Whether you’re part of a project team that’s designing an airport, a hospital, a new retail centre or a new public area, specific care needs to be taken when specifying the floor. Plenty time and effort are spent on other aspects of the design, forgetting that a floor is one of the most crucial elements of a high-traffic building.

As a contractor or specifier, there are a few key questions that you need to ask to ensure that the installation meets the performance requirements as well as the aesthetic goals of all the stakeholders involved. Here are the questions that you should be asking:

What will your facility maintenance routine be?
Facility managers are becoming increasingly involved during the design phase of a building. Their input and involvement can give clients a better idea of how their asset will be managed and maintained in the future. Invite facility managers to discuss what the downtime will be if, for example, there is a spill on a carpet that needs to be cleared. Other high-performance floors, such as terrazzo and marble, will need periodic maintenance that would affect a building’s tenants.

Suggest dirt mapping so that both the design team as well as the facility manager can have a better understanding of areas that will receive higher traffic and subsequently need more cleaning and maintenance. This will also guide you when deciding on the impact-resistance and chemical resistance that a busy area, such as a food court in a mall, will need as opposed to less busy areas, for instance, a boutique clothing section in the same mall.

What are your acoustic requirements?
Foot traffic, talking, and announcements over an intercom system can have a huge impact on the sound levels within a space. The level of sound reduction that your client needs will depend on the purpose of the building, the activities within it as well as other design elements – such as the proximity of a busy cafeteria to meeting rooms where noise should be kept to a minimum. Many flooring manufacturers offer engineered products like linoleum or vinyl flooring that offer sound reduction benefits. Carpet also acts as a natural sound absorber.

How long do you need this floor to last?
It’s no secret that quality products last much longer than low quality products. As a specifier, you need to guide your client on the cost/benefit journey of discovering products that are both hardwearing, slip-resistant and scratch-resistant enough for the building’s intended purpose.

What type of rolling loads will be on the floors?
Hospital areas, bank cash handling areas, libraries and other areas where there are trolleys or wheeled traffic equipment can lead to heavy loads on a floor. Heavy traffic for industrial use, such as warehousing and forklift traffic will put even more strain on a floor. A screed with an approximate 50 MPa (megapascal) strength needs to be installed to handle rolling loads.

What is the condition of the screed below the flooring?
Not only do you need to make sure that the floor you have installed will be able to withstand these impacts, it is also essential that the screed below the flooring is dry during installation. If there is any doubt about the moisture of the screed, apply a high-strength damp-proof barrier on the slab base. The MPa strength of the screed should be advised by the engineer or screed manufacturer.

Are there demarcation requirements?
Instead of letting clients rely on signage, you can advise them on how flooring can be used to improve traffic flow and safety within a building. Being involved during the design phase can give you key insights into how flooring demarcation can improve the functionality of a building.

What are your sustainability goals?
Eco-consciousness has now become a major consideration in the choice of design products. This includes the product, its functionality, the manufacturing process as well as the origin of the product. If your client is targeting sustainability ratings, it’s important to find out how you can specify a flooring installation that can help them achieve their goals.

Specifying the correct floor for a high traffic area is a complex decision. Balancing the current and future performance criteria against cost and installation time constraints requires expert knowledge on the options available. The wrong floor type in a public or commercial space can lead to personal injury, lost production and premature failure resulting in frequent maintenance or early replacement.

Engaging with leading high traffic flooring manufacturers in the industry will give you a competitive advantage. Experience, combined with technical expertise and access to the latest products will put you in the best position to advise a client on a high traffic flooring installation that will last for years to come.

Specialised tip: The wrong floor type in a public or commercial space can lead to personal injury, lost production and premature failure resulting in frequent maintenance or early replacement

Thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.autospec.co.za and www.fitasa.co.za for some of the information contained in this article.