Top 10 factors that influence the specification of floorcoverings.
Determining which factors contribute to the decision-making process when specifying floorcoverings needs to be explored and communicated to the built industry in order to convey what influences architects’ and designers’ decisions. Why do they specify certain floorcoverings for certain projects, and what key elements do they look for when specifying these products?
This article identifies the top 10 factors that both architects and designers consider when specifying various floor types, with the end goal to successfully service the needs of potential clients, and ultimately ensure that the completed project is both visually appealing and practical in terms of performance and lifespan.
It goes without saying that budget is the driving factor upon which several flooring specification decisions are made. Everything is planned and selected according to client budgets, but the challenge is to ensure that floorcoverings of the highest possible quality within budget are specified without jeopardising the ultimate quality and end result of a project. Cost-efficiency is therefore a given in any brief and proposal and going over budget is never an option.
2. Knowledge and experience
After numerous discussions with specifiers, it has become evident how much time and energy they invest in developing their knowledge on the types of products available to the industry, be it national or international. Not only do they keep abreast of product developments, but they never cease to explore industry trends and how these can be implemented in a practical manner. This knowledge is acquired by attending trade shows, reading trade magazines like our own, through research, and via continual communication with company representatives.
This knowledge is implemented in every single project undertaken by architects and interior designers. Eventually, they rely on their experience of a product/s when specifying for future projects, turning to companies and products because of the entire service package offered, not just the product alone. Their rationale for this is that the quality of the product goes hand in hand with the quality of service offered by the company.
3. Product Composition
The technical specifications of a product play a key role in influencing decisions, especially when architects and/or interior designers use a product for the first time. They need to be comprehensively informed and educated on the so-called ingredients making up a product, as the needs of a project will affect the choices they make. For example, a specific product may contain an ingredient that offers unique health benefits, by preventing contamination by bacteria or growth of mould. Such a feature would therefore be ideal when specifying flooring products for hospitals or schools.
Once again, specifiers need to have the knowledge to even be aware of a product’s composition, which will influence the types of products they specify for any given project.
The need for samples and the role they play have been emphasised time and again by specifiers. Architects and interior designers use these samples when presenting to potential clients. They also draw inspiration from samples to specify floorcoverings. Once an idea has been formulated, they have to give this to a client in sample form for a first-hand experience of the product specified, in order to communicate their vision to the client.
The story boards used for this purpose are critical, because nothing is as effective or draws more attention than actually being able to see, feel and experience what the specified product will be like. The goal is to allow the client to experience the possibilities of a floor type by making use of the senses.
5. Aesthetic appeal and variety
As noted above, the look and feel of a floor is critical, not only for the client but also the specifiers. As much as a client needs to be sold on the visual appeal of a floor, so too architects and interior designers need to be captured by the beauty of a floor and its ability to transform the look of a room.
Current trends and technological advancements in floors have drawn specifiers’ attention to floor designs and textures that imitate other floor types in an extremely realistic manner. Variety is also crucial to architects and interior designers who endeavor to present an array of colour, texture and size options to meet the varying design needs of a diverse clientele seeking a broad range of commercial applications.
6. Performance and durability
Specifiers need to balance the physical attributes with the performance characteristics of a specified product, beyond just its visual appeal. There is a great deal of expectation when it comes to a floor type delivering on commercial needs. It will be required to withstand heavy wear and tear, perform in accordance with certain cleaning and maintenance routines, and last for several years.
Some commercial environments will require a floor type that can perform under more stringent conditions but, regardless of the conditions, the commercial flooring industry by its very nature needs a functional floor that is strong and resilient. This is to ensure that it can be used in various areas and facilities, such as healthcare and educational facilities, retail and corporate sectors, to name a few.
Specifiers seek products that come with a warranty, which adds a degree of trust in the product being able to perform in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications. It also offers the potential client peace of mind, knowing that there is a solution should challenges creep in. This is often listed by architects and interior designers as one of the influential factors they take into consideration when specifying floorcoverings.
However, it should be noted that a warranty can be declared null-and-void should specific instructions not be adhered to, especially with regards to installation practices, cleaning and maintenance programmes.
Specifiers turn to floor types/products that can be used in several areas, and aren’t confined to just one space or room. For example, a Luxury Vinyl Tile that can be used in an office kitchen as well as the canteen, because it is water-resistant and extremely durable, will often draw the attention of specifiers, as opposed to a floor type that can only be used in one area. In this way, they are also able to create a degree of consistency and uniformity in design.
Flexibility also implies that a particular floor type will have variants that can be used either as an entry-level floorcovering or a high-end, plush offering, depending on the needs of a client and the specifications outlined by architects and interior designers.
9. Cleaning and Maintenance
Cleaning and maintenance regimes play a key role in the specification process. Due to the fact that a commercial floor is often exposed to heavy footwear, it will require a more rigid and intensive cleaning programme to ensure that it maintains its aesthetic value. Architects and interior designers are fully aware of the importance of these regimes, and factor these in when specifying floor types.
They realise that clients in commercial environments want to incorporate a cleaning programme that is practical and easy to follow and maintain. The last thing that any specifier wants is an unhappy client who blames the product for poor performance, when in fact the product’s cleaning programme guidelines haven’t been followed and maintained.
Here, experience will often guide architects and interior designers when specifying floor types, as the lifespan of a product is a very important, if not one of the most important, factors when considering which floorcoverings will indeed be a success.
If the clients and specifiers educate themselves on the floor type or product and ensure installation instructions are followed, there is no reason why challenges should arise. Clients expect a floor to last, which is why specifiers specify correctly to meet this demand.
The above 10 factors by no means constitute an exhaustive list and, undoubtedly, specifiers consider several other elements that influence and drive their flooring specifications. Their goal is to ensure a successful project and a beaming client, with a floor that lasts the lifetime of its intended use.