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Top 3 Interior Finishes (Walls & Floors) For A Post Pandemic Design Era

OPINION


Last night I attended a live webcast (Resilience & Opportunity: Designing in a Post-Pandemic World) organized by Contract Magazine with a panel of designers discussing their different perspectives on how to mitigate the current threat of this pandemic.


Below are the highlights of the webcast, categorized into 3:

Economic Constraints—saw a slowdown of pipelines, decrease of profitability, dip in real estate conversions, no work no pay policies among staff, redundancy, possible decrease in design fees, economic resilience of a company, survival strategy if without emergency funds, liquidity and access to loans, vulnerability in the ecosystem, including the supply chain

How long will a company survive? How do we lessen overhead expenses? When can normal operation resume?


Behavioral Impact—in the past, workplace design evolved from the cubicle system to benching, promoting collaboration and interaction between workmates. Post pandemic requirement though requires distancing or spacing of at least 6 feet apart, especially in public commercial areas. Empathy as basis of design should have a holistic approach, to include the mental and health wellness requirement of every end user.


New Design Paradigms—density for social distancing in public spaces as a priority in design. Emergence of automated systems, especially retail spaces, for lesser interaction and contact. Health safety as a prime requirement, integrating design with science and technology. Decentralized workforce, satellite offices or work-from-home setups will pivot into a new real estate development from an urban congestion to the suburbs for bigger space. High investment on technology for communication.


Will there eventually be a “Virus-Free Building certificate”?


My Perspective:

Mr. Paul Eagle (Managing Principal, Planning & Strategies) of Perkins & Will aptly emphasized that designers should prioritize the “comfort level” of the end user. And this translates to the interior finishes that will be specified as a solution to prioritizing the health safety. Durability of the product should be considered in relation to the heightened deep cleaning regimens.


In the current release of scientific studies, the Covid19 virus has longevity on the following surfaces:


Metal (such as doorknobs)—5 days

Wood (such as furniture)—4 days

Plastics (such as elevator buttons)—2-3 days

Stainless Steel—2-3 days

Cardboard—24 hours

Copper—4 hours

Aluminum—2-8 hours

Glass (such as mirrors, windows)—5 days

Ceramics—5 days

Paper—varies from a few minutes to 5 days

(Sources: WebMD, How Long Does Coronavirus Live On Surfaces; medRxiv updated article published in The New England Journal of Medicine)


Additionally, SARS-CoV-2 RNA was found on a variety of surfaces 17 days after the crew disembarked from Diamond Princess Cruise Ship, as per new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Early February, another study published in The Journal of Hospital Infection, concludes that all strains of the Coronavirus can remain in surfaces (such as metal, glass, plastic) for as long as 9 days compared to the flu viruses which lasts on surfaces for 48 hours.

The study recommends frequent cleaning of surfaces with disinfectants to contain 62-71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (bleach). This will “efficiently” inactivate the virus within minutes. However, these new requirements will bring in a new advent of deep cleaning methods, specifically the use of harsher chemicals or even a shift from a popularly-practiced wet deep cleaning versus the dry method.


(Source: Live Science, Here’s How Long The Coronavirus Will Last On Surfaces & How To Disinfect Those Surfaces, Yasemin Saplakoglu)


Top 3 A&D Products for Interior Finishes (Walls & Floors) As A Solution


1-Woven Vinyl Wallcovering


This type of wallcovering ranks very high than the accepted International Standards for Commercial Use. Classified as Cat VI, Type III for Durability (ASTM F 793), Class A adherence on Flammability (ASTM E84), 100,000 Wyzenbeek for Abrasion. Stains easily wipe off. For tougher stains, wall fabric is bleach cleanable (bleach must be diluted in correct proportion). Use of strong bleach on paint and other type of wallcoverings can cause permanent damage.


2-Specialty Entrance Mat

Flooring manufacturers would always recommend an entrance matting system, normally rough carpet or aluminum-carpet strips, to protect the main flooring finish. These regular entrance mats will trap about 80% of the dust, soil and grime brought in by foot traffic.

However, in a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sars-Cov-2 virus strain that causes Coronavirus were found positive in half of the samples of shoe soles of medical staff in the Intensive Care Unit in a hospital in Wuhan, China.


As a result, several government and health institutions published warnings to the public to restrain from bringing in shoes used outdoors to the home. But what about commercial spaces, how can this challenge be solved?



A Specialty Entrance Mat can be used in all commercial establishments. It used to be specified only for entrances in labs and medical facilities (clean rooms and research laboratories, labs, medical offices and surgical rooms). However, in current circumstances, this type would be the most appropriate. This has an anti-microbial surface, an anti-slip traction, comes in disposable sheets in every mat casing.


3-Woven Vinyl Floorcovering / Area Rugs


“An antimicrobial flooring will kill existing, prevent the development and subsequent spread of a host of potentially harmful microscopic organisms including bacteria, protozoa, yeast, fungi, viruses, some algae and even some worms. In short, the antimicrobial agent acts as an antibacterial, antibiotic, antifungal, antiparasitic and antiviral agent all-in-one.” Mostly used for food preparation and medical facilities, rubber or resin type flooring is often specified.

However, in other commercial establishments like offices and hotels, Aesthetics and Comfort should also come into play. That is why carpet is popularly used for these areas. With the current threat and new requirements, however, this soft flooring will have its limitations such as:

1. Carpet tufts act as a trap for dusts, dirt, pollen and other particles brought in by foot traffic. To be consistently clean and hygienic, it is therefore recommended to do a frequent vacuuming, spot removal and deep cleaning. Some carpets do not recommend the use of bleach as this will remove the color dye.



2. After deep wet cleaning (hot water extraction or steam cleaning), carpet completely dries only after 6-10 hours. Sometimes, it dries from 24 hours to a few days depending on the season, humidity and air circulation.


The prolonged moisture content can be a risk, unless wet areas will be cordoned off for a day or two, bringing in a longer downtime.


Studies prove that wet surfaces or moist environments can harbor the spread of the virus (Source: Centers For Disease Control and Prevention: How Infections Spread).


Durability and a high rating of Stain resistance are normally characteristics of hardsurface and resilient flooring. Whereas Design Aesthetics and Comfort are qualities of soft flooring. Is there a product which is a compromise of both?

Yes, woven vinyl flooring is THE perfect hybrid between soft and hard floor covering. It has the aesthetics of carpet with its texture and wide range of pattern and color. But at the same time has the durability of hard surface. Its vinyl tuft has a fiberglass core, is bleach resistant and waterproof. Rated as Heavy Commercial Traffic (ASTM 5252), applicable for both outdoor and indoor use. Other certifications include No Delamination, Superior Traffic Resistance (ASTM D3936), Superior Abrasion Resistance (ASTM D3884), Superior Fungal Resistance (ASTM G21) and Superior Chemical Resistance (ASTM F925) among others.

In the selection of materials during product specification, I have always been an advocate of Life Cycle Cost Analysis and Vertical Integration. Post pandemic design exercise will now shift to an inclusion of a more stringent cost analysis at the onset of design planning. It is very important to know that higher initial investment on a specific product does not mean a loss for the investor. A lesser overall maintenance cost of the product during its lifecycle can offset these initial costs.


Likewise, choosing a brand manufacturer with a vertical integration platform would mean a direct control on cost of yarns, cost of manpower, cost of finished product, ergo lessening the overall project budget. Value engineering does not have to wait until it reaches the end of the ecosystem, the Contractor. It can be done on the designer’s drawing board right at the onset of planning.

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