FLOTEX HELPS CREATE A CALMING ENVIRONMENT FOR NEW STATE-OF-THE-ART AUTISM CENTRE
Forbo Flooring Systems’ Flotex Penang flocked flooring has been installed at the Caudwell International Children’s Centre (CICC), the UK’s first independent purpose-built facility dedicated to autism diagnosis, intervention and research. The subtle aesthetics and tactile nature of Flotex will help to create a calming and easily cleanable environment for children with autism and neurodevelopmental conditions.
Launched by national charity Caudwell Children, the 60,000 sq ft building at Keele University Science and Innovation Park was meticulously designed through a close working partnership between the charity’s CEO, Trudi Beswick, and Cheshire-based architects C4 Consulting Ltd. The curved steel roofs, shaped in a butterfly figure of eight, houses a variety of multi-functional spaces including state-of-the-art assessment suites, a sensory integration room and teaching kitchens.
Trudi Beswick, Chief Executive at Caudwell Children said: “The inspiration for the CICC’s design is primarily based upon 15 years of working closely with children and families; learning how children with additional needs react to different environments and situations. We then conducted extensive consultation with a wide variety of stakeholders including clinicians, academics and, crucially, the families that will use the facility. This insight, and the charity’s direct involvement in the design process, proved to be an important part of the building’s construction.”
James Pass, Director and Architect at C4 Consulting said: “We carried out a lot of research into the causes and effects of overstimulation for children with neurodevelopmental conditions and their coping mechanisms. Using this research and Trudi’s unique insight and invaluable input, together we looked into how we could design functional and safe spaces to accommodate the children’s needs whilst also trying to reduce distracting stimuli to aid engagement.
“In the design we had to take into consideration that colours and patterns can be a significant source of overstimulation, and even anxiety, for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Overtly patterned floors can be distracting to walk over and can lead to fixation or even confusion therefore we had to ensure that any patterns present in the floor coverings at the CICC were minimal and that any repetition in the pattern was not discernable.
“Trudi’s previous experience as a designer, combined with our joint research into the effects of colour and texture, identified that pastel colours were associated with a calming effect for the children, while greys were considered neutral. As such, we looked to keep to those colours wherever possible. The challenge was therefore to find easily cleanable, resilient and subtle patterned flooring which could be used in multiple locations while also meeting stringent Building Control and Health Technical Memorandum standards.”
Forbo’s flocked flooring, Flotex Penang in Grey, was installed throughout the public area, in each of the assessment suites, meeting rooms and family areas of the CICC. The semi-plain Penang design from the Flotex Colour range offers a subtle linear effect with no pattern repeats, reducing wastage and making installation easier. The unique construction of Flotex provides the comfort and warmth of a carpet combined with the cleanability and durability of a resilient floor, which is particularly important in an environment for children, where accidents are likely to happen. Flotex is also the only textile floor covering to be awarded the prestigious Allergy UK Seal of ApprovalTM.
James continued: “There were a number of considerations, not just colour and pattern, that contributed to the choice of flooring specification. Caudwell Children are working towards receiving NHS referrals, which means that the Assessment Suite areas needed to meet specific Health Technical Memorandum (HTM) standards. The chosen flooring needed to be easy to clean and have ‘minimal jointing’, therefore Flotex was ideal as it comes in a 2m wide roll which meant that it could be easily installed in the designated areas. In addition, its subtle and non-repeating pattern was crucial to the product’s selection in these areas due to the children’s perception of their environment.
“Another factor that we had to consider was meeting Building Regulations Part E and the BB93 requirements governing audio privacy and reverberation, both of which are a significant distracting stimuli to children with neurodevelopmental conditions. As such, at the CICC, we actively looked to exceed all current acoustic requirements for room-to-room sound transmission and reverberation to provide an exemplar facility.”
“Flotex sheet offer up to 20dB impact noise reduction and assisted in reducing reverberation times in the key areas. Whilst traditional carpet may have been able to offer this, they would not have been easily cleanable or available on a roll which was critical for HTM compliance. This was a significant benefit in the product’s favour and, when presented to the client, we knew that the versatile and tactile nature of the floor covering was a perfect fit for the demanding criteria we had to meet.”
Furthermore, Forbo’s Allura Wood Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) in Blue Pastel Oak was selected for the main corridors of the public area. The assessment suites and breakout spaces lead off from the corridors, so the variation of flooring would allow the children to differentiate each space and identify their direction of travel. Allura Wood LVT offers maximum realism of natural wood with the benefits of a comfortable and durable vinyl.
Trudi added: “The design of the CICC was a highly complex process, incorporating multiple criteria which intersected with different elements of the building’s layout and intended usage. The flooring choice had to meet the demands of a high traffic, clinical environment while offering specific design elements that would contribute to the overall atmosphere we wanted to create. Forbo’s products offered the technical specification we required combined with the designs to complement the rest of the interior design scheme and we are very happy with the overall results.”
The Caudwell International Children’s Centre is due to fully open in May 2019 and is part of a long-term project by the charity to provide a new evidence-based pathway of assessment, intervention, family support and research for children with autism and their families.
For more information on Forbo’s portfolio for care facilities, please visit: https://www.forbo.com/flooring/en-uk/segments/care/pi3g7f