Facilities (Campus Spaces)

The Prestige Factor

carpet flooring with zigzag pattern

PHOTO © J&J FLOORING

Carpet and flooring systems for prestigious spaces across campuses must meet a variety of pressing demands. Such spaces traditionally continue to include key focal points such as university centers, event venues, alumni facilities, performance spaces, administrative offices and other significant places. That list seems to be expanding, with higher education campuses recognizing the strategic value of up-to-date, well-designed modern interiors for a wide array of spaces.

In fact, flooring systems can add sophistication and refined color palettes to the interiors of spaces like dining facilities, laboratories, lounges and even game rooms, helping to turn them into strategic draws. As always, carpet and other flooring systems play integral roles in such designs, as long as the floor coverings meet certain demands.

Those demands include providing premium durability with little downtime for maintenance; meeting health and safety requirements; being affordable throughout the product’s life-cycle; deftly serving dynamic uses; and less tangibly, sending the right signals about the institution. There’s more, and some experts recently shared insights with College Planning & Management.

Balancing High Profile and High Traffic

high traffic campus flooring

PHOTO © J&J FLOORING

“High-profile spaces, by their very nature, typically see high foot traffic,” says Tim Cole, vice president of marketing for nora systems, Inc. “They tend to be used heavily, making it difficult to close them for extended periods of time while floors are maintained.” In other words, being in a prestigious location doesn’t offer the luxury of extended time for flooring maintenance or, for that matter, major renovations. Cole points out, therefore, that durability and easy maintenance are among the key factors to consider in any flooring choice.

Cole says that the needs also include “the floor’s maintenance requirements over its lifetime” as well as accurately assessing whether the flooring matches “the performance requirements of the space,” and if the flooring works well with “a new or existing design scheme.”

There are many ways to respond. Take for example, the sleek epoxy flooring, with its glossy finish, in the entrance lobby of the Optical Science Center at Delaware State University (DSU) in Dover. Opened in 2015, the center is an important site for research and collaboration, and the building is an architectural showpiece for the campus.

stairway flooring

PHOTOS © SCOTT BERMAN

Just two types of flooring are specified for the center’s laboratories, offices and conference rooms: carpet tile and the epoxy. The latter is a Dur-A-Flex poured product over concrete slab that DSU’s Khalid Zerrad, project manager for Planning and Construction, reports is easy to clean with the right epoxy-safe detergents and a mop. The epoxy also provides a durable finish to the treads and perforated risers of a cantilevered steel staircase in the center’s lobby. In another flooring feature, a simple partition with river rock occupies the space beneath the airy modern staircase.

Changes and choices continue to evolve. In fact, “today’s higher education campuses are unlike anything experienced by previous generations,” says Bob Bethel, J+J Flooring Group’s director of Business Development, Education. He’s referring in part to the trend of higher education “investing significant resources to create front-of-the-house areas that serve multiple purposes”— that is, high-profile spaces that must serve a dynamic range of purposes elegantly and well.

under stairway flooring

PHOTOS © SCOTT BERMAN

Bethel points out that the landscape continues to include traditional carpet, of course, as well as textile composite flooring. He describes the latter solution as a “hybrid-type flooring (that) offers the user-friendly properties of carpet and the durability of a hard surface, thus making it an ideal choice for…multiple, rigorous demands of higher education environments.”

Appearance Matters, as Does Health

On another helpful tack, Lauri Watnee, director of Institutional Markets for Mohawk Group, shares conceptual ideas about carpet and flooring for spaces that serve as campus focal points.

Newly updated, attractive spaces “are a tremendous selling tool” for campuses, she says, noting the popularity of “sophisticated design aesthetic (that tends) to follow corporate design trends. We continue to see the use of subtle beige and grey foundational finishes with energizing bold accents and patterns,” with accents, colors and patterns also helping to provide wayfinding.

Campus lecture hall flooring

PHOTOS © SCOTT BERMAN

Watnee takes a step back to consider the idea of prestige in such places:

“‘Prestige’ is found in how we experience a building, through its thoughtful design and striking interior finishes, how it supports multi-modal teaching methods, and serves the educational and social needs of the students and staff.”

The idea of prestige is also communicated through “environments that support the health and well being of those within,” says Watnee. For example, there are “longwearing flooring finishes with sustainable attributes that also contribute to healthy indoor air quality,” she explains, “There are several product certifications that can help identify Red List-free products and those with low VOCs as well as their environmental and health impacts.”

On a final note, the intensifying preference on campuses across the nation to specify sustainable materials does not necessarily require an institution to skimp on aesthetics and especially bold, interesting color. As Cole adds about rubber flooring, to offer one example, there are “environmentally compatible color pigments that are free of lead and other heavy metals.”

Science lab decorative flooring

PHOTO © NORA SYSTEMS, INC.

All told, there is much to consider when selecting carpet and flooring systems with elegant looks and practical purposes. Indeed, finding the right product does much to underscore the sophistication of an interior design or raise the design bar of a space — all while meeting the pressing demands of that space today and potentially, for years ahead.

This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.

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