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Engineered Vinyl: The Best Multipurpose Surface for an Educational Space

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David Sides, Director of Sales - West, Ecore International

Educational institutions today are required to do a lot with little. Budget cuts, overcrowded schools, and increasing student needs are all at odds with one another. So, when the time comes to renovate an educational space or build a new one, careful consideration should be taken when specifying the surfaces to ensure they are practical, timeless, and capable of adapting to multiple uses. 

A space designed for multiple uses requires a floor that is specifically engineered for multiple purposes. This begs the questions of: What type of floor to select for a multipurpose space, and what criteria should be considered?  Ecore floors in a school gymnasium

The most obvious, however vague, answer is a multipurpose floor that can support a variety of applications. That’s because one room may be taxed with many different uses. For example, a cafeteria that serves as an eating space Monday through Friday may serve as a gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a performance venue on Fridays and Saturdays. Oh, and don’t forget about PTA meetings, LIONS club meetings and wedding receptions.  Who is on the floor and what are they doing? 

Types of Multipurpose Surfaces
When it comes to selecting a multipurpose surface, what options are available? There are several different types of floors to consider:  Ecore floors in a school classroom
•    Rubber
•    Carpet
•    LVT
•    VCT (really old school)
•    Poured in Place
•    Homogenous Vinyl
•    Synthetic Flooring
•    Engineered Vinyl

Criteria for a Multipurpose Surface
Although each of these 8 surfaces offers advantages and disadvantages, there are at least 8 factors that should be considered when selecting a multipurpose floor for an educational application:

1.) Durability for Low Life Cycle Cost
Long-term performance with low need for replacement should be considered when selecting a floor. Performance flooring can be selected with increased energy restitution for durability under particularly demanding conditions, such as high point loads or high foot traffic. Some multipurpose surfaces are also available with a factory-applied reinforcing finish that provides polish-free maintenance for the lifetime of the product. 

2.) Cleanability and Maintenance
Select a multipurpose floor that is easy to clean without harsh chemicals. Some surfaces require wax, expensive cleaning products or the use of a buffer.
Ecore floors being waxed and cleaned
3.) Safety
A good multi-purpose surface will provide support and protection as well as slip resistance and ease of mobility, meaning some friction but not too much.

4.) Ergonomics
The right multi-purpose surface will provide support and reduce fatigue and severity of injury.

5.) Acoustics
A good multi-purpose surface will improve acoustics.  A quiet floor can reduce stress and ensure better concentration, productivity, speech intelligibility, and privacy, all of which are critical in an educational space. The right multi-purpose floor will also control impact noise from footsteps, dropped items, and dragging equipment.

6.) Sustainable Sourcing & Manufacturing
The flooring specified should have a sustainable lifecycle and a visible corporate commitment to environmental responsibility. A sustainable product demonstrates a school cares about the environment and the students using the space. Some of the major criteria for assessing sustainable performance flooring products include:

  • Contribution to LEED points by meeting criteria under Material and Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality categories.
  • FloorScore® rating
  • Environmental Product Declarations (EPD®)
  • Mindful Materials program, a design industry initiative that provides a single common platform for manufacturers to communicate— and designers to access— information such as disclosure documents and certifications for specific products

7.)    ASTM F2772 for Indoor Sports Flooring Systems
When it comes to cafenasiums or gymatoriums that will also serve as a court space, schools need to ensure the flooring they specify meets ASTM F2772 for Indoor Sports Flooring Specifications. This standard is the only material testing method recognized in the U.S. by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for indoor sports flooring. ASTM F2772 was designed to certify and classify resilient surfaces made specifically for sports and recreation activities. To ensure the surface materials meet the criteria to be classified in one of the five classes of sports floors, the ASTM F2772 test standard measures four characteristics of performance:

  • Force Reduction
  • Ball Rebound
  • Surface Finish Effect
  • Vertical Deformation

A floor must meet all four of these criteria to be compliant with the ASTM F2772 standard for indoor sports and multipurpose flooring. To learn more, check out this white paper. 

8.) Backing
Do not discount the type of backing material on a surface. Although there are many different types of multipurpose surfaces on the market, a rubber backing, unlike similar-looking products that use EVA foam, will not breakdown or lose its elastomeric properties. The resilience of rubber (muscle) on the back of a surface provides permanent indentation resistance to heavy point loads like equipment and tables and chairs as well as consistent force reduction and energy restitution values for activities over the entire life of the product.

Keeping these criteria in mind, there is only one flooring solution for a multi-purpose educational space: engineered vinyl. 

Engineered Vinyl
Cross section of a vinyl floor
An engineered vinyl surface can be defined as a heterogeneous floor consisting of a wear layer fusion-bonded to a vulcanized composition rubber backing (VCR). The thickness and properties of the performance layer (backing) can be tailored to meet specific performance requirements. The other benefits of selecting a multi-purpose engineered vinyl surface include:

  • Positive characteristics of a hard, soft, and resilient surface all in one product
  • A single, integrated product with broad application and design versatility, as a result of itsTRU™ technology
  • Hygienic because of heat welded installation
  • Easy-to-maintain and clean
  • Less risk of injury associated with falls
  • Sound control
  • Comfort underfoot and ergonomic

Engineered vinyl surfaces are ideal for these multi-purpose educational applications: Ecore floors in a school auditorium

  • Gymnasiums and courts
  • C