Ensuring safe walking surfaces with exposed concrete

COF techniques were used during the installation of flooring at this Galleria property in Edina.
Photos courtesy Chris Bennett

“Due to the increased popularity of polished/exposed concrete surfaces as its own floor finish, more people, including owners and facility directors, are much more conscientious about coefficient of friction requirements,” says Eric Lussier, CSI, CDT, co-founder of the Let’s Fix Construction education series. (Visit www.letsfixconstruction.com for more information on the series.)  “From my experience, architects are seeking direction from industry professionals who can point them to proper standards and usage to meet these needs.” The ISCS is a professional organization attempting to provide some of that direction by focusing on research and practical applications for the designer and skilled trade on a wide range of construction issues including concrete refinement. For floor safety in polished concrete solutions, ISCS recognizes the ANSI/NFSI standard as well as the ANSI Walkway Auditor Certification Holder (WACH) and ISCS 101 as benchmarks for floor safety. There are other standards from manufacturer organizations competitive to the concrete floor industry (e.g. Tile Council of North America’s [TCNA’s] ANSI A137.1, Tile Slip Test) that do not fall within the safety benchmarks of NFSI B101.3.

Russell Kendsior of NFSI notes, “The TCNA standard excludes polished concrete in its scope and only applies to un-installed ceramic tile. ANSI/NFSI B101.3 specifically states the standard applies to polished concrete.” NFSI is also the designated ANSI standard-developer for slip, trip, and fall prevention.

This graphic from NFSI illustrates low, medium, and high-traction floors. The ranges are simply the decimal value multiplied by 10 to create a whole number. For example, three is 0.3. As far as the ranges go, 0.42+ is high, 0.42 to 0.30 moderate, and anything below 0.30 is low traction.
Image courtesy National Floor Safety Institute

In the pursuit of beauty and COF performance, specifiers can take simple steps to ensure safe exposed concrete floor finishes. Indicating ANSI/NFSI B101.3 as the safety reference standard in concrete floor finish specifications sets the bar for how the client’s floor will be measured to ensure safe walkability even when the floor is wet or contaminated. Requiring contractors from ISCS to complete surface refinement and polishing training not only means project installers possess skills to install a fully refined floor, but also ensures the floor can meet B101.3 standards for safety throughout the facility’s life cycle.

Tony Heimkes, Hines-Property manager at Galleria Shopping Center (Edina, Minnesota), states, “Our commitment to safety is first priority for our guests, merchants, and visitors. ISCS’ flooring concepts achieving NFSI B101.3 benchmarks give us the reassurance this commitment will be upheld.”

Chris Bennett, CSI, is a concrete consultant for commercial projects in North America. He specializes in document creation, contractor training and technology testing for MasterFormat Divisions 03, 07, and 09. He can be reached via e-mail at chris@bennettbuild.us.


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