News - September 2019
A step in the right direction
Wayfinding is important in all buildings, but especially in healthcare environments where there may be a higher proportion of people with dementia or another mental health diagnoses, along with poor eyesight and visuo-perceptual difficulties.
Hospitals, in particular, are also traditionally made up of a labyrinth of corridors and buildings that have been added over time, making them hugely-disorientating places.
Signage solutions are usually adopted to address this issue, but the choice of surfaces can have a significant impact, too.
Dave Ford, specifications manager at flooring manufacturer, Altro, explains: “If you are in an unfamiliar place, confused and struggling with a physical illness, then it’s essential we design that place to be as easy to navigate as possible in order to avoid additional distress and anxiety.
“Good wayfinding helps people to navigate unfamiliar environments and gets them to their destination by featuring a variety of tools that support the recognition of pathways and destinations.
“And using floors in different colours or designs can serve as a directional tool and create pathways, helping people to identify routes, especially in busy circulation areas.”
Sharron Kapellar, national framework manager at Forbo Flooring, adds: “If patients can’t find their way round and make their way to an appointment by the scheduled time, it will result in late, or missed, appointments, which will impact on staff and operational efficiency.
“The floor is one of the largest surfaces within a building and, therefore, it can play an integral role in aiding wayfinding in healthcare environments.
“The choice of flooring not only impacts on the safety and orientation of a space; but, when used correctly, can help promote confidence, security and independence.”
Louisa Eyles, commercial marketing manager at Amtico advises using different colours, laying patterns, materials, and textures to help give areas their own distinct identities, or to create pathways in open-plan spaces.
The right path
She told hdm: “A walkway, for example, can be created using an eye-catching floor colour in a laying pattern that encourages movement, such as an arrow or pleat. This would prevent visitors standing still and obstructing the pathway, and, similarly, it could lead to a breakout space that is floored in a more-calming tone, with a simpler laying pattern, to indicate to visitors they can wait in this area.
“Using flooring to aid wayfinding can omit the need for additional signage, too, as well as creating an attractive design feature.”
And it’s not just about showing people where they should go. Flooring choice can also help to differentiate between public and private areas.
Ford said: “If you wanted to discourage movement into a commercial kitchen area or cleaners’ cupboard that may have an accidental open door, for example, then a high-contrasting flooring with a 30-point difference in LRV would appear as a potential barrier.
“If you want to change the flooring from one room to another, but still want to encourage movement; then you can opt for a similar tone and an LRV value within 8 points of each other.”
In fact, colour is, by far, one of the most-important considerations when choosing a flooring solution that will help with navigation.
“Each unit within a hospital could have a distinct theme and colour palette, which encourages users to recognise where they are, or where they should be going,” said Kapellar.
But she warns against using highly-contrasting tones or patterns as these cause confusion, particularly among people with dementia or other visual problems.
Ford adds: “There are huge opportunities to make a real statement in the floor with patterns, designs, artwork and a mixture of different products, whether that’s a specific image or design, machine cut offsite; or simply the skill of the installer in hand cutting a curve or a feature between two colours in a ward or corridor.
“But this must always be taken into account in conjunction with the HBN guidelines and Equality Act of 2010 to ensure the building is suitable for anyone with a disability who might be using it.”
Modern healthcare flooring ranges offer this flexibility, with many available in a range of colours and textures. A growing number are also able to be printed onto with artwork and other designs.
A warm welcome
Altro recently installed its safety flooring at Whittington Health’s new ambulatory care centre and rapid assessment unit in north London, with a leaf design embedded into the flooring to help direct patients to the correct areas.
And printed flooring solutions were incorporated into the design of new paediatric facilities at hospitals in Milton Keynes, Hillingdon and Salisbury .
Amtico has also worked with trusts across the country, using both floor design and innovative fitting techniques to aid navigation.
At The Cotgrave Hub in Nottingham, its Signature range of LVT flooring was installed throughout, with different types of products – a mixture of neutral-coloured woods, stones and abstracts – helping to create specific zones.
And, at a rehabilitation centre that specialises in sports-related injuries, a racetrack pathway was used to aid wayfinding and encourage movement.
Another example of where flooring specification has aided navigation is at the new Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.
P+HS Architects wanted to steer away from the typical clinical look often associated with healthcare buildings, and instead create a brighter, warmer and more-welcoming environment.
As a result, the first floor is split into three colour-coded zones and uses Forbo’s Marmoleum Concrete in an array of shades to aid with wayfinding, and to distinguish the different areas.
“The accent colours within the collection are specially designed to be combined with their shimmer counterpart,” explains Kappelar.
“The Blue Shimmer colourway was used in the treatment areas, with its matching accent colour, Blue Glow, running around the edges. Purple Shimmer was used in the gynaecology areas, with Purple Glow running around the edges. And, finally, the Green Shimmer colourway was used in the staff areas with Green Glow around the edges.
Durable and hygienic
“With the various matching visuals, the architect was able to create stunning floor designs as well as helping with navigation in what is a big building with lots of rooms.”
As well as considering colour and pattern; she also encourages specifiers to ensure any flooring is durable and hygienic, with many modern ranges naturally bacteriostatic and proven to inhibit the growth and the spread of infections.
“Patient safety is of paramount concern to hospitals, too, so in application areas where spillages are a risk, choosing a genuine Health and Safety Executive-compliant safety flooring with a guaranteed lifetime slip resistance is also key,” she added.
“This will minimise the risk of accidental slips and trips, while staff, patients and visitors move around the healthcare centre or hospital.”
And acoustics are key, with the best floor coverings those that will help to absorb sound and create a calmer and softer environment.
“The best solutions aren’t just practical, they are visually stunning too,” concludes Kappelar.