Armstrong Commercial Flooring’s recent Design Council brought together a designer, architect, flooring contractor and healthcare facility administrator to explore emerging trends and confer on the overlapping, and sometimes convergent needs of the different disciplines involved in the design, cost, install and maintenance of high-traffic commercial flooring applications.

“Councils are a way of looking forward to what is next and where the market impacts will take the focus.  We integrate all Council information into the business and that’s how change begins,” said Director of Commercial Marketing & Product Design Julianne Pierce. “Engaging our customers in a dialogue about their business and ours helps us to shape a relevant marketing program and product portfolio that supports our customers' success.”

Experts from different aspects of the commercial market came together in San Francisco, California to share their perspectives on the industry, innovation and sustainability; for some Council members, this was the first time they sat in a room with people representing different links in the product chain, from initial design to onsite maintenance. 

Kyle Everly, owner, Hudson Everly Commercial Flooring, was impressed with the professional diversity of the group.  “To hear everyone’s side of the story, from different sides of the industry and from those who are top in their fields, opened my eyes as to how different people look at things.”  Case in point: Everly walked away realizing that sound decibels and sound ratings have taken the healthcare industry by storm; it’s a hot topic that will only get bigger. 

Melanie Sofia Castillo, Healthcare Design Director, NCIDQ, Lillibridge Healthcare Services, Inc. said, “What I wasn’t expecting was being partnered up with professionals from other parts of the industry—it was eye-opening to hear their concerns and their success stories with the product. Listening to their experiences in their fields and realizing that they were very similar to mine was reassuring.”

Innovation & Sustainability in Healthcare Floor Design

The Council agreed that flooring design directly influences the marketability and tenor of a space, and specifically addressed healthcare facilities. Healthcare is one of Armstrong’s primary segments and the two trends their designers see influencing Healthcare the most are Hospitality and Evidence Based Design. The Council agreed that more clients are requesting a hotel/spa-like atmosphere instead of the traditional sterile hospital environment: They want the 4-Seasons, but-they want it to feel professional and safe at the same time.

Evidence Based Design (EBD) is closely linked and likely fueling the hospitality influence in that one of the principles of EBD is to create an environment that helps reduce the anxieties and stress that are typically associated with a hospital stay. More and more studies are being done to show how color, nature and environment affect healing and recovery times.

“We are seeing the Hospitality/EBD influence in other market segments as well: Education and Corporate. Today’s current looks in linoleum, vinyl, wood and laminate are inspired by nature, a key influence in evidence based design decisions. Soothing interiors act as the ‘anti-technology’,” said Armstrong Principal Designer Di Anna Borders.  “People are overwhelmed by the amount of communication and how much work they have.  Having a soothing environment mitigates this, much like the affect in a healthcare environment where anxiety and stress is reduced.” 

According to Castillo, budget is a major concern for a lot of physicians that own their own practice. “They don’t see the need to invest in a ‘green’ product versus the traditional VCT.  The industry should  educate the public of the benefits of going green without being so focused on the price; let them know that some products are the same price as the non-green product,” she said. 

Castillo also espouses the benefit of BBT looking more upscale. “The more my clients start seeing design ideas like Armstrong’s new STRIATIONS BBT, the more receptive they will be to a VCT alternative.  While VCT may be preferred for the exam rooms where the doctor is focused on getting a good turnaround, another physician may want to draw in a different type of clientso they want to upgrade the finishes to create a ‘concierge medicine’ atmosphere.”

STRIATIONS offers a sophisticated linear visual for creating unconventional design options in a rich neutral palette. Like Migrations BBT, STRIATIONS is an environmentally friendly product, made from recycled limestone and U.S.-grown plant ingredients, which makes it non-PVC.

Another option is RAFFIA Premium Tilewhich goes beyond the VCT square in a new, rectangular tile with a long, linear, carved visual for endless design creativity. This long-lasting tile takes its visual cues from nature with soft, undulating lines and a range of fresh, clean colors. It contains pre- and post-consumer recycled-content, helping to avoid landfill waste, and it is FloorScore certified for low-VOC emissions.

Flooring contractor Kyle Everly thinks that heterogeneous will be coming back, and is starting to see it now a bit more.  “Heterogeneous is better for cleanliness with less seams; it’s a cleaner finish that is easier to maintain and offers the same looks as LVT without having the seams.” Everly also likes the monolithic looks of sheet flooring, and its variety of designs, offering more choices outside of wood planks.  For example, Armstrong’s REJUVENATIONSÔline merges commercial and residential aesthetics, cross pollinating colors and textures to provide a wealth of choices to fit any environment, from healthcare to retail. The high-end designs also meet customers’ maintenance, cost and durability requirements. 

The Armstrong Commercial Flooring Design Council was established in 2010, and is held about thrice annually. The most recent 2012 Armstrong Design Council Members included*:

· Sandy Smith, Sr. Vice President, Real Estate and Facilities at Hoag Hospital

· Albert Oliver, Senior Associate, Flad Architects

· Kyle Everly, Owner, Hudson Everly Commercial Flooring 

· Melanie Sofia Castillo, Healthcare Designer at Lillibridge Healthcare Services

· Di Anna Borders, Principal Designer, Armstrong

· Julia Pierce, Director, Commercial Marketing & Product Design, Armstrong

· Joseph Sumpman, Design Analyst, Armstrong

· Amy Costello,  Environmental Sustainability Manager, Armstrong

* Council members rotate with each session.