Office Spaces: Floors that work

by Tania Wannenburg
Office flooring Jnl 4 15

Identifying all the crucial considerations that are unique to an office space and exploring why these play such a prominent role.

Considering the varying types of occupants that make use of an office space, such as employees, clients, visitors, cleaning staff, etc., it becomes apparent just how important the functioning of a floor is within this space, not to mention the aesthetic value of the floor that has to be taken into consideration in the specification process.

Employees alone spend at least 40 hours a week within this space – that is a considerable amount of time, to say the least. To ensure that a final flooring installation meets the needs and demands of an office setup, several factors need to be identified, explored and, inevitably, actioned.

1.    Comfort
For those individuals that spend several hours a day on their feet, flooring that is soft underfoot and offers some form of cushioning or underlay should be selected. A hardwearing carpet that has a long lifespan also contributes to comfort, as the movement of chairs can be hampered by a carpet that is worn and torn, and floor types that aren’t level can cause physical strain on joints. Temperature is another comfort factor: some floors are ideal for winter conditions, while others are a perfect fit for summer. However, the goal is to select flooring that would capture and release heat accordingly in order to suit all seasons.

The specified flooring products should be selected according to the needs of a particular space. For example products such as anti-stress matting and underlays could be beneficial in certain situations. Every aspect of this space should be thoroughly explored – there is no right or wrong solution when it comes to the comfort factors of flooring.

2.    Hygiene/VOCs
Hygiene in office spaces is a must. There are so many people that make use of the facilities, going in and out of the building which can become infested with germs should maintenance programmes not be on par. However, each floor type requires its own cleaning programme, which if ignored or not followed properly not only adds to the hygiene problem, but could cause damage to the floor and shorten its lifespan dramatically.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a hot topic and one of the primary considerations when it comes to the installation of any floor type. To minimise or completely eliminate these chemicals that affect the health of building occupants, flooring manufacturers have in turn become extremely innovative and are creating floors that are both healthy and inventive at the same time.

Certain floors, such as carpets, have often been blamed for allergies; however, this has been thoroughly refuted and debunked time and again. In fact, carpets have been proven to capture allergens, which can then be easily vacuumed and removed.

3.    Aesthetics
When it comes to floors, looks matter. Visually appealing floors benefit everyone: employees who have to look at the same floor day every single day; visitors who should be drawn to an office building as its visual aesthetics often influence the image of a company’s brand; and clients who, again, are subconsciously drawn to a brand or company when they consider its building to be attractive with features that they consider innovative and technologically advanced.

Flooring manufacturers pride themselves on the creation of floors that are innovative and that integrate the latest technologies to ensure both functionality and beauty. A lot is invested in ensuring that the look of various floor types transcends preconceived limitations. Luxury Vinyl Tiles/Planks are a good example. The 3D and High Definition technology created and implemented has resulted in a floor type that looks exactly like real hardwood but, more amazingly, these floors now have texturised surfaces, so they also feel like the real deal.

4.    Safety
The safety and wellbeing of employees and clients alike cannot be emphasised enough. Workplace injuries could cost a pretty penny but, besides the financial factor, an unsafe environment could influence the mindset of a building’s occupants in a negative manner. Nobody wants to be in an unsafe environment.

Anti-slip flooring is therefore greatly sought-after, and most manufacturers are delivering on these requests. Technology plays a big role in adding to a floor’s anti-slip characteristics. New technology is being embraced and enforced to ensure that the end product, i.e. a specific floor, is as safe as possible to prevent slips and falls.

Any floor type can only do so much, which is why occupants also need to follow instructions and avoid wet floors. Final flooring accessories should also be installed correctly and according to the needs of a specific floor, as these can also greatly improve the safety of a floor.

Furthermore, products such as anti-slip matting should be strategically placed, which involves careful planning even before the product is installed.

5.    Durability
Any flooring installation, especially one exposed to heavy foot traffic and wear and tear over a long period of time, needs to be durable and strong enough to withstand these conditions. A floor’s durability determines its lifespan.

If an office space’s staff “outlives” a flooring installation, one can safely assume that the selected flooring did not perform according to expectation. This is a strong statement to make, but an office floor has to have a lifespan during which it not only remains strong, but also maintains its functional and aesthetic values.

The selected flooring’s maintenance programme will also affect the lifespan of the floor and consequently will – in the long run – affect the durability of a floor. Certain floor types, such as carpets, consist of specific fibres and yarns that require particular cleaning programmes. Should the required programme not be adhered to, the carpet’s value will deteriorate at a much faster rate, and its strength and its lifespan will decrease.

6.    Acoustics
Acoustics is all about sound, its generation, reception and transmission. A significant focus is being placed on this last aspect taking into consideration a floor’s contribution in either reducing or increasing noise levels in an office. Massive strides in technology have drastically increased the various products available to reduce the levels of noise in offices, and not necessarily in the flooring industry alone.

The above 6 considerations are crucial to investigate and explore before selecting and specifying a floor for an office environment, which in itself is a unique construction and therefore requires innovative practices.

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