Evidence-based design (EBD) emphasizes the importance of using credible data in order to influence the design process. This approach has been popular within the healthcare A&D community
as designers have worked to improve patient and staff well-being, speed the healing process, reduce stress and ensure safety, but hospital executives and facility managers have also begun embracing EBD principles to help them do their jobs more effectively. They have a responsibility to patients and staff to ensure certain objectives are met, and this has encouraged significant changes in the design of healthcare environments.
In today’s healthcare environment, a team of architects, designers, facility managers and hospital executives identify what the goals and objectives of a project are and then combine it with research to create an overall design. Once completed, this group considers how EBD objectives impact the decisions of a built environment, right down to the selection of the proper flooring. It’s crucial that everyone be involved in this process so buy-in is achieved early on from hospital administration, doctors, facility managers, maintenance crews, and last but not least, designers.
VINYL FLOORING & EBD
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with a constant stream of doctors, visitors, nurses and patients. The brunt of this steady activity is borne by the flooring, which has to withstand some of the worst spills and heaviest medical equipment, while also preventing slips and providing comfort underfoot. Balancing form and function is even more challenging when you consider a floor must also be aesthetically pleasing, antimicrobial, easily maintained, cost effective and environmentally friendly—all while creating a space where patients can heal and medical professionals can work to enhance positive outcomes.
Sheet vinyl flooring and luxury vinyl tile (LVT) have become increasingly prevalent in healthcare environments like hospitals, clinics and nursing homes because they are highly durable, but also provide warmth to spaces through natural wood and tile looks. These qualities, combined with vinyl’s ease of maintenance, make it a strong choice for healthcare facilities. Other EBD benefits vinyl flooring can bring to a project include:
- Reduced noise. The way vinyl flooring is constructed, coupled with the presence of a comfort backing, can reduce noise levels in hospital corridors, waiting areas and patient rooms. A quiet, peaceful environment promotes healing and speedy recovery times.
- Comfort underfoot. Hospital staff and doctors spend countless hours on their feet, so good vinyl flooring should provide ergonomic relief. It should also rebound properly and give proper support.
- Reduced slips and falls. Vinyl flooring offers impressive slip resistant qualities and provides the correct amount of grip and slide (coefficient of friction) in healthcare environments.
- Reduced nosocomial infections. Good vinyl flooring should be bacteriostatic and fungistatic, or come pretreated with a solution that deters the growth of microorganisms. A vinyl floor can assist in halting the spread of germs that cause nosocomial infections.
- Better air quality. A good vinyl floor with a UV-cured treatment does not require waxing or polishing and is impervious to water and stains. This eliminates concerns associated with the use of harsh cleaning chemicals and the amount of time a patient’s recovery is interrupted due to maintenance. Vinyl’s water-tight nature can also deter the growth of mold that can cause respiratory problems in some patients.
- Improved life-cycle costs. Vinyl flooring can withstand heavy static or dynamic loads like rolling medical equipment or gurneys, and does not impede rolling loads like carpet. This resiliency means that vinyl flooring is replaced less frequently, so long-term renovations do not get in the way of patient recovery.
- Better recuperative environment. A wide array of texture and color combinations are offered with today’s vinyl flooring. It can take on the look of exotic or rustic woods to give a “homey” or “spa-like” feel, both of which have been shown to promote faster healing.
- Better sense of direction. Vinyl can be installed in practically any shape or pattern with water jet cut-ins also available. Custom cut-ins and design options can be used for wayfinding techniques, which allow patients and visitors to navigate easily and without confusion through hospitals and facilities.
As the demands placed on healthcare environments have increased, flooring manufacturers have worked to keep up. Many vinyl flooring manufacturers now provide designers with a wide range of texture and color combinations to choose from, while also providing a floor that is environmentally friendly. For example, new bio-based homogenous sheet vinyl flooring on the market can contain more than 75 percent renewable raw materials with a bio-based plasticizer made from organic grain waste residues. Its composition gives way to 40 times lower VOC emissions set by European environmental standards.
In addition, new polymer surface treatments—some applied with laser technologies—promise to provide enhanced protection against micro scratches, stains and commonly used chemicals, such as betadine and iodine. These treatments not only protect the beauty of the floor by further reducing maintenance needs and providing a micro-scratch resistance similar to ceramic, but give way to a clean, sanitary hospital environment.
Another innovation to consider is an LVT vertical
click system, which eliminates the need for adhesives—thereby removing
the VOCs associated with gluing and improving indoor air quality. A vertical click system designed for commercial applications requires minimum floor preparation and tools, and can be installed quickly and easily. This makes for faster turnaround times during renovations, resulting in fewer patient disturbances and happier staff members.
Before EBD, the priorities for healthcare flooring were
durability and maintenance. As research has progressed
and design strategies have evolved, the list of requirements placed on flooring has grown. Because of EBD principles, a large number of facility managers, architects, designers and hospital administrators now conduct a rigorous floor selection process based on both form and function.
It’s no longer acceptable for a product to simply look good—it must perform well, too. Moving forward, architects and designers must continue to be guided by good design, but they must also be able to demonstrate how a product will affect patient recovery and staff performance. Thanks to its inherent qualities and characteristics, vinyl flooring looks to be a good fit for the next generation of healthcare environments.
Catherine del Vecchio is an international marketing
professional and serves as Gerflor North America's marketing director. She works with Gerflor's corporate product management teams at its French headquarters to ensure innovations reflect the U.S. and Canadian markets’ needs, as it relates to style and performance of commercial and sports vinyl flooring.