Identifying three specialised flooring options, LED, glass and rubber, while highlighting their functional properties.

There is such a great variety of flooring options available, be it for the commercial or residential sector, which can completely transform the look and feel of any space. Add to this mixture the ongoing developments in technology and innovative creations, and you will end up with a specification that will not just serve your clients’ needs, but actually exceed their expectations.

There are certain flooring options that are specialised in their very nature, formulation and installation. They are specified due to their unique characteristics, their aesthetic possibilities and, at times, simply because they are just so innovative that no other floor would be an exact match for that particular space. In this feature we take a look at three such specialised floors, namely LED, rubber, and glass. We are by no means isolating these as being the only specialised floors available to the market, but are rather investigating these options to reveal what makes them unique.

LED FLOORING: CASE STUDY

According to Wikipedia.org, a light-emitting diode (LED) is a two-lead semiconductor light source. It is a p–n junction diode, which emits light when activated. When a suitable voltage is applied to the leads, electrons are able to recombine with electron holes within the device, releasing energy in the form of photons. This effect is called electroluminescence, and the colour of the light (corresponding to the energy of the photon) is determined by the energy band gap of the semiconductor.

While its construction may sound complicated and highly scientific, its applications are truly phenomenal yet at the same time simple, proving that new or evolved technologies don’t have to be complicated in order to be a success. LED flooring has been welcomed by the flooring industry, and its numerous offerings are both inspiring and exciting.

LED flooring is commonly associated with night clubs where the use of interactive floors adds to the atmosphere of the space. However, the advancements in LED interactive floors have also resulted in a brand-new experience with regard to children’s ability to perceive certain actions or motions. The children’s market is filled with hundreds of offers, ranging from plastic dolls to small, lifelike robots, from simple board games to intricate computer virtual-worlds. The choice is so great that it becomes almost impossible to choose a brand or product.

In the meantime, children need to be mentally stimulated while exploring and discovering new things all the time. To appeal to children, the industry has to engage with games of non-standard formats, which is now possible thanks to LED interactive floors. This technology offers interactive games that require just a single move and a glossy floor that can be covered with various bright images. Children get to play with a virtual ball, gather clouds in heaps, flee from sharp-toothed piranhas or even conduct strategic wars in outer space, to name but a few features. These floors are ideal for children’s educational facilities, be they games rooms or classrooms.

LED floors are a template onto which different learning content can be implemented as needed, along with numerous graphical images. This type of activity enables children to play/collaborate with other children at the same time, ensuring mutual support which initiates communication and knowledge sharing among the players. Moreover, movement-based dynamic collaboration enhances children’s social skills, and the simulation of social contexts throughout games creates potential speech-stimulating situations in which their language skills can be developed.

The use of LED floors in children’s rehabilitation activities is a wonderful means of incorporating this technology. These floors’ capabilities makes them an effective tool for recovering vital physical functions of children, who demand a special approach when it comes to treatment and education. The efficiency of such applications were proven in a 2006 study through Aarhus University in Denmark, which is based on neuroscience theory which propounds that human verbal communication is directly linked with movement abilities; for example, stimulating bodily skills of hearing-challenged children enhances their linguistic capabilities.

This study showed that children interacted with the floor using both hands and feet as cursors, and therefore had no need to explain themselves with gestures and signs. Children were eager to join the games, which replaced routine and boring daily hearing exercises. LED interactive floors have the ability to conduct similar rehabilitation programmes without projectors and cameras. Interactive floors have also been proven to be an effective solution for rehabilitation of children with various musculoskeletal system impairments. This technology stimulates children’s movement abilities while they are playing with bright images on the floor’s surface. Provided that the appropriate content communicated via the LED floors is sufficient, more complex therapies such as the development of communication behaviour, eye-hand coordination training, etc. can be actioned.

Consequently, interactive LED floors serve as a unique platform where fun activities can be combined with an intellectual experience. Specifically designed games aim to develop children’s reactions and quick body action, thus encouraging their physical growth and development. As a result, LED floors are a beneficial solution for educational centres, crèches, schools and childcare centres.

At DOMOTEX Hannover 2014, a unique floor was introduced to the market in the form of underlay technology that can detect people’s movements with electronic sensors and consequently monitor rooms. This makes it ideal for hospitals and nursing homes. With the help of this type of flooring it is possible to tell if someone has fallen and needs assistance without breeching their privacy.

COMBINING 2 SPECIALISED FLOORING TYPES

A German company, ASB Systembau, has developed a new type of glass flooring that uses programmable LED lighting to create lines as well as video messaging or specific wording directly underneath the glass surface. Currently built into a school gym in Germany, the lighting can display a variety of boundary lines for sports such as basketball, tennis, badminton or other activities that can be played in a typical gymnasium. If this type of flooring was installed in a large sporting arena, it could also display the score on the floor during intermissions as well as advertisements for sponsors and lighting shows during half-time.

This glass flooring material undergoes a series of alterations using a ceramic treatment to reach a level of elasticity and friction that’s similar to a typical wooden floor. The company also conducts ‘bounce tests’ for gyms in order to make sure a basketball bounces at the same height as it would on a wood floor.

In addition, the glass surface is dulled to a point where the reflection is significantly reduced in order to avoid player distraction. Company representatives compare the reflection level to a typical marble surface. This treatment also hides any scratches that are caused during play and the flooring can be customised in any colour. The colour of the flooring can also be changed at a later date, which is ideal for teams that adopt different colours. In addition, the glass flooring is supported by a lightweight frame made of aluminium. This framing system houses the LED lighting.

When combined with sensor technologies, this type of flooring could change the way sports are played and judged. For example, a tennis court could digitally mark the spot where a tennis ball lands using an LED light and sensors built into the ball. Rather than looking at a replay video during a sporting event, the LED lighting system could offer an accurate placement of exactly where a ball landed or where a player’s foot stepped out of bounds.

This company is also pitching other venues as the LED flooring could be programmed for live music events and incorporated into a band’s performance. A variety of different colours can be used for the LED lights, making a floor which is well suited for nightclubs but which can also be used in corporate settings. For example, the glass flooring could display the company logo or video presentations of recent advertising campaigns in the lobby of the company’s headquarters. The glass floor with LED lights showcases how the combination of specific technologies and functionalities can result in a floor that sets new standards when it comes to specialised flooring.

RUBBER FLOORING

This floorcovering has been a popular choice for many years as it is durable, resilient, and ideal for commercial environments as it can be used in sport facilities, healthcare settings and playgrounds, to name a few. It is also sound absorbent and anti-static, are hard to gouge, scuff or scratch, giving them tremendous longevity, and offers attractive designs and patterns that are compatible with today’s architectural trends without sacrificing performance, sustainability, or cost.
Before selecting a rubber floor, a few factors need to be taken into consideration.

Choosing the best rubber floor depends a great deal on where it will be installed. Different types of facilities have different needs, and it’s important to consider all aspects when selecting this floor.

•    Offices, schools and libraries
There is a range of rubber options for these environments. Colour palettes and textures are expanding constantly with these products, creating a broader range to select from. To add some vibrancy you can cut and inlay interior designs or logos directly onto the flooring. Recycled rubber manufacturers are creating some amazing colour mixtures for commercial applications.

•    Fitness Facilities
In this category, you get what you pay for. There are several products to choose from, and they all offer a different balance of performance versus cost. You need to consider how long you are willing to go before replacing the floor, the zones you are looking to cover (cardio, weightlifting/dumbbells, etc.) Before making a decision, check the density. A product that has lower rubber content and higher levels of polyurethane will feel spongy and the pores and granules will be visible. In comparison, a higher-density product that has higher rubber content will be less porous, and may outlast the others two to three times. If you’re unsure, check the respective weight per square foot of products of equal thickness. Higher weight means a higher rubber-to-binder ratio, which gives you a higher-density product.

A loose-lay, interlocking floor is an ideal solution. When managed properly, interlocking tiles allow you to rotate mats from high-traffic zones to light/no traffic areas to extend the life of the floor. If manufactured from a block, as opposed to cut from a roll, you will also be able to flip the mat should the top ever be damaged. Interlocking tiles also allow you to take the floor with you should you vacate the premises.

It is advisable to take extra precautions around dumbbells. Attention should be given in areas where heavy weight training will take place. Additional matting will be needed to protect the sub-surface. Always ask for what options are available.

•    Ice arenas
In these areas a glued-down product should always be used. The glue will act as a barrier to any snow, ice or water being trapped beneath the floor. The glue will also restrict mats from expanding and contracting due to temperature fluctuations. Always check that the manufacturer will warrant their product for these applications.

After taking the needs of the facility into consideration, the specification process can go ahead. It should also be noted that rubber flooring has numerous benefits that will aid a successful installation. It is inherently anti-fatigue and antibacterial, but it should also be highlighted that not all rubber floors are made equal. They may share the same basic constituents, but it’s all in the proportions of each, and the quality thereof, and each manufacturer’s process. There is good, better and best to factor into your budget and decision making.

Rubber also has a memory. If a rubber floor is manufactured from a roll, it will retain its curl, which is why it should be glued down for best results. If a rubber floor is manufactured flat (from a block), it will always lie flat, even when loose laid.

A rubber floor with its look, feel and performance is ideal for various environments, specialised or not. By taking note of the above factors, you can be assured of a quality installation and a quality product with a long lifespan.

In conclusion, specialised flooring, be it LED, glass or rubber, continues to evolve at a rapid rate, and with that comes the realisation of innovative ideas. This type of floorcovering relies on creative thought processes and, when combined with technological advancements, will result in a floor that is as unique as its inventors.

Acknowledgement and thanks go to www.sourcefloor,com; www.healthcaredive.com and www.digitaltrends.com for the information contained in this article.