of whom are unlikely to stop to wipe their feet – an effective entrance system is vital. Whether it’s a rigid first line of defence, like the Nuway range, or a textile clean-off system, such as Coral, an entrance flooring system is designed to keep out dirt and moisture, which in turn helps to reduce slips and falls. What’s more, if solutions such as Forbo’s Coral entrance products are chosen, not only can they stop up to 95 per cent of dirt and moisture from entering the building, they can also reduce cleaning costs by up to 65 per cent.
Corridors take a pounding from foot traffic, so floor coverings need to be extra tough to withstand the onslaught. Durability, slip resistance and sound reduction are the key things to consider when choosing solutions for these noisy, busy spaces. An acoustic vinyl sheet, such as Sarlon for example, is a hard-wearing option that can offer impact sound reduction from 15 to 19dB – perfect for mitigating the din caused by rowdy lesson changeovers.
Where sustainability is a concern, linoleum is an environmentally-friendly choice, containing 97 per cent natural raw materials and 43 per cent reused and recycled content. In fact, the weighted average of Forbo’s Marmoleum product range is CO2 neutral (cradle to gate) without offsetting. Linoleum is also an extremely durable material that provides natural bacteriostatic properties, having been independently proven to inhibit the growth and spread of infections, such as MRSA, Norovirus, Acinetobacter baumannii and C Difficile. It is also approved by Allergy UK.
For school renovation projects, minimising disruption is a priority so looking for solutions that can be installed quickly should be considered. Modul’up, for example, is a completely adhesive free sheet vinyl which reduces installation time by over 50 per cent compared to standard glued down products, and can even be fitted over existing floors in many cases, avoiding the need for expensive and time-consuming removal of the current flooring.
Classrooms and libraries
Creating a safe and warm environment is key within general teaching suites, so that pupils feel secure and inspired. However, it’s absolutely critical to get the acoustics right in these areas, as unwanted noise can seriously impair students’ learning ability. Carpet tiles are a popular choice, as they can achieve impact sound reductions between 22 and 30dB, which will encourage maximum concentration from pupils. Offering an inviting, tactile feel, modular formats, such as Forbo’s Tessera range, means that individual tiles can be easily maintained or replaced if they become damaged.
Combining the comfort and warmth of carpet tiles with the hard-wearing performance of a resilient, Forbo’s Flotex range is another perfect solution, as it is hard-wearing, durable and can reduce impact sound by up to 22dB.
Kitchens, toilets and changing areas
Dining areas are used and abused daily and as such should contain durable, hygienic and easily cleanable materials. This means choosing products that offer excellent slip resistance, as well as the durability to cope with hundreds of pupils, staff and visitors day in, day out. A hard working general purpose vinyl sheet, such as Eternal, is the ideal choice, as it offers a practical combination of resilience and safety. However, for high-risk areas in terms of slips and falls – like kitchens and bathrooms – a safety sheet vinyl is required. Where this slip risk is due to continuous contamination, look for products with even higher safety ratings, such as Safestep R11 or Safestep R12.
With so many different applications within one building, designing a flooring scheme for schools can be complex, which is why the HM Government’s Education Skills and Funding Agency recently produced a Generic Design Brief, which contains guidance on the type of floor finishes that should be used in schools. While this advice is available, by liaising with a flooring expert, such as Forbo, which has solutions for all areas mentioned within the guide (including entrances & circulation, classrooms, kitchens, dining areas, libraries and toilets) you will be able to ensure that the most appropriate product is chosen for each area.
For more information please visit the Forbo Flooring Systems website.