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Bringing the outside in

Janet Lowe, Head of Marketing UK and Ireland at Forbo Flooring Systems, discusses the latest flooring innovations and how they can help to reconnect building occupants with the great outdoors

The benefits of bringing nature into the built environment are increasingly well documented, with a growing understanding of the role nature can play in the wellbeing of building occupants. The term ‘biophilia’ refers to the love of life and living systems, and dates back to the early 1980s when biologist Edward Osborne Wilson suggested that humans have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life.

With rising rates of urbanisation, we are becoming increasingly disconnected from the outside world, but by incorporating natural elements and influences into the places where we live and work, we can help to re-establish our connection to the outdoors. Biophilic design has been a growing force in the UK office sector over the past few years, and this trend is set to continue.

On average, it’s reported that we spend around 90 per cent of our time indoors, with eight hours typically spent at work. Association with the outdoors is important in a well-designed office space, as studies have shown that connecting humans with nature can have a significant impact on wellbeing. Research suggests that biophilic design in the workplace can relieve stress and lower blood pressure and heart rates, while boosting productivity and reducing absenteeism. Blurring the line between the outside and inside should, therefore, contribute to creating healthier, happier and more productive indoor environments.

For many this might take the form of adding lots of plants and shrubbery. However, biophilic design can be much more creative and subtle. Integrating indirect elements such as materials, textures, patterns, shapes and colours that mimic nature can also contribute to bringing the outside in, whether in the form of textiles, artwork, furniture or flooring.

The floor is one of the largest surface areas inside an office building, and employees will have constant contact with it. This means the choice of floor coverings can have a huge impact on how people feel in the office. From vinyl to linoleum, carpet tiles to flocked flooring, flooring manufacturers are developing solutions inspired by the natural environment to aid with biophilic design and reconnect end users with nature.

While a real wooden, stone or ceramic floor brings a natural beauty and timeless appeal to office interiors, a hard floor may not always be a practical or cost-effective option, depending on the desired application and use. Loose-lay and adhesive-free luxury vinyl tiles (LVT), which are installed without the need for a permanent (or any) adhesive, provide a good alternative, offering convincing, authentic visuals and excellent functional performance for busy office spaces.

Technological advances and product innovation mean the latest LVT collections offer a wide choice of colours and designs. Beautiful, realistic wood and stone effects with natural colour variation and in-register embossing structures to emphasise the texture of the planks help to evoke the beauty of the natural world.

For areas that require a warmer, more tactile solution, flocked floor coverings deliver both style and performance. Due to the continuing strong demand for wood aesthetics, a wide range of highly realistic wood effects is now available, crafted using digital printing technology. From traditional timber to more contemporary shades, along with new plank structures, there should be a natural colourway to complement any interior scheme. (When choosing, always look for products with the Allergy UK seal of approval.)

Carpet tiles are often the go-to solution for office spaces. Beautiful products are available that have been inspired by the natural environment yet still offer high levels of comfort and acoustic performance. Many of the latest designs represent the patterns, textures and colours found in the natural world, with colourways mixing complementary shades to create a varying and seemingly infinite surface design. A heavily textured composition, combined with a natural organic design, creates a warm and inviting surface in line with the biophilic trend.

Biophilia in office design is rising in popularity for good reason, but this doesn’t mean facilities managers need to turn their workplace into a greenhouse. With the latest technological advances in manufacturing, reflecting the most up-to-date trends, floor coverings inspired by the natural environment can contribute to creating engaging interiors that reconnect employees with nature, naturally.

MEZZANINE FLOORS

Howard Morris, Managing Director at Trade Fabrication Systems, explains the benefits of offsite processing for facilities managers seeking modern and practical mezzanine flooring

Due to the rise of e-commerce and increased demand for warehousing space, mezzanine flooring solutions are increasingly sought in commercial settings. While they are often a simple way to increase space, they can be unsightly and arduous to maintain.

Typically associated with large-scale industrial environments, particle board-covered mezzanine substrates are being used as a tried and tested solution on a temporary or long-term basis. While the primary driver behind specification and installation is often space gain, attention should also be paid to the performance of the floor panels.

Any maintenance or flooring upgrade – particularly walkways or heavy traffic locations that are subject to wear and tear – in a building housing stock or equipment can cause major logistical challenges. Offsite mezzanine solutions, in which pre-finished overlay boards are delivered to the site for immediate installation, provide obvious benefits.

Having been processed off site, the solution arrives pre-finished and coated as specified. Unlike traditional onsite techniques, the mezzanine panels arrive dry and ready for immediate installation, removing the need to wait for a newly applied floor coating to dry. This saves time and ensures consistent, longer-lasting quality, since the coating has been completed to factory standards.

Safety is an important factor, and here again offsite processing offers benefits. Industry partners can provide factory-bonded silver or white FR foil facings to the underside of the board, compliant with British and Euro standards, to meet fire regulations. Slip-resistant and durable coatings can also be supplied, ensuring the floor is both decorative and safe.

It’s important to choose an offsite processing partner that works to ISO 9001:2015, with independent third-party verification of the performance of the surface coatings.

About Sarah OBeirne

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