Carpet is a sound choice for care environments

Catherine Helliker of Danfloor UK explains why carpets are an excellent flooring material for keeping noise and dust down and providing thermal insulation.

Acarefully considered interior design scheme is essential for any care environment, especially where there are residents living with dementia.

The quality of the acoustic environment is a vital component of good dementia- friendly design as noise is regarded as a health and safety issue and should not interfere with a resident’s normal domestic activities including sleep and rest.

Noise is transmitted in buildings by both airborne and impact sound sources and UK Building Regulations require that both these noise types are controlled.

People need to be able to hear well in order to make sense of their environment and in order to function well as part of their quality of life. Research from Stirling University shows hearing impairment can compound feelings of isolation and frustra- tion and these feelings contribute to behavioural disturbance.

It is essential that adaptations that simplify and clarify the acoustic environment, and reduce discomfort and auditory ‘clutter,’ are put in place. Good acoustics can actively contribute to ensuring that a person with dementia can communicate and remain included within their community. Belonging and interacting are highly dependent on communication, which in turn is highly dependent on hearing.

Risk of falls

In addition, as hearing is linked to balance there are greater risks of falls and this can be devastating for an elderly person. Headline-grabbing research carried out by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) in February 2004 showed that accidents on hard flooring had increased by over 300 per cent in the previ- ous five years.

Carpets can provide a cushioned landing for any trips and falls and studies carried out in 1996 have shown that carpet, when compared with vinyl, can reduce injuries caused by such accidents. It has also been proven that gait, speed and step length is greater in older people walking on carpeted areas than when walking on vinyl.

UK Building Regulations stipulate that a suitable floor covering should have a weighted reduction in impact sound pressure level of not less than 17 dB when measured in accordance with EN ISO 140-8 and calculated in accordance with EN ISO 717-2.

Furthermore, Stirling University in their Dementia Design Series guide – ‘Hearing, sound and the acoustic environment for people living with dementia’ recommend that the design of rooms within care settings must find ways to minimise transmission of noise from one room to another and that sound impact ratings should preferably exceed British Standards.

BREEAM credits

There is increasing responsibility on the health sector to address sustainability in the procurement and management of their estates. Environmental requirements and targets, including BREEAM Healthcare
and the aspiration of zero carbon public buildings by 2018, make sustainability a key priority in the design and operation of health facilities.

The BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is the leading and most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings. Under HEA 05 Acoustic Performance, which aims to ensure a building’s acoustic performance, up to four additional credits can be awarded if impact sound insulation values exceed British Standards for multi-residential and other residential buildings (for individual bedrooms and self-contained dwellings). Therefore, to achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating it’s beneficial to have acoustically sound rooms.

In addition to providing an acoustically sound environment, carpets have extra benefits, especially when installed within the care environment where residents may have breathing difficulties such as asthma.

Throughout the past 10 years there have been numerous studies into the use of carpet versus hard floor surfaces and what effect these two flooring solutions have on air quality. Fine dust can present a significant health hazard, especially for allergy sufferers, as particles may cause irritation when they are breathed in and enter the respiratory tract.

Many of the studies suggest that carpet retains dust particles, unlike hard surfaces where they regularly become airborne. If carpets are regularly vacuumed these dust particles – and allergens that are bound within fine dust particles – are removed from the room without causing discomfort.

Warmth and comfort

Unlike hard flooring options, carpets add a warm and welcoming feel to any room and provides a soft cushioned layer for extra underfoot comfort.

Research suggests that the insulation provided by carpet is 10 times higher than that of hard flooring, making it one of the most effective thermal insulators. Studies have also shown that the temperature felt by residents in carpeted rooms is two degrees higher than in rooms with hard flooring.

Acting as a thermal insulator, carpets improve energy consump- tion and have low heat conduction. It is estimated that up to 30 days of heating can be saved by installing carpets, resulting in a four to six per cent energy saving and a consequent reduction in energy costs.

Catherine Helliker is marketing manager with Danfloor UK