Good flooring design can have a major impact on the health and productivity of occupants explains textile scientist and product developer at GH Commercial, Judy-Lea Engel.

When it comes to selecting flooring for busy commercial or educational settings Judy-Lea says you cannot go past selecting carpet and underlay to achieve good acoustics.

“Background noise drowns out conversation. The installation of carpet and underlay is the best method available for drowning excessive noise generated by impacts,” she says.

“Soft surfaces absorb sound waves across a large range of frequencies and, in particular, soft surfaces absorb particularly well at high frequencies Hard surfaces reflect sound waves at these frequencies so they bounce back into the classroom where they can cause echoes.”

She points to the GH Commercial carpets that were specified for Melbourne’s first vertical school Haileybury College to help absorb noise.

Judy-Lea says carpet can also have great anti-fatigue properties for people who spend large amounts of time on their feet, such as teachers. Standing on hard surfaces for a long time can lead to sore legs and feet as well as injuries such as chronic plantar fasciitis.

“Modular carpet is one of the few types of flooring with anti-fatigue properties. Cushion underlays do not provide anti-fatigue properties. Even though they are softer they do not provide the same degree of support.”

Colour is another key consideration for flooring design. Judy-Lea says there is research with tangible evidence to show that certain colours can have an array of positive outcomes from increased attention spans to lower levels of eye fatigue.

One study Judy-Lea refers to showed that the judgement on the passage of time varies by up to 45 minutes depending on the colour of the room.

She says pre-schoolers and primary school students respond well to warm bright colour schemes, particularly colours that may create patterns, while soft cool colours improve concentration in secondary and tertiary settings. She also recommends designs that “tap into the power of nature” to help with learning outcomes.

“Fractals have been incorporated into some of our carpet designs and it gives a powerful connection to human emotion as well as reducing mental fatigue,” she says.

When considering the impact of the flooring products being specified, she advises choosing a brand with third party certifications, GH Commercial hold several of these certifications as part of their commitment to transparency and healthy indoor environments. One of the third-party certifications GH Commercial products holds is the Declare® label.

“They’re very much like a nutrition label they have the ingredients…the manufacturing location end of life options…as well as the life expectancy of the product, they also include VOC content, and they have a declaration status. At the very bottom of that label, they have what’s called red list free and that’s very much about ingredient disclosure. It cannot contain any of the items that are on the red list, and it means it also meets emission testing and the requirements for the Living Building Challenge Certification standard,” she explains.

“All of these things can give a specifier or a designer information about the product they are looking at.”

Listen to Episode 186: Judy-Lea Engel on how healthy floor materials & designs are vital for designers & users alike.

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