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4 Things to Consider When Designing a Healthy School Environment

Posted on Aug 22, 2017, by Mike Patrick

When redesigning school interiors, it's important to consider how your design choices will impact the health and wellness of the hundreds of students, teachers and staff who will use the building every single day. Many seemingly minor decisions can have a significant impact on the classroom and school environment.

Today we're sharing four health and wellness concerns that can be addressed through school design to create a healthier and more comfortable learning environment.

1) Slips and Falls

Slips and falls are a leading cause of injury in schools. Your choice of flooring can either increase or minimize the risk of slips and falls. Hard surface flooring is often a popular choice in school corridors thanks to its ability to withstand the high levels of foot traffic that pass through every day. However, in wet or snowy weather, moisture is brought into the building on people's shoes, and creates a slippery surface that increases the risk of falls.

To combat this, you have two options: use carpet in corridors instead of hard flooring (modular carpet tiles with an open cell cushion backing are the most durable carpet choice); or install a tiered entry system that combines a scraping action with absorbent textiles to remove the majority of dirt and moisture from shoes before students set foot on your main flooring.

2) Indoor Air Quality

Poor indoor air quality can lead to a range of health concerns, including allergies, nose and throat infections, headaches, and fatigue.

Materials selected during renovation can impact indoor air quality: it's essential that you select low-emission paint to minimize the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and your choice of flooring can eliminate another potential source of VOCs - flooring adhesives. Some carpet tiles, such as Milliken's TractionBack, can be installed without adhesive, thanks to their high-friction coating.

The type of flooring installed also contributes to indoor air quality: carpet fibers trap dust and allergen particles, keeping them out of the breathing zone until they are removed by vacuuming; whereas hard surface flooring allows dust and dirt particles to move around in the air as there's nothing to trap them down at floor level.

3) Noise Levels

High noise levels can have a major impact on health and wellness, by contributing to increased stress levels. Additionally, increased noise levels affect learning and comprehension, so it's important to consider classroom acoustics in your design.

Many schools already have acoustical ceiling tiles and sound-control doors installed, but your choice of flooring can offer additional acoustic benefits. Modular carpet tiles with built-in cushion backing absorb 50% more noise than hardback carpet, which in turn absorbs three times more noise than hard flooring.

4) Visual Comfort

Too many hard, polished surfaces in the classroom - such as whiteboards, tabletops and even hard flooring - can cause glare when light reflects off the surface. The WELL Building Standard states that glare can cause visual discomfort, fatigue and visual impairment.

To minimize visual discomfort, consider the number of reflective surfaces you've selected in your classroom design, and work to reduce that number. One quick win could be to switch from hard flooring to carpet. Not only can this boost visual comfort, it can also help to reduce classroom noise levels - a double benefit for health and wellness in the classroom.

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Mike Patrick

Written by Mike Patrick