Venues such as airports, shopping malls, restaurants and entertainment facilities all have a requirement to handle thousands of feet, trolleys or other wheeled vehicles on a daily basis.

Nearly every type of floorcovering has products or a range of systems to accommodate regular crowds of people using such a facility, making this a very competitive market indeed, so in this introductory article we give a broad outline of the basic requirements necessary for a floor that must carry heavy volumes of traffic, and we speak to the property owners and facility managers of typically heavily trafficked floors to find out what they expect from the floor, and to review their preferred floorcoverings that can meet this demand.

Every building has a floor, and for those that must accommodate high volumes of foot and trolley traffic it is necessary to take special care during the design stage, or before the refurbishment of a building starts, regarding the choice of the different types of flooring to be installed.

In general terms the floors must be fit-forpurpose and safe. This is critical for the longterm performance of any type of floor and for its ease of maintenance. Not all floor finishes are suitable for all locations, and the environment in which the building is situated will often determine the type of floorcovering that is appropriate for its location or intended use.

For example, vinyl flooring, laminates and epoxy floors are often favoured in high-traffic areas where spillages may occur. This is because of their resistance to staining and ease of cleaning, which is why they are regularly found in busy restaurants and bars.

Obviously airports, university buildings and public buildings are high-traffic areas which must have floors that can withstand huge amounts of heavy traffic on a daily basis, which is why ceramic or porcelain tiles, terrazzo, marble, granite, epoxy surfaces or other hard flooring, including polished concrete, often feature.

These hard surfaces are hardwearing, lowmaintenance, and will withstand heavy traffic for years, encompassing all the qualities required of floors in these applications.

However, there are many highly-trafficked floor areas where it is imperative to use a high quality carpet to meet their aesthetic and ambience requirements, such as casinos, upmarket hotels, entertainment and conference centres, offices, commercial environments and many more.

For these projects the industry has developed yarns, fibres, carpet backings and other innovations to enable the anticipated traffic to be handled with ease, without denigrating the expected lifespan of the carpets. Specifiers must get up to date with the latest flooring technologies.


Ease of maintenance is another requirement that needs to be considered carefully. Spills on carpets need to be removed as soon as possible, if not when they happen; terrazzo might require regular buffing, and marble might require polishing. Over time, the cost of labour to maintain the flooring will be many times higher than the initial installation cost per square metre.

Most manufacturers and suppliers of flooring materials can give you examples of the service longevity of their products, but the life expectancy of a particular floor type can vary enormously if it is not properly cleaned and maintained.   For example, you might find that a carpet has lasted many years because the cleaning and maintenance has been of the highest quality, whereas in other applications the same carpet has worn out or dirtied out because of lack of appropriate cleaning.


Because people always walk in the middle of corridors or hallways, that is where the flooring will show signs of wear first, so architects and designers should consider what flooring to use where the centre of the passageway where regular replacement would be need.

Where carpeting is favoured for a hightraffic corridor, it might be possible to insert a new section of carpet to replace the worn area – particularly if the existing carpet has a border that can remain because hardly anyone walks on the edges. However, the perfect answer could be to use carpet tiles that can be uplifted and replaced with new, or with tiles from a less-used area of the building.

Any of the hard floorcoverings would also present minimal problems, and the latest contender in these applications is luxury vinyl flooring – particularly the type with the wooden-plank look which adds style to the décor and maintains all the advantages of a vinyl floor in terms of easy cleaning and longevity.

Indoor Air Quality

Some flooring products may contribute to poor indoor air quality, particularly due to the generation of dust, allergens, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Dust and allergens can cause respiratory, dermal and ocular distress, while negative health effects observed from inhalation of VOCs span from headaches to respiratory irritation, and some are suspected or known carcinogens.

However, VOCs that source from flooring are associated less frequently with the flooring material itself than with the products used in manufacture, installation, and maintenance or refurbishment.

As this indicates, the indoor air quality aspects need careful scrutiny before specifying or installing any flooring products, because the heavy traffic they will be subjected to will only exacerbate the problems.

Floors under pressure

To find out what companies do about their floors that experience vast amounts of annual foot traffic, we spoke to Kurt Parker, Procurement Manager for Growthpoint, and Michael McKenzie, Executive Manager – Group Technical for Edcon Group Property.


Growthpoint is the largest listed South African property company on the JSE by market capitalisation (31 December 2012: R43,3 billion), with assets of over R55,5 billion, owning and managing 390 properties in South Africa, 43 in Australia, and a 50% interest in the properties of the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

Through this portfolio, the Group provides more than 5,4 million square metres of retail, office and industrial space to South African and Australian businesses.

In line with most other property companies, Growthpoint rents commercial space to tenants who are responsible for the flooring installed in their spaces; they also independently determine what flooring materials are to be used.

Kurt Parker says that Growthpoint does get involved in smaller repair work, where they use preferred flooring contractors, but if a large renovation or refurbishment is required, this work is put out to tender. The refurbishment of facilities for a new incoming tenant is purely based on the tenant’s requirements and will differ in each instance.

“New tenants can decide what flooring is installed in their space, but Growthpoint ensures that the relevant safety and legislative standards are adhered to,” he says. “Floors are not replaced on a time basis; replacements are specific to the tenant’s requirements.”


Michael McKenzie says that to ascertain the type of flooring for each facility Edcon has a matrix format that determines the specification. Edcon has various brands under its umbrella, Edgars, Boardmans, Red Square, Edgars Active, Edgars Shoe Gallery, Jet, JetMart, Legit, CNA, and each of these has its own unique aesthetic appearance and therefore a flooring selection to suit.

Within each brand, there is also a matrix that further informs whether it’s an entry-level or premium-level store depending on store footprint size among many considerations. Again, aesthetically there are differences in grades of stores.

Further consideration is given to whether the store is located in a mall or whether it has off-the-street access. Mall stores suffer far less wear than their street-facing counterparts due to the mall environment being generally cleaner regarding dust and, obviously, overall weather conditions.

Regarding preference for certain flooring materials, Michael says, “Our current material of choice is porcelain tiles for all our brands. This is applied to the trading areas of the stores. Back office areas have ceramic or vinyl flooring.”

For repairs or new floors, he says, “One of my division’s responsibilities is procurement so this is fully managed by my team. We conduct annual tenders with our current suppliers and also invite new suppliers onboard to participate in the tender process. During the tender adjudication, a short list of suppliers is put forward to the tender committee and work allocations are made based on cost, workload and geographical considerations.”

The group facilities management team that looks after the care of existing stores also makes use of the same supplier pool for ongoing repairs or maintenance.

We asked how often Edcon plan to refurbish the individual stores and how is a corporate design handled, and Michael replied, “Historically, a brand’s primary design concept would exist for 10 years or so before a total new concept would be developed for that brand.”

“In the 10-year period however there is a fair amount of evolution that the brand concept undergoes that will enable the brand’s look and feel to be in tune with the trading environment with respect to product offering as well as design trend.”

“However, we do expect our floors to last the entire period of time. The design evolution referred to above seldom involves changing floors within this time period as a well-selected floor design and quality should be able to remain relevant despite the changing fixture sets, paint schemes and product offerings placed on it.”

“Once a new concept is developed, applied to a set of pilot stores and approved, a process will be followed to apply the concept to strategic stores in a fairly rapid fashion. Thus the new concept is announced to the market whereafter a steady rollout of the new concept would take place over a period of time.”

“We are currently finding that we spend time on designs and new thinking on concepts far more often and that the 10-year period is shortening. This is really a manifestation of the competitive nature of the retail environment as well as the consumer’s expectations of new and fresh shopping experiences,” he said.

The aesthetic decisions would be made by the designers in consultation with the relevant brand Chief Executive. The operations division will have influence with regard to the cleaning regime as well as cost of maintenance of the floor.

Asked whether Edcon has a floor cleaning agreement with a professional cleaning company, Michael said the Edcon group outsources this function to a professional cleaning company. The appointment process is again managed by the Group Facilities division, he concluded.

Da Ocean Basket

Having been established for a mere 17 years, the Ocean Basket Franchise Group is a resounding success with more than 160 seafood restaurants established worldwide – a success that Paul Portino says is due to an exciting menu of top-quality seafood at remarkably low prices, plus excellent and friendly service.

“We also have a focused location strategy of targeted visibility and high foot traffic. In addition, we are proud to announce that the company is now fully compliant with the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI),” Paul says. “So when you eat at any of our stores you know da feesh is fresh and it comes from only the very best suppliers.”

Acknowledgement and thanks are given to the following for information contained in the compilation of this article:; Kurt Parker, Procurement Manager for Growthpoint Properties; Michael McKenzie, Executive Manager – Group Technical, Edcon Group Property; and contributors to many previous articles in FLOORS in Africa on this subject..