Rubber Flooring: A Lesson in Savings & Performance
Educational facilities pose unique challenges, not only for the people who design them, but also for the individuals who use them daily. Including rubber flooring as the surface of choice in learning environments provides several enhancements to the staff and student experience. Building surroundings directly affect both staff and students alike. When constructing or renovating an educational facility, a large array of factors goes into the specification of materials, with flooring being no exception. And while many school administrators put cost at the forefront of material selection, other key features and benefits should not be dismissed. From maintenance costs to the impact on student performance, it is important to think beyond first cost. And when it comes to choosing rubber flooring, a little bit of pre-planning can result in substantial long-term savings. Chemical-free maintenance, enhanced durability, and long-term reliability save time and money associated with upkeep. For these reasons, and a few more, an investment in rubber ends up paying off over time.
Reduce Maintenance for Year-Round Savings
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 non-porous 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.
And because it is so less complicated to care for, rubber flooring can even be cleaned while school is in session. Stripping and waxing of other resilient floor coverings is typically completed over the summer months or during extended winter vacations when school is not in session. This requires the additional cost of running the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system to heat or cool facilities to keep staff comfortable and meet the needs of the stripping and waxing protocol. This often complicated process also entails additional training and more labor-hours – either a large team getting the job done quickly or a few employees completing the task over a longer time span.
The elimination of stripping and waxing contributes to substantial time and cost savings, as does a regimen that does not require costly stripping and waxing products. To put it in perspective: the cost of stripping and waxing supplies to coat a floor can range from $0.15 to $1.00 per square foot – or more – depending on the condition of the floor. Factor in the annual coating costs over the life of the floor, and suddenly the seemingly cheaper initial cost per-square foot of a non-rubber floor skyrockets.
Improve Indoor Air Quality
The elimination of harsh chemical products associated with waxing and stripping can also contribute to healthier indoor air quality. 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 – they do not emit substances in toxic concentrations or contain any PVC, plasticizers (phthalate), or halogens (e.g., chlorine).
Create an Environment Conducive to Learning
When incorporated correctly into a building, flooring can actually help transform an education facility into an environment more conducive to learning. Take, for example, the acoustic properties of rubber flooring. While most building materials simply transfer noise throughout a space, some acoustic flooring solutions use resilient material to absorb as much as 20 dB. This becomes important to teachers delivering lectures and to students listening to instructors or concentrating on work. At the same time, some rubber flooring minimizes 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.
Extend the Life Cycle
Another major factor for education facilities to consider when selecting floor coverings is product durability and longevity. This is especially crucial for K-12 facilities, where multiple activities take place under one roof. In many areas, tight budgets make finding a flooring material that can endure the rigors of a busy education environment critical to the school district’s bottom line. And with floors often being utilized for more than just one application – 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 for five to 10 years before replacement, material options such as rubber flooring offer an extended life cycle of 30 years. This represents a major long-term cost advantage for school districts, as they will not have to replace or discard worn materials for up to three decades.
Ensure Comfort Underfoot for Staff & Students
Teachers spend the majority of the day on their feet. Hard and unforgiving flooring surfaces can cause fatigue and even impact employee performance. Some materials, including ergonomic rubber, are more forgiving to the legs and backs of teachers and other staff members that need to stay fresh and alert during their long shifts. The health of students traversing hallways, standing in lunch lines, participating in recreational classes or sitting on the floor also benefits from rubber flooring.
Provide Versatile Design Options
A versatile design that serves a variety of applications is not only cost-efficient, but also helps maintain a uniform, consistent look across a facility. In supporting consistent design, students and staff alike can appreciate the aesthetic property of rubber flooring and its contribution to the overall look of a school.
In regards to higher education facilities, 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.
Enhance Safety to Keep up to Code
Safety, too, is an important consideration in the selection of materials. In a busy education center, spills are bound to happen, often in the form of cafeteria beverages, break room coffee, art class supplies or science lab chemicals. Resilient rubber floor coverings, however, provide stain resistance and the extra traction needed to help prevent hazardous slips and trips.
Fire safety is another key factor to consider when outfitting a public building. Certain industrial rubber floorings provide superior resistance to flame, smoke and toxicity and do not contain any PVC, plasticizers (phthalates) or halogens (e.g. chlorine). This ensures that no toxic substances like hydrogen chlorine gas, hydrochloric acid, dioxins or furan will be produced in case of a fire. Check for floorings that are classified as fire-toxicologically safe – meaning they are suitable for sensitive areas where fire resistance is particularly important.
Making the Best Choice
The benefits of rubber flooring in educational facilities are significant and should not to be overlooked. 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 teachers standing for several hours on their feet. It also 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.
Tasha Hughes is Public Relations Specialist, Marketing, at nora systems, Inc. The company develops, produces and markets resilient rubber floors under the brand name nora.