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Floors & Flooring

Into the Zone


Abby Chandler, Marketing Manager of Heckmondwike FB, looks at the rising popularity of zoning in education and commercial environments and the impact it is having on choice of floor coverings.

“Zoning is a concept that is becoming widely used in commercial and educational environments to create demarcation within open plan spaces, without the need for barriers or partitions. In this sense, floorcoverings and particularly carpet, open up major opportunities for the use of colour, creating aesthetically-pleasing internal environments.  This zonal approach has been found to engage young people and create a stimulating learning environment, by simply but effectively communicating to pupils what the purpose or expectation is in a particular area.

Studies carried out across seven primary schools in Blackpool by the University of Salford and architecture firm Nightingale Associates showed that school layouts can influence a child’s development by as much as 25 per cent – positively or negatively, over the course of the academic year.  In this research, each classroom was rated for quality on 10 different environmental factors, such as natural light, shape, colour, temperature and acoustics, as part of a study into the impact of design in the learning environment.

Many schools have seen for themselves how zoning can help to create harmonious, dedicated areas where users are aware of and adhere to that specific purpose.

One example of this is Malcolm Arnold Academy in Northampton.  Here, national architecture practice GSS Architecture, was commissioned to assess and reconfigure the design of the academy.

This included the relocation of the sixth form facilities and redesigning the school’s central space.  This created a dynamic and flexible area at the heart of the building, which provided dedicated areas for dining, personalised learning and breakout/social spaces.

To quote Project Architect, Tom Lyons at GSS Architecture, “Floor finishes and design are a critical part of creating these sorts of spaces, as they promote good circulation and flow and assist in forming smaller group working areas within a larger space. They also have to be able to cater for a wide range of different uses, whilst adding to the quality and excitement of a creative and inspiring learning area.”  

Malcolm Arnold Academy features a number of large open-plan spaces. Its refurbishment involved the specification of colourful new carpet designs that were intended to define different sections of space according to their intended purpose. Supacord fibre bonded carpet was specified in different colours and designs to separate adjacent spaces from a visual point of view – such as a seating area next to a high-traffic walkway.

As Malcolm Arnold Academy features a number of large open-plan spaces, a range of Supacord colours were used to define different sections of these spaces according to their intended purpose.  For example, for the central walkway, ‘go slower’ horizontal stripes in orange provide a stark contrast to the grey carpet, clearly identifying that there was a need to slow down as this walkway descends, for safety reasons.

The brief for this project called for a carpet that was durable enough to withstand high volumes of foot traffic and survive in a demanding environment, but without losing its appearance.  The durable, rugged construction of Supacord carpet means it can be cut on site, so that individual flooring designs could be created without any risk of the carpet fraying or unravelling.

To quote Contracts Manager Carl Harper: “The range provided plenty of scope to create different looks for different parts of the academy.  This helped to define the purpose of the various spaces within the school and create a variety of interior environments.”

Similarly, at St Leonard’s Primary school in Banbury, Supacord carpet tiles were specified in the school’s colours of red and grey, creating learning zones and break-out areas along their long corridors. The use of zoning in this case is reported to be achieving its aim of providing a stimulating and enjoyable learning environment, as well as helping to raise attainment levels.

And this technique is not only having a positive effect on schools.  Commercial environments too are benefiting from the effects of zoning.  In the same way as schools, businesses are finding that open plan office spaces can easily be divided into designated departments or functions due to the colour and nature of the carpet.  This was clearly demonstrated at the Wallis Building in Nottingham’s Lace Market.  Here, zoning has been used to create specific work spaces to attract high tech IT and technology-based businesses to locate to the centre.  The developers, Bildurn Properties, specified 90m² of Heckmondwike Array Fibre-bonded carpet tiles in an attractive lime shade, which was complemented by 15m² of Broadrib in Willow.   The developer felt that the use of Array and Broadrib helped them to create a “fresh, dynamic and appealing working environment for aspiring entrepreneurs.”

As the trend towards open plan offices and schools continues, demarcation is less about barriers, partitions and walls, but more about clever choice of flooring.  By incorporating zoning techniques, specifiers are creating aesthetically pleasing interiors with dedicated areas clearly identified for specific purposes, but which still flow.  As studies have shown, this is having a very positive impact on users of a building.”

Sample cards from Heckmondwike FB are available on request by calling +44 [0] 1924 406161 or visiting the website www.heckmondwike-fb.co.uk.