When constructing or renovating an educational facility, many factors go into the specification of materials, including flooring. And while many universities put cost at the forefront of material selection, other key features and benefits should not be overlooked. From maintenance costs to the impact on student performance, it's important to think beyond first cost. Chemical-free maintenance, enhanced durability and long-term reliability save time and money associated with upkeep, making an investment in rubber one that pays off over time.
Ensure comfort underfoot
Those who spend long hours on the floor the majority of the day will appreciate the resiliency of rubber flooring. This benefit reaches beyond professors and students. Hard, unforgiving flooring surfaces can cause fatigue and negatively impact performance, while softer, more resilient rubber flooring absorbs the pressure of footsteps differently. Just ask Chris Ferguson, director of contract services and risk management at Niagara University. "The building is used hard," shares Ferguson. "It receives a significant number of prospective student tours and is the location where we host many events. It's not used solely for academics. Anytime there's an open house, there can be a couple hundred people trekking through, and the floor withstands it all very well."
Reduce maintenance for savings all year long
Educational facilities challenge maintenance staffs with large expanses of flooring that require careful maintenance to promote a healthy environment for students, visitors and staff. That is why, when selecting flooring, maintenance factors should never be overlooked. Between daily cleaning - as well as costly waxing and sealing when school is out - the costs and time associated with floor maintenance can greatly impact any budget.
Rubber, however, offers a less costly alternative. Because rubber is a nonporous and non-absorbent material, it never needs to be coated or treated. With some rubber flooring, routine maintenance with water and a damp mop is all that is required, with an auto-scrubber providing a deeper clean when necessary. "The use of chemicals and cleaners has definitely been reduced with rubber flooring," says Bill Duquin, construction manager at Niagara University. "Damp mopping takes care of everything."
Create an environment conducive to learning
When incorporated correctly into a building, flooring can actually help transform an educational facility into an environment more conducive to learning. Take, for example, the acoustic properties of rubber flooring. Sound dampening properties of rubber flooring minimize sounds associated with hallway footfall, student chatter and echoing auditorium noise to a more tolerable, less distracting level. In effect, the flooring provides the volume control necessary to promote a quieter environment for students to learn, concentrate and ultimately perform better. This becomes important to professors standing to deliver lectures and to students listening to instructors or concentrating on work.
Improve indoor air quality
The environment also features improved indoor air quality thanks to the elimination of harsh chemical products associated with waxing and stripping. The distracting and often irritating scent of chemical cleaners is no longer a problem, which helps create a more pleasant environment for students and staff, and a safer one as well. At the same time, rubber flooring helps address the growing trend in green school initiatives. The floor does not emit substances in toxic concentrations or contain any PVC, plasticizers (phthalate) or halogens (e.g., chlorine).
Provide versatile design options
Many college campuses operate as "small cities." Specialized buildings and areas throughout these universities have specific performance and design requirements. Often, rubber flooring is durable and versatile enough to meet the varied needs of buildings throughout a college campus. By choosing this one product for various areas across campus, schools can simplify the specification process while achieving consistency in both design and function.
Extend the life cycle
Another major factor for educational facilities to consider when selecting floor coverings is product durability and longevity. Tight budgets make finding a flooring material that can endure the rigors of a busy education environment critical. And with floors often expected to accommodate more than one activity - for instance, multi-use rooms that serve as auditoriums, cafeterias and gym spaces - multi-purpose surfaces are a smart, efficient way to stay within budget. Although some products may last five to 10 years before replacement is necessary, rubber flooring offers an extended life cycle of 30 years. This represents a significant long-term cost advantage for school districts and universities, as they will not have to replace or discard worn materials for up to three decades.
One flooring choice, many benefits
In summary, including rubber flooring as the surface of choice in learning environments provides several enhancements to the staff and student experience. The flooring saves cleaning time. It reduces costs associated with maintenance supplies. It simplifies the maintenance regimen by eliminating the need for waxing and sealing. It stands up to the abuse that thousands of feet and spills create, ensuring a long life.
Ergonomics provide added comfort to professors standing for several hours on their feet. And, it contributes to improved indoor air quality and an environment that is conducive to learning, all while supporting even the most sophisticated design visions. For these reasons, rubber flooring should be carefully considered as materials are reviewed and specified for any new construction or renovation project in the education arena.
is a public relations and marketing specialist for nora systems, Inc., an international rubber flooring manufacturer dedicated to developing premium flooring solutions for a variety of commercial markets, including healthcare, education, industry and life science labs and public buildings.