Floorcoverings: Including Maintenance in the Equation
Before Suzanne Barnes paid them a visit, Florida Hospital in Orlando accepted conventional wisdom when it came to flooring. The hospital sought out the cheapest products to satisfy its needs because the bottom line, after all, is the bottom line. Vinyl composition tile (VCT) was the cheapest hard flooring choice, ranging between $1.20 and $1.50/ft2 ($13.00 to $16.00/m2) to purchase and install. Sheet vinyl, they determined, was the next best thing, followed by rubber at $4.00 to $5.50/ft2 ($43.00 to $60.00/m2), installed.
Today, Florida Hospital is in the process of redrawing the bottom line. In 1997 and ’98, Barnes, AIA, CFM, led a team in determining whether the hospital was indeed making the best flooring choices. Barnes revealed that by considering only initial costs when comparing flooring materials, the hospital was deceiving itself. Stretching the bottom line to cover a 15-year time horizon recognized the costs of flooring upkeep and replacement, and turned Florida Hospital’s assumptions about the cost of flooring on their heads. In the end, hospital administrators concluded, VCT is the most expensive of the hard flooring choices. For their application, uncoated rubber turned out to cost the least over 15 years.
The hospital’s revelation tells just the beginning of a complex flooring story, one with great implications for environmental health, human well-being, and, not least, cost. This article recognizes the underappreciated importance of flooring maintenance and highlights its role in the design and operation of commercial and institutional spaces. It also includes considerations unique to specific types of floorcovering.