Rubber mills promote ‘healthy’ flooring for healthcare

December 27, 2016

Winter 2016

By Sarah Bousquet

Every sector of the commercial industry has its own unique set of requirements when it comes to flooring solutions. While sustainability and green building have truly gone from buzzwords to transparent, environmentally conscious products and practices, one segment’s focus on “healthy floors” is pushing that envelope further.

Healthcare’s business is wellness, so it should be no surprise that along with budget, maintenance and aesthetic concerns, today’s hospitals are looking to floor coverings that actually promote healing and prevent injury. Rubber, in many cases, is being specified as just that solution.

FLOORING’S ROLE IN WELLNESS

American Biltrite’s AB Pure collection offers a 10-year colorfast guarantee.

American Biltrite’s AB Pure collection offers a 10-year colorfast guarantee.

“People need rest and a quiet environment to heal, and rubber flooring lends itself to this,” explained Mark Tickle, marketing director for American Biltrite, who attributed rubber’s rise within healthcare to its additional wellness attributes. “On top of its ability to be recycled, durability, long life cycle, ease of maintenance and cost savings, rubber is on the increase within healthcare for its low VOCs, enhanced comfort factor, antimicrobial attributes and imperviousness to liquids.”

Tim Cole, vice president of marketing at Nora Systems, also noted as the trend toward sustainable practices, policies and products grows, rubber flooring will continue to offer a solution that supports the specific goals of hospitals as well as other commercial institutions. “From contents and manufacturing processes to distribution and installation practices, rubber flooring provides a sustainable floor covering with a long life cycle that appeals to administrators looking for a product with a simple, environmentally friendly maintenance regimen, durability, stain and slip resistance, good acoustic properties, resilience and the ability to contribute to a safe, healing environment,” he said. “Additionally, hospitals are continually challenged to maintain a clean environment that enhances healing and patient comfort. Because of this, they look for products that are easy to maintain, support a hygienic environment and minimize disruption to patients. Many are turning to rubber to meet these challenges.”

Nora touts rubber’s cleanability simply by using water or steam.

Nora touts rubber’s cleanability simply by using water or steam.

Taking the wellness initiative a step further, Diane Martel, vice president of environmental planning and strategy for Tarkett, pointed to rubber’s positive impact on staff. “Patient wellness increases at a more rapid rate when the environment is safe, aesthetically pleasing and motivating. These attributes also benefit healthcare workers, which tend to provide better care when occupying enhanced environments.”

ATTRIBUTES MEET THE HEALTHY MARK

As the healthcare industry evolves, so do its challenges. Meeting these needs, rubber mills have refocused on their products’ innate abilities to create safe, healthy environments that lower costs and increase efficiency. Some of these characteristics include:

  • Slip resistance: Rubber helps prevent accidental falls and injuries, which helps patients recover more quickly and strengthens a facility’s safety.
  • New aesthetics: Design innovations in rubber have elevated the product’s look and feel. Today, floors range from happy, vibrant colors to relaxing neutrals and even emulate natural stone and wood looks. The low-luster finish of rubber flooring has also been proven to strengthen wayfinding and help reduce confusion in elderly patients.
  • Increased comfort: Rubber is softer underfoot, providing more comfort for patients and staff, while increasing noise absorption. It also contributes to improved indoor air quality because floors are free of PVC plastics, phthalates or halogens.
  • Cleanability: Not only are rubber floors stain resistant, but they are antimicrobial and can be simply cleaned — often with just water. This cuts time and costs associated with maintenance, but also helps secure a more hygienic environment.
  • Long lifecycle: Rubber floors tend to have a longer — 20-plus years — life span than other floor coverings, and can be recycled back into flooring or other products at the end of its life.

RUBBER’S NEXT STEP

As more people and companies make sustainability a higher priority, opportunities for rubber flooring applications will further increase. “Sustainability benefits and life cycle costs will be important points to highlight as differentiators in the market,” Nora’s Cole said. He pointed to the recent expansion of Reading Hospital where Noraplan eco with Nora nTx helped earn the building a spot as one of the 50 greenest hospitals in the country, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.

American Biltrite’s Tickle agreed rubber products will continue to be specified in healthcare as a “healthy” flooring option, as long as it also meets the aesthetic needs of projects. “Rubber will continue to grow as manufacturers continue to make it more appealing to designers, offering more coloring and styling capabilities.” The mill’s new AB Pure product line offers a revolutionary colorfast product in a wide range of profiles, sizes and colors.

Tarkett’s Minerality provides natural stone and wood looks with all the benefits of rubber.

Tarkett’s Minerality provides natural stone and wood looks with all the benefits of rubber.

Also expanding rubber’s application options, Tarkett’s Minerality emulates the look of stone and feel of wood with all the benefits of rubber tiles. “Rubber flooring continues to serve the healthcare segment really well from a performance, maintenance and hygienic perspective,” said Chad Bittner, director of product management and marketing – healthcare and education. “Many proprietary projects, technology investigations and innovative application trials are under way right now to better serve our healthcare customers.”

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