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Interior designers debate solid surface flooring vs. carpet in long-term care

August 19, 2009
by Lisa Cini
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Lisa Robbins, Allied Member ASID, Ritz Associates:
I thought Lisa Cini’s blog, “Solid surface flooring versus carpet in skilled nursing,” was great. Some of my favorite discussions with designers and end users are about finishes. Much like lighting, I believe flooring can make or break a space. It's one of the first things noticeable when walking into a facility. What's interesting about this topic is that everyone can have an opinion about it and I can't imagine any one opinion being right or wrong. Although it is absolutely a highly debatable subject!

 

I would lead by commenting that I challenge the 'homey' feel. I'm not sure I want my Acute Care Hospital to feel like home unless it is a nurse's residence. Carpeting could give me that warm sense of not being in an institutional space in that instance, except that I've seen some great vinyl flooring which looks like wood and I love wood floors at home ... so, I'm curious, which one would you choose?

Lisa Cini:
Thank you for the response, Lisa. For me there are many ways to achieve a ‘homey’ feel and I would like to counter that Acute Care has done a better job of this than the Long-Term Care industry. I have been an in-house designer in both environments. We added carpet in the hospital long before skilled nursing even considered it and several factors led us to using carpet in Acute Care.

 

First, patients were starting to drive where they stayed vs. the doctor or insurance company. This started with labor and delivery units, then moved to heart and then to the ER. From a clinical standpoint, there was a reduction in noise from the traffic outside of a patient’s room and therefore sleep and agitation were less, which in turn helped in the healing process. That being said, we did have to make modifications to mobile technology to accommodate the loads (i.e., portable x-ray machines) and understand fiber technology, backing systems, and cleaning schedules.

 

Another positive was that from a life-cycle costing standpoint the carpeting was much less costly to maintain even with replacement factored in. Outpatient surgery centers have also bought this “homey” feel to the extent that even they are customizing catering, having fireplaces at the check in and fluffy robes. On a personal note, I have had carpet, hardwood, tile and linoleum in my living spaces and I like them all. I see the benefits to most of them except tile. However, I do notice in Long-Term Care that if carpet is on the correct maintenance schedule and toileting is taken care of then my preference is for carpet.

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I concern myself with utility design for Hospital bed sheets www.functionall-linens.com

I find this an interesting conversation. There is an organization that specializes in exactly this type of interior design you may find them useful as you gather information you may even be a member of something like this.
http://www.aahid.org/committees/article/advisory

Also I would like to comment on a statement you made regarding


"It is the cheapest upon installation but the most clinical and costly over the long haul compared to the other options mentioned above. It could possibly be a geographic difference in what is getting specified. On a side note, ER, ICU, and cancer units are still hard surface. I agree that evidence-based design will be key in determining the patient benefits of the materials. It's always a balance between what is best for the patient or resident, staying in budget, and being able to maintain the product in a cost effective manner."

I have observed that when it comes to facility purchasing / Buyers it all comes down to quantifying the products on a monetary level and relationships.
Sometimes the purchase/product choice has nothing to do with what is best for the patient or facility but simply what the purchaser wants to do ...sometimes there are pre existing relationships that will not be interrupted because that is how the buyer wants it. in this event the facility is limited to it's options.
I was shocked when this reality was presented to me but I assure it happens every day in the Healthcare world just as it happens in every other type of business. We often forget that Medicine and healthcare are a BIG BUSINESS and there are lots of people making BIG BIG money .... with things just as they are ... working with establishedrelationships that serve agendas other than the patients best interest.
All of this being said ......
what a wonderful world we would live in if decisions were based on doing the right thing for the patient and facility. But that might disturb the corporate machine.

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Lisa Cini

President and CEO

www.mosaicdesignstudio.com

Cini is president and CEO of Mosaic...