By Sandra Soraci, EDAC, LEED AP, NCIDQ, and Tasha Hughes
Not long ago, design drivers focused on esthetics and price when it came to the selection and specification of floorcoverings in healthcare facilities. Floors are a vital part of the palette supporting interior designers’ visions and allowing them to adhere to project budget constraints. Decisions pertaining to flooring and its performance characteristics have evolved, and are now far more complex, often guided by an evidence-based design strategy acknowledging a link between the physical environment, materials specified, and patient and staff outcomes.
Floorcoverings are now being evaluated according to a new set of design and performance criteria. They still need to adhere to budget guidelines, and must have esthetic appeal, since they contribute to visitors’ first impressions of a space and shape opinions about the quality of care. However, they must also support clinical efficiency—including effective maintenance, safety, and operational optimization (i.e. the ability to still be able to turn a patient room without it being affected by flooring maintenance)—via performance characteristics impacting patients and staff.
Premium rubber flooring has remained a strong choice. It addresses barriers—including the ability to clean a patient room, acoustics, safety, patient experience, musculoskeletal health, caregiver retention, health and wellness, indoor air quality (IAQ), and ease of maintenance—in the built environment and offers multiple performance characteristics to healthcare professionals and their patients.
The Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) defines “resilient” as vinyl composition tile (VCT), sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl tile (LVT), linoleum, and rubber. Therefore rubber is one form of resilient flooring. However, all rubber floors are not created equal. A premium rubber floor has no factory-applied finish, never needs coating regardless of service line location, and cleans with little more than water. Other rubber floors can require a coating based on location or come with a coating to avoid damage as the surface density has vast differences affecting stain resistance, the floor’s restorability and repairability, and cost of ownership.
Composition materials and differences in manufacturing processes result in floors differing in appearance and ability to meet the performance demands of a healthcare facility. Premium rubber flooring is a combination of high-quality rubber, raw mineral materials extracted from natural deposits, and environmentally compatible colour pigments with manufacturing processes that create a single homogenous product free of layers. Together, these materials and processes ensure the safety, durability, surface density, stain resistance, maintenance, and reparability of floors contributing to positive patient and staff outcomes.