For educational facilities, design and material choices can have a significant effect on the health, wellbeing and performance of students and staff, as well as impacting the long-term maintenance costs. Lewis Cooper, our Segment Marketing Manager for Education here at Forbo, looks at the role flooring plays in creating a high-quality learning environment.
There is now a growing recognition that our environments affect how we feel and behave, and this is particularly important in schools, colleges and universities. For example, the University of Salford conducted an in-depth study of primary schools and found that the physical characteristics of classrooms, such as air quality, colour and light, made a significant difference to pupils’ development in reading, writing and maths. Therefore, it’s critical to create a learning environment that can aid pupils’ academic and cognitive development.
When designing learning spaces, a balance must be achieved between creating a visually interesting environment and one that that is distracting. Studies have shown that for both visual complexity and colour, both too little and too much can be detrimental to learning.
The correct choice of flooring is an excellent way to introduce an appropriate level of visual texture and colour. Vinyl flooring solutions which contain chips of complementary colours are ideal for this purpose. For example, our new Sphera Energetic premium homogeneous vinyl range has a wide choice of different designs from the clean, crisp Uni collection to bolder options such as Shimmer, Vivid and Confetti.
For some applications it may be important to create a warm, comfortable and welcoming aesthetic, and flooring with natural tones and textures, such as our new Marmoleum Linear collection, can help to achieve this.
Our CO2 neutral Marmoleum Linear collection has a softly striated design, evoking an expression of wood and is available in cool greys, warm greys, earthy tones and warm browns.
It is also important to consider indoor air quality and the impact of material choices. One of the key concerns is volatile organic compounds (VOC), which are emitted from some new building materials, including flooring, paints and furnishings. In particular, flooring products that contain phthalates as a softening agent should be avoided as this has been found to negatively affect people’s health.
Where possible, it is recommended that specifiers source products that do not contain any softening agents. For example, certain linoleum products are manufactured to be free of VOCs and phthalates, and do not emit any chemicals or odours after installation.
A further factor when selecting flooring for schools is how it can reduce allergens in the air. Specifiers should look for products that have the Allergy UK Seal of Approval™, such as our Flotex and Marmoleum collections, which certifies that, with the correct cleaning regime, they will not harbour allergens. It is also awarded to products with a significantly reduced allergen content.
Additionally, controlling sound levels in teaching spaces is essential. Research has found that in some poorly designed classrooms speech intelligibility rates drop as low as 50 per cent by the fourth row from the front. This means students are likely to miss crucial information during classroom teaching sessions.
Specifiers must look to improve levels of in-room sound absorption and impact sound reduction. The former refers to levels of sound absorbed by different materials in a room, whilst the latter focuses on limiting the decibel level of certain impacts, such as footsteps or moving chairs, on the building levels below.
The correct choice of floor coverings can help to reduce impact sound. There are a range of acoustic floor covering options, but it is worth looking at manufacturers who can offer a wide variety of colour and designs so there is no need to compromise on the aesthetics. You can view our impressive Acoustic Collection here.
Finally, flooring in educational buildings must be able to withstand the demands of the environment, including high levels of foot traffic, year after year. Therefore, the durability of the floor covering is essential. High quality linoleum or vinyl flooring can provide a hardwearing and long-lasting option for everything from nurseries to universities.
The ease of cleaning is also a factor to consider, to ensure good levels of hygiene and a long-lasting finish. Our SMART-top, Topshield pro and Xtreme PUR surface finishes, such as those found on our Sphera Energetic and Marmoleum Linear collections, resist staining and scratches and make cleaning simpler.
The design and specification of educational buildings can make a substantial difference to the daily experience of students and staff – and flooring has a significant role in creating a good learning and teaching environment, from improving acoustics to being a key part of the overall colour scheme.
Click here to find out more about our range of flooring solutions for the education sector.