News - January 2019
Make some noise
Noise levels in modern hospitals are extremely high - and they’re rising.
According to a study by Busch-Vishniac et al, carried out in 2005, daytime levels are up, on average, by 0.38 dB, while night-time levels rise by 0.42 dB year on year.
So creating a comfortable environment is becoming more and more vital to support the safety, healing and wellbeing of all occupants.
Surface materials such as walls, ceilings and flooring, play a huge part in noise levels, often amplifying sounds.
But they are also one of the main lines of defence, with modern materials and technologies offering hospitals the chance to reduce noise levels significantly.
Mark Jackson of Forbo Flooring explains: “Noise in healthcare environments can be caused by a variety of factors, such as constant foot traffic, alarms, machines, rolling beds or even HVAC systems - all of which can provoke annoyance responses, reduce staff performance, and at times be harmful to patients, depending on their conditions.
“Reducing noise pollution is, therefore, essential in supporting the safety, health and wellbeing of those receiving care, as well as those working within healthcare environments.”
He added: “Flooring can play a fundamental role in the acoustic design of a healthcare building, as specialist floor coverings have the ability to mitigate sound transmission from room to room, which can help to create a comfortable and peaceful environment to aid the healing process.”
The Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA) has recently launched a new publication, Acoustics in Healthcare Environments, a free tool for architects, interior designers and facilities managers looking to maximise the acoustic environment within medical settings.
“Research suggests that using noise-reducing finishes in healthcare settings positively impact patients’ sleep, privacy, satisfaction, and PCT stress,” it states.
Specialist flooring products can contribute to the acoustic performance of a building in two ways: by reducing the level of impact noise generated within a room, and reducing the noise transmitted through the floor into the spaces below.
In-room impact noise for floor coverings is tested to standard NF-S 31-074, with performance classifications from A-D.
Products receiving a Class A classification offer the best performance in terms of reducing in-room impact noise. This can also help in reducing noise transmitted to adjacent spaces, from ward to ward, for example.
Impact sound reduction values are measured across a range of sound frequencies and the weighted value is quoted in decibels (dB).
The higher the decibel value of the floor covering, the better the flooring performance in reducing impact sound.
Floor coverings are now available that can reduce impact noise by up to 20dB.
“In recognition of the effect noise can have on patients and staff in a healthcare setting, manufacturers are constantly striving to develop innovative acoustic products that meet and surpass regulatory requirements,” said Jackson.
“There are now many floor coverings available that meet these various considerations, but one of the most-popular choices is acoustic vinyl, thanks to its specially-developed foam backing which delivers superior impact sound reduction, as well as the fresh and striking colour tones available.
“Advanced technologies in acoustic vinyl flooring now also offer easy installation, including adhesive-free systems, enhanced aesthetics, and a choice of impact sound reduction properties.
“Similarly, flocked floor coverings combine the warmth, comfort and impact sound reduction properties of a textile with the durability and cleaning properties of a resilient flooring, thanks to their unique nylon construction.”
A popular choice
Linoleum is another popular choice for healthcare environments and there are several types available which can reduce impact sound by 14dB or provide the highest impact sound reduction of up to 17dB.
And the acoustic properties of all these materials can be further improved through additions such as foam backings and underlay.
Forbo’s Sarlon and Modul’up Decibel acoustic vinyl ranges and Marmoleum Decibel linoleum products are increasingly being specified in health and care environments.
As mentioned, the very-latest adhesive-free flooring ranges are particularly sought after as they do not have to be glued-down and therefore produce less dust, noise and odours.
Flooring can also be walked on straight away, with far less disruption during the installation process.
Acoustic flooring ranges from Karndean Designflooring include Korlok and LooseLay, both of which have acoustic backing which helps to reduce sound by 19dB and 13dB respectively.
Fleur Carson, commercial sales director, said: “An important consideration when specifying products is maintenance and installation, and the K-Core technology and 5G vertical click-locking mechanism in the Korlok range mean it can be put on top over most existing hard floors, reducing disruption to ongoing hospital services. This is a major consideration when hospitals are specifying surface materials.”
The LooseLay range has also been designed so that individual planks and tiles can be lifted and replaced if needed.
Creating the right environment
And, like Forbo, both ranges come in a wide range of aesthetic options, an increasingly-important consideration for modern healthcare settings.
“One of the most-important factors in healthcare environments such as care homes or spaces that require a more homely feel, is that flooring offers the natural look of a wood or stone floor, but additionally has all the benefits of luxury vinyl flooring,” said Carson.
CISCA advises that when choosing a floor surface the following should be considered:
- Be aware that of the most-common floor surfaces in hospitals, some, for example rubber, create less impact noise than others like vinyl composition tile installed directly onto concrete or terrazzo
- Minimise the use of floor discontinuities - expansion breaks and transitions - to reduce vibrations caused by rolling equipment over them
- Specify carpet to effectively reduce impact noise. However, be aware that it typically provides an NRC of around 0.20 to 0.30 and should be considered one element of several to provide sound absorption
- Understand that specifying carpeting in corridors may potentially create problems related to efficient movement of computer carts and cleanability. Designers should consider placing computers in patient rooms to eliminate the need for carts and specify carpet tiles which can be easily removed and cleaned when needed
For guidance, Health technical Memorandum 08-01: Acoustics sets out sound parameters for various room types within hospitals.
It calls for airborne sound insulation testing to be carried out, preferably in mock-ups on site, to identify potential weaknesses in floor coverings before these are replicated in numerous areas.
Safety issues, namely smoke, flammability, and cleanliness standards, should also be considered, it states.