Carpets for Schools
The UK Building Schools for the Future programme is up, running but still a little unsteady. The Government’s ambitious target is to spend £45 billion on upgrading or replacing 3500 secondary schools by 2020, at the rate of several hundred a year.
Designing for schools means designing large and complex buildings. PFI guidelines and lifecycle costing demand the very best specification with the highest performance. With the high movement rates of people and equipment in schools, designers have a tough job specifying products that have to withstand wear, tear and accidental damage but also meet standards for fire, noise, health and safety.
The problem is that the wheel is continually being invented – every design, every concept and most new schools are all different. This, and because PFI contractors invariably change the specification, often results in the incorrect choice of the most suitable products.
Carpets for learning
Clearly, the floor is the largest surface area and the one which requires careful consideration. The floor not only has an aesthetic and fundamental role but also influences pupil behaviour, well-being and learning.
The biggest change in school floor specification is carpeting. Carpet is no longer considered to be a decorative element but a fundamental part of the fabric. More than any other interior design product, it has to resist heavy traffic and perform without deterioration of its surface appearance and with minimum maintenance. Informed carpet manufacturers understand this and aim to produce textile floorcoverings which are ideal for this type of application.
Tretford is a good example of a major manufacturer focused on providing carpet which fulfils the special challenges of PFI lifecycle performance as well as meeting the aesthetics and psychological needs that are special to schools.
Tretford’s impact on schools and other educational institutions is based on the unusual composition and performance of its roll and tile format cord carpet. What is unusual is that this is a natural product because 80% of its wearing surface is goat hair while the backing is 100% jute. This type of corded construction and natural fibre imbues the carpet with exceptional resilience. It also means that it will resist compression and tracking and, unlike needlepunch or traditional synthetic fibre carpets, will retain its appearance over a long period. Not only do the natural fibres make the product highly sustainable but they also absorb and release moisture as the temperature and humidity changes.
Benefits of carpet
Children have an empathy with carpet. For younger ones, especially, it reflects the home environment. Some like to lie down and work or play on the surface; others relish its softness and warmth.
School carpet provides an overall perception of warmth and welcome by eliminating the institutional feel and by greatly improving pupil, teacher and visitor lifestyle, comfort and well-being. The insulating performance of carpet means that less heating is required, There is also the proven psychological benefit where research shows that people feel up to 3 degrees warmer in a carpeted room.
Colour is an essential part of childrens’ learning process and reaction to their environment. Different colours alter emotion and behaviour. For example, greens balance energy and have a calming effect, as do violets, whereas red has the opposite reaction. In schools, different colours can be used to provide everything from exciting inspirational areas, to places of quiet study or reflection to defining specific functions. Tretford is the only carpet manufacturer which provides an Appearance Retention Guide to
help specifiers select the right colours for the right areas.
Health and safety
Unlike hard floors, carpet not only reduces slips and trips but provides an element of cushioning when a child falls. This is particularly important because of growing litigation and claims. The surface readily absorbs water and others spills, which again eliminates slipping, and conceals unhealthy dirt and dust. Carpet is easily vacuum cleaned which saves time and is less dangerous and interruptive that the mopping and polishing of other types of floor. Carpet tiles are particularly easy to remove to repair soiled or damaged areas.
Compared with other types of floorcovering, textile surfaces are highly sound absorbent. They are particularly good at absorbing high frequency sounds, echoes in large spaces and corridors and impact sound from furniture (such as classroom furniture and running). Reductions of 20-40dB in airborne and impact sound are very welcome in schools for aiding study and concentration and providing a calmer atmosphere.
Maintenance and lifecycle costs
Finally but very importantly, carpet overcomes the perception that it is more expensive over the PFI lifecycle. Hard floors actually cost significantly more to maintain. The International Sanitary Supply Association has published comparative maintenance costs. Based on 100sqm, and measured over a school year, the results show that carpet took just over 4000 minutes to clean and cost 5.39 euros per sqm, compared with just over 11,000 minutes for vinyl at nearly three times the cost (15.18 euro per sqm).
Christopher Sykes Pressential LLP, PO Box 2884, Woldingham, Caterham CR3 7WJ
tel: 0845 680 0902 fax: 0845 680 0903 email: firstname.lastname@example.org