There are so many factors to consider when designing a space that flooring is often left until last – particularly exterior flooring. While a better approach would be to include everything from landscape architecture to exterior flooring and paving options right from the concept drawings and sketches, it seems that too many architects focus on building elements and what are considered as more “high impact” architectural features.

For a beautiful space to function as it should and create the intended appeal and ambience, the exterior flooring selection needs to be carefully considered. This is the first contact that a person or visitor will have with the space and even if this impression is subconscious, it does have an effect on the overall impression of a space or building.

Practical considerations
Not only does the often-forgotten exterior have a subconscious effect on a person’s psyche, it also has practical implications. If visitors have to walk extra carefully because the exterior flooring isn’t suited to formal footwear, if children aren’t able to play and run in a space that is supposed to be child friendly or if factory work5ers need to change the wheeled-equipment that they use when moving items from indoors to outdoors, then the exterior isn’t contributing to the design intent of a building or property.

Security considerations
Security managers are increasingly being consulted about security design elements of the exterior of a building. Instead of viewing a security manager as merely the chief guard of a property, these members of staff can offer key insights into landscape architecture that can contribute to everything from computer security and garden lighting to demarcated pathways outside a building.

As companies are becoming more concerned with litigation issues, safety pitfalls and security measures, it makes sense for architects to consider the exterior of a building, as well as the exterior flooring, to see how they can enhance the safety and security of the spaces. It is wise for security professionals and architects to work together, because if the architect isn’t aware or concerned about safety and security, security problems could be designed into the proposed layout or opportunities to improve security could be ignored.

The landscape and exterior flooring can have an immense impact on the architecture of a building, which is why specifiers and other design professionals need to be aware of all the options in order to guide a client on the best installation. Exterior flooring can broadly be categorised as follows:

Artificial grass
Artificial grass is made up of synthetic fibres and it emulates real grass. The latest design trends in artificial grass include bold and bright colours that can either be used in kids’ play areas or to contribute to the aesthetics of a building. Some of the benefits of installing artificial grass include reduced water bills, environmental benefits because you don’t need to use fertilisers and pesticides, no maintenance, beautiful grass sections in shaded areas, and it won’t get damaged or muddy in wet weather.

Permeable paving
Permeable paving allows water to pass through small openings and re-enter the ground. There are a variety of permeable materials that offer the best of both worlds: a porous patio or driveway surface that is also very attractive. Not only does permeable paving enable you to manage storm water and prevent runoff and pollution, it also replenishes the groundwater supply and there are many unique design options available in the market.

Decorative paving
Decorative paving enables you to complement the architecture of your building with flexible paving systems. Some of the options include the timeless, European look of concrete paving stones, a sand-setting bed, crushed-stone bases, and/or concrete subbases. Decorative paving can be used in cycle paths, crosswalks, shopping malls, traffic islands, plazas, decks, roadways and virtually any other exterior flooring application.

Stone flooring
The aesthetic appeal of stone makes this material a popular option for exterior flooring installations. Quartz stone floors are trowelled onto a screed, tiles or cement surface. These floors are seamless, non-slip, smooth, scratch resistant, durable, easy to clean and can last a long time. They can be installed on roof decks, verandas, patios and virtually any type of exterior space and can be coloured to accommodate various designers and patterns.

Other stone options include marble, granite, porcelain pavers, limestone, slate, travertine and flagstone, to name a few.

Rubber flooring
Rubber is fast gaining popularity as a durable and efficient flooring material. It is slip resistant, attractive, durable, anti-microbial and hypoallergenic, recyclable, available in many shapes and sizes, and easy to maintain. Rubber flooring is available in tile and sheet formats, as well as in wet pour and you can specify it in virtually any colour thanks to advances in manufacturing processes.

Decking
Composite and wood decks give a unique aesthetic appeal to a space. The type of decking that a client chooses will depend on their visual goals, maintenance routines and budget. Timber decks as well as certain composite decks can be refinished. A proper cleaning routine can enhance decks to look good as new. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of each option when advising a client.

Car park decking
The car park decking flooring sector has changed drastically over the past few years. Many manufacturers are offering systems that offer a number of features, such as reducing noise from tyre squeals, and improving light reflectivity. Demarcation is also a factor when specifying for this application.

Specialised tip: For a beautiful space to function as it should and create the intended appeal and ambience, the exterior flooring selection needs to be carefully considered.

Thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.belgotexfloors.co.za, www.eva-last.co.za , www.quartzcarpet.co.za, www.architectsecuritygroup.com, www.topcarpetsandfloor.co.za, www.buzzgrass.com, www.landscapingnetwork.com and www.decorativepaving.com for some of the information contained in this article.