By Ken Ryan
Health care facilities have a responsibility to protect the health and well-being of their occupants by presenting an environment that is clean, comfortable and safe.
Through the years, commercial sheet vinyl has been the flooring solution to meet those requirements. Now, more than ever, sheet—and to an extent, LVT—is the flooring product most specified for aseptic areas such as operating rooms or patient rooms that require floors to be sanitary heat-welded for infection control. “Sheet vinyl is a natural and suitable choice for many health care applications traditionally used in corridors, exam rooms, patient rooms, surgical suites and medical office buildings,” said Jeff Weaver, senior vice president, health care and senior living, Mohawk Group.
Echoing that sentiment, Jeremy Whipple, vice president of commercial business development for Novalis Innovative Flooring, said sheet vinyl fits seamlessly in both health care and education environments because of its inherent and numerous performance benefits. Among them: moisture resistance, ease of maintenance and durability. “Sheet vinyl performs well in heavy-traffic areas,” he said.
Furthermore, for medical personnel who have to stand for long periods of time, sheet vinyl provides enhanced comfort underfoot while offering sound-mitigating properties that minimize disruptions to patient care.
While performance attributes are paramount, increasingly so is design as aesthetics play a major role in health care and higher education settings. As Dave Bailey, product manager, resilient sheet for Armstrong Flooring noted, “Sheet flooring can contribute to biophilic design by replicating colors and textures found in nature. It can also help delineate specific areas and guide visitors, patients and students along the right path through colorful inlays and the creative use of contrasting weld rods.”
Heterogeneous sheet, for example, a multi-layer vinyl with a printed top layer, provides the A&D community with boundless design possibilities thanks to print film technology. It is often specified in educational environments such as science labs. “With new designs and updated wear layers, this is a great category for any facility director who is looking for a durable product to install in learning spaces,” said David Dembowitz, SVP, education and government, Mohawk Group.
COVID-19 highlights sheet’s advantages
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought renewed interest to sheet vinyl be- cause of its cleanability, disinfecting properties and seamless installations, which executives say bode well for the category going forward. “The pandemic has shown what an amazing flooring material vinyl really is,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer for Congoleum. “Not only is there a seemingly unlimited number of design options, but it can withstand harsh service environments, including aggressive cleaning and disinfecting protocols.”
Several observers said the pandemic elevated sheet’s status throughout health care and education as the go-to product because the floors do not contain mold or pathogens. “Absolutely, [the pandemic] will have a positive effect on sheet,” said John Green, regional sales manager for Beauflor. “Ease of cleaning and sanitation are at the forefront of the flooring industry and sheet vinyl is proven to be the best choice in these market segments.”
In the wake of the coronavirus, executives say health care designers are now re-thinking what products need to be used to ensure cleanliness amid social distancing guidelines. The list of products may start with sheet but now includes LVT. “For several years, we have seen a very real transition of products in the health care market,” said Ian Campbell, business manager, commercial sheet, Mannington. “Where sheet vinyl was once used throughout a facility, end users are now using LVT in patient rooms, corridors and waiting areas. Resilient sheet, with its endless array of colors and designs—along with its easy-to-maintain performance characteristics—make it a great solution in today’s and tomorrow’s health care facility.”
Catherine Del Vecchio, vice president of marketing–flooring division, American Biltrite, noted that resilient sheet flooring was already widely used in health care environments. Today, the product might have even greater coverage across commercial applications. “We expect the footprint for resilient floors to increase within the health care environment, but could now even be considered as an alternative to carpet, which cannot be disinfected, to help limit the spread of community infections,” she explained.
With such a focus on health care these days, it’s no wonder companies are rushing to fill the product void. Here are some new introductions worth noting:
Its best-selling products include ABPure Nfuse rubber flooring. It is an occupancy-ready flooring with superior color fastness, and it passed the ASTM 1515 standard for color stability. “It is easier to clean and disinfect compared to other rubber flooring that has shown gloss variation when disinfected,” Del Vecchio said.
Texas Granite, a favorite of the education market, is a terrazzo-look resilient tile that can be buffed to the level of gloss desired. What’s more, it doesn’t require any waxing and is easy to maintain and disinfect.
MedinPure, a new product from Armstrong Flooring that is launching this month, is a PVC-free homogeneous sheet solution that integrates science, technology and design to advance quality of care in healing environments. Its patent-pending formulation includes coordinating PVC-free weld rods for aseptic areas. The new product also includes the company’s signature Diamond 10 technology for optimal scratch, stain, scuff and slip resistance.
Earlier this spring, Mannington launched its heterogeneous Bloom collection, a line well suited for the needs of the healthcare market. In support of the launch, for every square yard purchased from the Bloom collection, Mannington Commercial will donate 3% of the purchase price to Mercy Medical Angels.
“One of the things we’re really excited about with the launch of Bloom is the new partnership it brings with Mercy Medical Angels,” Campbell said. “Their vision is to ensure that no one in need is denied medical care because they don’t have transportation to the medical services they require. With the rising unemployment rate, their services are going to be in greater demand than ever before, and we hope we will be able to help fill that increased need.”
Medella is a nature-inspired homogeneous sheet from the Healthy Environments collection that is inspired by the naturally occurring basalt columns formed by underwater volcanic eruptions. Living Kind brings together warm, natural motifs to create inviting spaces that evoke a feeling of home for senior living and health care. Medella and Living Kind feature non-orthophthalate construction and are coated with polish-optional M-Force Enhanced Urethane for easy and cost-effective maintenance.
Novalis’ new design collections include the AVA line, which recently launched its REVV and VEXX collections. REVV and VEXX offer a bevy of attributes including commercial warranty, wear layer and ease of maintenance from AVA’s proprietary finish—AMP Advantage. The REVV collection delivers realistic wood patterns that provide the warmth and feel of wood with its embossed-in-register texture technology. The VEXX collection is a series of three organic designs that allow designers to select from various patterns and colors to meet their needs.
iQ Optima is a homogeneous sheet product ideal for health care environments. It can be heat welded, thus completely eliminating any seams or gaps in the flooring surface— ideal for clinical environments. “iQ Optima makes it easier to clean and maintain facilities where limiting the spread of infection is of utmost concern,” said Jim Fleckner, product manager, Tarkett North America.