Commercial Flooring: Brand, Culture, and Choice

the Ground Up

Commercial flooring is all too often last on the list when designing a space. Yet it can be one of the primary features of a high-impact environment that can be significantly enhanced by the right choices of colors, textures, and functionality. In fact, a case can be made that a good design should start from the floor up.

How many times have you walked into a space and had an immediate feeling or impression (good or bad)? Or have you ever been in a room and thought, “This reminds me of...”? It’s an experience that happens to all of us on a daily basis, and we need to consider what impression we’re making with the spaces we create. Whether the organization is in healthcare, corporate enterprise or startup, industrial, entertainment or education, the message and feel can be unique.

Effectively integrating commercial flooring with furniture and other elements should be one of the main priorities in designing a space. It’s amazing the impact that the appropriate choices can have.

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Keep the Big Picture in Mind

When walking with a client through their space, we start by asking the following fundamental questions:

  • What is the feeling or story you want to tell your customers and employees when they walk into the building or a specific room?
  • What impact would you like established for your company brand?

We also ask:

  • What do you want out of your space?
  • Who will be using it and how do you want it to be used?
  • Where do you feel your highest traffic zones will be?

Questions like these help narrow the search for the right commercial flooring solution in terms of both look and function as an integral element in the overall design.

Then Address the Details

There are several important considerations that apply to many different kinds of environments that should also be addressed up front such as floor contours and heights, use and wear patterns, damaged areas, entrances and other “protection” or transitional zones, planned use of moveable furniture and equipment, and areas exposed to water.

Issues concerning concrete floors and slabs may include uneven contours, moisture/drying and mineral leaching, as well as carefully aligning concrete flooring with glass windows and doors. Working with concrete may require leveling and a multitude of carefully selected materials and underlayments as well as moisture testing and even x-rays of the concrete.

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A fundamental issue here is to clearly anticipate change, including the unexpected. Approaching a project in a piecemeal fashion over time can end up being 4-5 times more costly. In other words, plan thoroughly and invest intelligently.

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Once these kinds of issues are addressed, you can begin to identify materials that provide the best solutions, including commercial flooring.

Identify and Define Spaces

The range of potential layouts is as wide as every organization is unique. The key is to identify each area of the facility and anticipate its function and type of activity. For example, a subdued and quiet environment may be most appropriate for the accounting department, while the sales force may thrive in a more vibrant and active ambience.

In addition, the open floor plan approach is currently very popular. Yet how can we define the various boundaries of a space without cumbersome furniture or space-cramping dividers? This can be done easily by taking the opportunity to choose the right commercial flooring materials to break up the space and create clear boundaries between main traffic zones, work seating areas, caf├ęs, or lounge-style spaces. Choosing the right materials, partnered with proper maintenance, helps ensure that the investment will hold up and the intended design will look fantastic for years to come.

Planning commercial flooring for specific facilities and considerations for:

Performance/Entertainment

  • Entrance areas, restrooms, back vs. front of house, machinery, floors/levels, resilient/luxury (LBT) surfaces
  • Sound considerations (often realized after the fact and costly to fix) like underlayments and other materials along with spacing between ceilings and floors above

Office

  • Soundproofing in the absence of interior walls through white noise machines and noise cancelling wall panels
  • Use of color, design, pattern, and material (hard and soft) in commercial flooring to delineate functional areas and help move people in a planned fashion (known as wayfinding) through blended transitions for workflow and collaboration
  • Applying interesting patterns from standard options to soften otherwise harsh lines

Athletic

  • Moisture/water, wear, equipment, safety (e.g., walking with ice skates), slip-trip areas
  • Application of logos and other artwork

Healthcare

  • Sanitation #1, highly regulated, easy to clean, sink/water handling, disposal of substances, antimicrobial materials
  • Managing traffic flows
  • Creating an attractive environment in a clinical setting

Education

  • High traffic levels, safety, easy to clean and replace (not a good application for custom materials)
  • Acoustic management through “hard” surfaced yet sound absorbent construction
  • Flexible integration of power for versatile room configurations and changes (e.g. Steelcase Thread power distribution system)

Make Choice Your Ally

Choosing the right commercial flooring solution can sometimes be difficult and tricky. Not only is it hard to determine from a small sample how it will look over hundreds or even thousands of square feet, but how do you know if you’re choosing the proper material in the first place?

Luckily, the world of commercial flooring has seen major advancements in not only function, but design as well. Today’s options are wide and varied, modern, natural, and can reflect a regional or local flavor.

Long gone are the days when the phrase “commercial flooring” was just assumed to be an ugly, boring, utility-purposed material. Today, leading designers and manufacturers of flooring for commercial spaces have created beautiful, practical, and adaptable designs across a wide range of flooring options. These range from luxury vinyl tiles and planks, broadloom carpet, or carpet tiles and planks to moisture-resistant or even waterproof materials.

Recent trends in design have moved carpet and resilient-surface manufacturers away from standard 24”x24” carpet tiles and 12”x12” VCT (vinyl composite tiles) sizes to create products in sizes of 12”x18”, 9”x36”, 12”x18”, 36”x36”, and more. These materials also come in almost endless styles from carpet tiles that look like natural stone to classic hounds-tooth woven textures. Resilient and porcelain floors that can mimic all ranges of aged woods and stained concretes can fool some of the most trained eyes.

Embody the Culture

With all of these selections available, we now have the ability to provide a unique feel, style and culture, whether it’s to bolster employee engagement or wow clients when they walk in the door. Want the look of a multi-stained herringbone concrete installation in your front lobby? Want a one-of-a-kind area rug custom designed to your exact shape and size with a pop of color to match the finish of the chairs in your conference room? Done.

In pursuit of that goal, it’s critical to choose the right source for this truly fundamental aspect of a successful commercial interior environment. Do they have the expertise, experience and strong supplier network required for the project? Do they offer a value-added perspective, as opposed to just a catalog-and-cost approach? Do they “own” the solutions they recommend? Are those solutions realistic and transparent?

Flooring is the largest canvas in a space, and it’s smart to start thinking about how it can be used to not only make the space beautiful but also deliver the highest levels of performance for the unique needs of your organization.

About the Author

Derek Todero has 25 years of experience in the construction industry and serves as the main point of contact and project facilitator for Tangram Flooring clients. Derek’s primary responsibly is to create and manage productive, ongoing relationships with clients and strategic partnerships in the construction, project management and commercial real estate community. His functions include assessing and establishing project scope as well as providing quotations and pricing. He and the Tangram Flooring team work closely with project managers and contractors to provide superior customer service, project management, accounting and operations to ensure a smooth, positive experience and successful project completion. Some of Derek’s clients have included Activision, Honda, Green Dot, AEG, USC, UCI, Staples Center, Lakers, Microsoft Theater, Beverly Center and the Anaheim Ducks.