New trends in the design of hospitals and aged care centres has seen a move away from the stark institutional look to styles more user-friendly for patients, visitors and staff. Hospital settings are more likely to include a range of colour schemes and designs based on psychological research that create environments said to enhance the concentration of surgeons in operating theatres, encourage recovery and rest in wards or relieve stress in waiting areas.

These design demands present challenges, not only for architects and interior designers working in the health care field, but also manufacturers of PVC flooring – the material of choice in institutions where the ability to maintain high levels of hygiene is an essential flooring requirement along with long-standing safety and hard wearing features.

Terry Condron, Manufacturing Manager at Armstrong World Industries – Australia’s only manufacturer of PVC flooring – said along with superior cleaning and maintenance qualities, floors in health institutions need to be able to cope with heavy traffic from equipment like wheelchairs, trolleys, gurneys and x-ray machines twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. The product must also meet stringent standards for smoke, fire (spread of flame) and slip resistance – without relinquishing aesthetic qualities as a key design feature of the building.

“The health and safety requirements of hospital flooring are necessarily strict. But we have found that no longer means a floor has to be bland and hospitals and nursing homes dull and sterile looking,” Mr Condron said. “We’re able to feature colours, special designs, corporate logos or inserts like games and story characters to make a stay in hospital a little brighter and even inspirational.”

Architects and designers agree that PVC flooring has come along way from the days when design and colour were not priorities in healthcare settings.

“Clients have more choice to be creative without sacrificing the essential health and safety aspects of a hospital floor,” Frank Corbett, Architect with Peddle Thorp Architects, said. “You just can’t beat PVC flooring for its hygiene aspects. It’s seamless, so maintaining infection control is more likely, it’s also quick to install and comfortable to walk on. And now it comes in enough colours for clients to select different designs and avoid monotony.”

Interior Designer with architect firm Merrin and Cranston, Kate McMurtrie, agrees, adding that the environmental qualities of PVC flooring is another bonus for clients who appreciate that large numbers of the PVC plastic bottles filling our rubbish bins now end up in vinyl flooring.

“ Recycling certainly works in its favour,” Ms McMurtrie said. “Over the years I’ve noticed an increased interest in this aspect. It just adds to all the other features that make it so good for these demanding projects.”

Another keen recycler, British manufacturer Altro, uses significant amounts of waste recycled from the manufacturing process in its PVC safety flooring sold through Australian Safety Flooring (ASF) and widely used in Australian hospitals, sporting clubs and commercial kitchens where slip resistance and high levels of safety and cleanliness are required.

ASF National Marketing Manager, Warwick Duncan said PVC resilient floors often mean that less environmentally harmful cleaning agents need to be used to maintain the high standards of hygiene demanded in hospitals.

“You also don’t need to use sealing, waxing and scouring materials, which all have negative impacts on the environment,” Mr Duncan said. “PVC’s environmental credentials are only just beginning to be known and we find it is well received. Altro manufacturing and production processes adopt advanced environmental and quality control protocols and fully meet accreditation under ISO 9002 and ISO 14001.”