Back down to earth
No matter what spatial situation we find ourselves in, whether in the home, at the workplace or in urban space - we are always surrounded by materials. The surface of floors, walls, façades and ceilings are finished with products selected according to very different criteria, unless it is exposed concrete. . A stylish look and individual design are just as much a part of this as the highest standards of hygiene and the ease with which floors can be cleaned.
Whether owner, architect or planner: decisions relate to the design, the colour, the feel and the properties of the material itself. These decisions accompany the later occupant of a property for a long time.
Therefore, when planning, is the question really asked whether one does not want to see the colours blue, orange or a certain pattern in a few years? Is one aware that the plastic floor cannot be reused due to its composition? Was it clear that one can only use good, heavy heat-conducting materials for floor heating and cooling, that with a hard covering one has to pay attention to sound-compensating measures on the ceiling and walls?
There is a long list of individual decisions to be made when selecting materials to furnish a room.
On the one hand, the range of available products is huge, but on the other hand, there are the conditions of the property. The ideas of the occupant or owner must be taken into account not only at the time of investment, but increasingly also during the utilisation phase.
At the Hospital
Even in a healthcare building, be it a care facility or a hospital, there is a seemingly unlimited range of surfacing materials available to the client or the planner.
Certainly, in the cafeteria, a wooden parquet floor contributes significantly to the desired atmosphere. The user feels comfortable, wood is a renewable resource and makes an important contribution to climate protection. The flooring can be sanded and sealed several times during its long service life and is then as good as new. However, the effort involved is considerable.
However, the costs for the entire building have never been defined by the construction costs alone. Our society continuously discusses the rising costs of health care. If you broaden your view, you immediately come across questions of operating and maintenance costs. As far as our flooring issue is concerned, we can speak in simplified terms of maintenance and cleaning costs, for disinfection, of resistance to the agents used.
In the entrances, lobbys, operating theatres and in patients' bathrooms you find ceramic solutions due to their highest hygiene standards anyway: Tiles, today are often laid in large format. For all other areas, planners and builders have to discuss covering alternatives and should take the effort and costs into consideration. For all the alignments, they will discuss the plinth areas that are susceptible to damage during use and evaluate the possible alternatives up to and including rounded-out solutions: How often does a covering have to be renewed during the service life of a building? If you think about renovation measures in such buildings, the hair of those involved stands on end. Does it have to be done, will the hospital be partially or completely shut down? After all, the hospital is supposed to be run economically. How often elements of the building have to be renewed during their lifetime must be taken into consideration.
Today, it is no longer possible to decide on the choice of materials for construction without considering the entire material cycle. Where is production carried out, where do the raw materials come from? What happens to the materials when they are replaced or demolished? Do recycling concepts exist or can a multi-layered plastic covering only be incinerated? And overall: How does the sum of our decisions counteract global warming and climate change?
At the Hotel
The temptation is great and it is obvious to go for a mix of materials here. The path from the snowy and rainy street to the reception requires not only highly durable, easy-to-clean but also slip-resistant, i.e. non-slip, floor coverings. In the immediate surroundings, in a waiting zone of the foyer, a low-pile carpet provides a sense of security, absorbs sound and conveys serenity and calm.
It is different going through corridors to the hotel room. Is there also a carpet in this room? Does it convey cleanliness and hygiene? The slightest visible stain immediately triggers unease in the visitor. We know that.
As a planner, I have a range of surfacing materials available for these areas: Coverings made of natural materials such as wood, ceramic or cork, plastics such as vinyl or from layered materials (laminates). Do the last two mentioned really give the impression of quality and atmosphere? Do I expect a cork floor in the hotel - as ecologically harmless as it may be? Have I considered the important aspect of cleaning and maintenance here? Escape routes are indicated everywhere, but has the hotelier also thought about the fire behaviour of the materials?
Of course, there are different relationships to living: Is it the investor, the tenant or
the owner of a new house or flat who makes the decision on the choice of materials? How far does the scope for decision-making extend, may decisions also be made about coverings on balconies or terraces? Whatever situation we find ourselves in, the choice is time-investing, we want to experience it as exciting and thrilling.
We spend a large part of our lives in our living environment. Who are we? Adults, children, teenagers, grandparents, pets. Then the expectations to what surrounds us look very different from repainting walls. Should I change the floor and wall coverings in the living room, the children's room or the bathroom? I can sand down and reseal a wooden parquet floor, not quite cheaply, and renew a carpet every few years, provided I have decided on an immanent cosiness. Do I want to? Do I have to? Of course, the longer, the more durable a surface is, the longer it surrounds me, the longer I have to live with it.
Do we still remember the blue or green tiled bathrooms of our grandparents? Perhaps then pronounced patterns or strong colours are less likely to come into question. With so many choices, a wood texture is no longer necessarily tied to the actual material.
So-called design coverings, laminates but also tiles are offered with deceptively real surfaces, from wood to natural stone.
So-called design coverings, laminates but also tiles are offered with deceptively real surfaces, from wood to natural stone. Of course, when we use our senses, we notice what we are standing on, what it feels like. Have our values shifted in such a way that we simply dispense with the real thing? Almost a worldview question.
And then suddenly the ceramic covering is as warm underfoot in the winter months as wooden floorboards. There is no end to the surprises. The good heat conduction of the heavy covering in combination with an underlying panel heating system has been one of our standards for many years. Such heating can be operated with low flow temperatures, which is good for the environment. Recently, these systems can also be used for cooling, an interesting option in view of the increasingly hot summer months.
However, we can choose from a variety of materials on offer. There are visual, haptic and functional properties to choose from. Then we can make a decision that is right for us. Increasingly, we will (have to) deal with questions of environmental protection: Where does the material or the combination of materials come from? Is there an additional maintenance requirement? How long will my covering material last? Multiple disposal of waste and the resulting need for new purchases will certainly not improve our ecological footprint in the future.