By Amber Dickinson
From the March/April 2016 Issue
Facility managers have the challenging task of procuring all the elements necessary to maintain and operate their facilities. In order to be experts in all facets—including, but not limited to, lighting, HVAC, furniture and fixtures, and flooring, along with maintenance, leasing, and construction responsibilities, facility managers would require extensive education and experience in each of these categories. Considering the breadth of these tasks, it’s safe to say that many facility professionals benefit from partnering with those whose are experts on specific aspects.
When it comes to flooring, creating a set of procurement standards sets the tone for an overall positive experience, from the selection of products to installation to an ongoing maintenance program. In addition, working with a flooring contractor throughout a project increases useful insights. Implementing a team approach benefits many projects, and facility managers can do so by establishing a working relationship with a local architecture/interior design firm and flooring professional. Together, the team can determine the best solution for the function of the space that is both aesthetically pleasing and will fit within the allotted budget.
There are many aspects to selecting the right flooring professional, and identifying a partner with a track record of dependability, integrity, and accessibility helps to maximize results. The flooring professional chosen should be easy to do business with, have extensive product and technical knowledge, and have a warehouse in which to receive and store materials (both before and possibly after installation, to manage attic stock).
An effective flooring contractor will also have knowledge of asset management. This is important, because after installation this professional should help design a maintenance plan (if not providing the service themselves) and a selective replacement plan (if installing carpet tile) in order to achieve longevity of the flooring investment.
Standards Guide Flooring Selection
Once a flooring partner is chosen, facility management professionals can then review their organization’s procurement standards. If a set of standards does not exist, or if this needs updating, these can be discussed by the project team.
Often there are already performance standards in place, and it is recommended to review and update these every few years to make sure facility management is taking advantage of any new options on the market. If there is no current set of standards, the flooring partner can be a resource to help identify the needs of the facility and help set standards going forward.
Identify each area, and assess the foot traffic. It is extremely important to identify the use and traffic of each area involved in the project, because those with differing functions will require installation of different flooring materials.
For example, public areas generally tend to be higher in traffic and undergo more wear and tear than a private office. Therefore, facility decision-makers might select products that are more suited to higher traffic and that will withstand the daily wear. Solid, light colored carpet in a high traffic lobby or corridor will soil easily and look worn out much more quickly than a patterned, mid-tone colored carpet or a hard surface that will perform better and longer in the higher traffic areas.
When selecting carpet products, the types of yarn systems, dye methods, backing material, face weights, and surface textures should be considered as well as expected overall foot traffic. When selecting hard surfaces such as luxury vinyl tile (LVT), all recommended applications should be considered to determine whether glue-down or a floating LVT is a suitable choice.
Determine length of occupancy/lease. Is occupancy of the space in question expected to be long- or short-term? For instance, when selecting material for a short-term lease (one to five years), less expensive and lower quality materials might be chosen for the duration of the lease. This can be done without compromising on aesthetics. If planned occupancy is 10, 15, or even 20 years, it is often more suitable to invest in higher quality materials that will last.
Assess existing subfloor conditions. Like selecting the right product based on traffic patterns, lease terms, or product materials, understanding the existing subfloor conditions is significant in determining the options to consider for the flooring product. For instance, high moisture content, as measured by relative humidity, may necessitate expensive remediation or change in the type of carpet or hard surface that is selected. Meanwhile, the presence of asbestos could also mean expensive remediation, or going with a floating floor versus a direct glue down application.
Most product failures are due to improper floor preparation, which also results in a product no longer being warranted by the manufacturer. It is better to understand the issues on the front end before final product selections are determined.
Select correct category of product. Would a hard surface or soft surface be more appropriate? Many factors will need to be considered for this one. Does the space need sound reduction? If so, then a carpet or resilient product will be better than a porcelain tile or stone that will tend to echo and amplify sound. If the function of the space regularly involves water, such as a bathroom, kitchen, or laundry, it’s prudent to select a hard surface that can be cleaned with a mop. If elderly people who risk falling occupy the space, a level carpet will be safer and reduce slippage, while providing a softer surface for impact if they do fall.
Establish performance specifications. Based on the characteristics of the space, it is important to establish performance specifications as these will ensure the right materials will be selected for maximum performance. For example, an airport may require a luxury vinyl tile (LVT) to have a 40 mil wear layer; a doctor’s office or corporate lobby/kitchen may only require a 20 mil wear layer; and multi-family housing might only need an 8 mil wear layer to perform sufficiently for the use of the space. Another example: facilities that often use bleach to clean will want to specify a solution-dyed yarn for the carpet, versus piece-dyed or skein-dyed that will discolor if it comes into contact with bleach.
Consider maintenance and other life cycle costs. Selecting low maintenance products may cost more up front, but most often result in savings on maintenance during the useful life of the product. Vinyl composite tile (VCT), for example, is relatively inexpensive to purchase, but requires stripping and waxing at regular intervals to maintain its sheen. Meanwhile, LVT costs more to purchase but requires less maintenance (e.g., no waxing). A life cycle cost comparison should show that LVT is less expensive over the lifespan of the product.
Figure aesthetics into the equation. Once the performance specification has been set, the design team and flooring consultants can help the end-user select styles and colors that coincide with the design standards of the organization and the overall interior design of the space. In order to maintain product appearance, it is recommended to specify colors that are not too light nor too dark, so as not to show soiling nor dust and lint. Patterned carpets, featuring multiple colors, also help to create a cohesive visual noise that hides soiling better than solid colors would.
Understand standards and schedules. Depending on final standards and tight schedules, select options that are readily available on short notice. Projects involving short-term leases, abbreviated construction schedules, and/or higher turnover can use “quick-ship” collections to get flooring material faster.
Many manufacturers offer collections of materials—such as three different carpet patterns in six different colorways offered—all at the same price and readily available. Using a grouping of patterns and colors for procurement standards often makes it easier to access more options for a project. Therefore, facility managers do not have to keep several books on hand, or contact multiple vendors for pricing and other relevant information.
When it comes to flooring, creating a set of procurement standards helps to lay the groundwork for an overall positive experience, from the selection of products to installation to an ongoing maintenance program. And engaging a flooring professional at the start of a project sets the tone for a satisfaction at every stage of the project.
Dickinson is a business development specialist with ReSource Arizona, a Phoenix based provider of commercial flooring in Arizona and one of the largest contract flooring dealers in the Southwest. ReSource Arizona is a member of Fuse Alliance, a member-owned organization of commercial flooring contractors serving North America.
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