Interior designers specializing in healthcare facility design say the most important criteria in their choices for flooring, wall covering, and upholstery are aesthetics, durability, ease of maintenance, and client preference, according to a recent study commissioned by the Vinyl Institute, based in Arlington, Va.
The survey found that they are using a variety of vinyl products, including vinyl composition tile (VCT), woven Crypton, and vinyl plank flooring in their patient rooms and community spaces. The majority of respondents are involved in ambulatory care, acute care, and assisted living projects.
Survey results show that vinyl is the most frequently specified material for public or community healthcare flooring. VCT is the most frequently chosen, followed closely by sheet vinyl and broadloom carpet.
When asked to rate the top five characteristics that influence their decision to specify VCT, designers stated it was due to initial cost (75%), durability (73%), aesthetics (69%), client preference (68%), and ease of maintenance (51%). VCT is also specified for its cost of maintenance and wheelchair accessibility.
The most frequently specified material for wall finishes in public spaces was Type II vinyl wallcoverings, which were chosen 99% of the time for aesthetics.
Designers' first choice for upholstery is woven Crypton, a brand of moisture-proof upholstery fabric, with vinyl materials second.
Respondents named sheet vinyl as the flooring material of choice for patient and long-term-care resident rooms, followed by VCT. Vinyl plank flooring, a new product, is slowly making its way into this market, ranking third among materials of choice.
Sheet vinyl was chosen because its seams can be chemically sealed or heat welded to keep out moisture and dirt, helping to maintain hygienic conditions in healthcare environments, where infection control is a paramount issue.
Ceramic tile remains the most popular choice for flooring in patient bathrooms due to its consistent performance in wet areas. Because many healthcare facilities feature roll-in showers for accessibility, flooring materials must be slip-resistant. They must also be able to be sloped in order to drain water without curbing, which could impede wheelchair accessibility.
Survey respondents also commented on the need for more patterns and imaging in flooring, to assist in patient wayfinding around hospitals and healthcare facilities.
"Incontinence and dementia are the two most important elements that influence the products and designs used in the physical environment for the elderly," wrote one respondent. "The industry is moving forward with aesthetically pleasing products for incontinence. Products that help with wayfinding are needed."
Other respondents suggested that limitations in color and pattern selection and lack of unity in the color schemes among collections inhibit healthcare design.
"Manufacturers should work within their collections to unite color schemes," one designer wrote. "It would be wonderful if they could coordinate and unite schemes with other manufacturers and products."
"The maintenance and teaching of maintenance is almost more important than the selection of the product itself," said Jane Rohde, founding principal of Ellicott City, Md.-based JSR Associates, which conducted the study. One survey respondent found this to be a direct result of recent maintenance staff cuts at hospitals.
In explaining their product preference, some designers factored in environmental performance of materials, including recyclable items and those that have little or no impact on indoor air quality.
Designers from 39 states, all members of the International Interior Design Association Healthcare Forum, participated in the survey, which had a return rate of 20%.
More information: Vinyl Institute, www.vinylinfo.org ; 703-253-0700.