Let’s be honest. Out of all the finish materials that go into a school, the most performance is expected out of flooring. It has to hold up to high foot traffic, but be easy to maintain. It needs to be beautiful, even reflecting a school’s branding, and stain resistant, which is a challenge given that even middle schoolers now drink coffee. On top of this, the product must be affordable. All of these concerns make it difficult to select flooring among the ever changing options.
The design professionals at BVH constantly research flooring options and take many factors into consideration when recommending the best flooring type for a new school or renovation project: durability, maintenance, design options, sustainability and price. Following is not an exhaustive list of flooring options, but excellent choices to keep in mind.
Many BVH projects involve historic buildings, and it doesn’t take a scientific study to recognize that terrazzo stands the test of time. Schools built over fifty years ago have terrazzo corridors that can be polished to near newness. While historic buildings used cementitious terrazzo, new installations are typically epoxy terrazzo. The epoxy products are thinner (¼ to ⅜”), can be installed over a new or existing concrete slab and polished the day after they are poured. It is possible to match the epoxy base to school colors, and create intricate designs with the metal dividers. Maintenance is easy and low-cost, involving only dusting, mopping and occasional re-sealing. The greatest deterrent to using epoxy terrazzo is the upfront cost, but over its life cycle it is an excellent investment for a school.
Rubber flooring is often reserved for stairwells, but is an excellent option for corridors as well. Tiles or rolls in a variety of color options are available. Made from a renewable resource, newly laid rubber flooring is considered sustainable and is recyclable at the end of its usefulness. It has better cushioning, slip-resistance and sound absorption than terrazzo or concrete. The maintenance protocol is simple–vacuuming, mopping and periodic auto-scrubbing, but must be done regularly to avoid a dingy appearance. Schools can expect at least 20 years of performance from rubber flooring. Like epoxy terrazzo, it is more expensive than products such as VCT or LVT but is longer lasting and better performing.
Concrete is becoming increasingly popular for corridors in modern schools. There is a misconception that it is an inexpensive, maintenance-free option, though. Polished concrete is costly due to the additional labor involved and sealed concrete requires regular re-sealing. It can cause acoustical issues, is prone to cracking and is hard under foot. Given all these ‘cons’ you may wonder why anyone opts for it. All things considered, concrete is extremely durable, is already a part of the project and requires little day-to-day maintenance. For a modern aesthetic, there are few products that match its natural beauty.
Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) has become the go-to replacement for Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT). It is inexpensive and easier to maintain than VCT, given that it does not require any sealers or buffing. It is typically manufactured in planks or square tiles, so if a tile is scratched or damaged, a single tile can be replaced. Recent advances in digital printing have increased the number of patterns and colors available–even making custom options possible. The downside of the product is that it is not sustainable and has a significantly shorter lifespan. The product allows a school to get a new floor at a great price, but a plan for replacement should be considered in seven to ten years.
A newer product option for schools is Textile Composite Flooring. One example is the Kinetex brand from J & J Flooring. It is a cross between LVT and carpet–imagine carpet without any pile. The ‘pros’ for this product are considerable: durable, easy to maintain, slip-resistant, sound-absorbing and sustainable (made from plastic water bottles). It prices out similarly to LVT, but is easier to maintain. Also, it can be used in classrooms as well as corridors, giving the space seamless transitions. Because it is a newer product, the design options are somewhat limited, but that will likely change as it grows in popularity.
Whether you are starting a ground-up building project or quick renovation, BVH can help you select products that meet your goals for the space. Fortunately there are a variety of beautiful, high-performance flooring options at every price point.
We’re excited to share that the Nebraska Center for Advanced Professional Studies (NCAPS) is featured in the January 2020 issue of Architectural Record!
Located in rural Fairfield, Nebraska, the 40,000 sf school fuses a progressive pedagogy with an unconventional design approach to promote a culture of learning, collaboration, and mentorship.
“Walking in the school, one immediately senses a productive energy. Clusters of students, huddled around teachers or on their own, occupy the central hub, the flexible learning areas, and the bleacher-style steps that double as the school forum.”
Architectural Record is the industry’s leading authority in design.
NeoCon is an event that we look forward to every year. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and to see new trends coming in the industry. Here’s our recap of what we saw.
Increasingly, we are seeing more and more neotenic design (soft, exaggerated chubby proportions) and crafting tech, like receptacles placed in wood housings and leather pulls and accents, which speak to our desire for softer, more humanistic things. End tables made of tree stumps, moss walls, leather-wrapped bookshelves, and endless planters all contribute to biophilic design and the connection to nature craved by a population largely stuck indoors.
Hygge may have been the runner up for word of the year in 2016, but Scandinavian style is showing it’s staying power. Clean and minimal, yet warm and cozy, the aesthetic fits in nicely with the craft movement and the trend of blurring the line between public space and residential space.
Wood accents, layers of area rugs, metals available in a rainbow of colors, heavily textured textiles, and terra-cotta clay as a grounding neutral were common throughout NeoCon. We also saw softer finishes for desks and tabletops like linoleum and leather that will acquire a patina from the oil of human hands.
Interestingly, this was juxtaposed to nanotechnology-coated laminates which diffuse fingerprints so as to be nonexistent to the naked eye. While we may want the patina associated with the luxury of high-quality leather, fingerprints make an item look fake, cheap, and dirty; associations that are still very much a no go.
While still very much present, snake person is taking a seat in the background as it’s paired with coral, desaturated oranges, and bright reds. Scandi colors of mint, rose, terra-cotta, mustard, and warm grays dominated but were mixed with the occasional pop of primary red, yellow, or blue in what can best be described as a Wes Anderson-style color palette.
Plaids, nubby textures, quilted fabrics, wool fleck, and remarkable advances in weaving and knitting technology move textiles forward while keeping a connection to craft and nostalgia for the analog. While solid textures dominated upholstered items, with manufacturers preferring to mix color, a few notable showrooms dared to follow fashion’s Fall ‘19 trend of irreverently mixing patterns.
As we spend more of our hours in the workplace, the workplace is starting to look more like home. Ancillary furnishings continue to grow as major manufacturers purchase or partner with smaller companies to round out their offerings as they compete for the “third space.” Items once seen as support, such as lounge, shelving, storage, and accessories dominated showrooms just as they are dominating the workplace.
While more employees are being given a choice in where they work, manufacturer’s have acknowledged we’re not quite completely untethered. An abundance of powered furniture or powered accessories keep employees charged and connected while they get cozy for a team meeting in the “living room” or go off to focus in a private lounge chair with a high back and sides.