Take the floor

When it comes to designing or refurbishing universities, a well-designed interior can contribute to a more effective learning environment, explains Sharron Kapellar at Forbo Flooring Systems

A university campus consists of a variety of faculties, all of which have their own facilities and unique demands. Therefore, recommending floor coverings for universities can be a big challenge, as not only must the chosen products meet the practical necessities required of them, but they must also contribute to an inspiring and motivational interior.

Indeed, there are many different environments within a university building, ranging from toilets to kitchens, laboratories to sport halls and canteens to libraries, all of which require their own flooring solution. For example, in areas where students study electronic equipment and machinery, a floor covering that can control static discharge may be required; while in classrooms, a floor covering that can help to absorb noise will be necessary to provide students with a quiet learning environment.

In addition to the performance benefits of floor coverings, the use of colour should be well considered, as design, colour, pattern and texture can all have an impact on an individual and their ability to concentrate and learn. What’s more, by choosing to use a variety of different coloured floor coverings, it will help specifiers to define different departments and areas of a building to aid wayfinding.

One university that understood the importance of having a floor covering that combined excellent performance benefits and contemporary aesthetics is the University of Winchester.

Veale Associates was appointed to design the key finishes of the new physiotherapy facility housed inside the university’s high-profile building in Winchester city centre. The result was an impressive open-plan teaching space that is safe yet functional, while promoting a modern-day learning environment.

Eloise Veale, creative director at Veale Associates, comments: “In the practical spaces where students would be using oils, liquids and lotions on a regular basis, specifying a safety flooring was essential in order to prevent any potential slips, caused by accidental spillages. The client was keen to avoid a cold, clinical environment often associated with these types of spaces, and the issue with traditional safety flooring is that it can often be dull and uninspiring. Having used Forbo’s Step safety flooring before, we knew that the unique and attractive solutions within the range could offer endless design opportunities, thanks to the wide array of contemporary colours and finishes available – and it was for this reason that we enlisted the help of Forbo’s products on this project.

“We primarily opted for a purple colour palette throughout the interior to reflect the university’s branding. Due to the nature of the large open-plan space, the university requested that we use a few different colours for the floor, rather than just one solid colour, to make the room more interesting and visually appealing. Therefore, we proposed an organic design in three different colourways from the Surestep Original range – Purple, Violet and Snow – which follows the contours of the room to add definition and fluidity to the space.”

Approximately 240m2 of Surestep Original was installed in the physiotherapy practical teaching space with an additional 20m2 of the Violet colourway also used in the changing room. As well as offering a wet Pendulum test value of ≥36, Surestep delivers a guaranteed R10 sustainable slip resistance for the lifetime of the product. And thanks to the Step Crystals in the wear layer, Surestep is ideal for high-traffic areas susceptible to spillage risks.

Thanks to the hardwearing and durable properties of the safety flooring, the teaching space is able to withstand the weight of 19 treatment benches, which are lined up along the outskirts of the room. The PUR Pearl finish on Surestep floor coverings ensures that it is easy to clean and maintain, while the micro-embossing technology reduces the need for chemical cleaning and increases the floor’s lifespan. What’s more, the range is 100% phthalate free, helping to create a healthier indoor environment.

Eloise adds: “The new physiotherapy space at the University of Winchester looks fantastic and we are pleased with the outcome. We are particularly impressed by the unique flooring design as it really defines the space, but also complements the rest of the interior really well.

We enjoy using Forbo’s Step collection as there does not need to be any compromise when it comes to combining the two key elements of safety and design.”

Paul Burridge, head of projects and estate management at The University of Winchester, comments: “This is the first year that the new Physiotherapy degree course has run. The key for us was to deliver first-class innovative teaching spaces in our new city centre premises and this has definitely met all our aspirations for the central practical area. Currently, we have 60 first-year students who use the dedicated space on a daily basis. The students and staff are very happy with the design and finishes within the space; the flooring is not only visually striking and hardwearing but, so far, it has also been very easy to clean.”

For more information on Forbo’s work in the education sector, please visit: www.forbo-flooring.co.uk/education.
Or for more information on Forbo’s Step safety collection, please visit: www.forbo-flooring.co.uk/step

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