UW Health’s University Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, sought to reduce noise and improve the patient and staff experience in its 1208-m2 (13,000-sf), 18-bed neuroscience intensive care unit (neuro ICU). Installing an ergonomic healthcare flooring product provided the solution.
“We are a teaching research hospital, so we have many groups of people in the corridors and going into rooms, which creates added noise,” said Ardis Hutchins, AIA, IIDA, CHID, EDAC, a licensed architect and registered interior designer with UW Health. “We experienced flooring failures with the old luxury vinyl tile (LVT) product installed in the area. It delaminated over time. A complete gut and remodeling of the area was needed to increase the size of the inpatient rooms to meet the square footage requirements for an ICU.”
Kate Bautista, LEED AP, NCIDQ, associate vice-president of HGA Architects and Engineers, was selected as the lead interior designer on the project to work with the hospital facilities team.
To make the remodeled inpatient unit a more quiet, calm, healing environment, hospital decision-makers conducted research to identify the most appropriate flooring for the neuro ICU.
An interdisciplinary in-house team was tasked with selecting and evaluating the new flooring standards. The team included representatives from design, environmental services, maintenance engineering, nursing, rehab, construction, and infection control.
“Making the right selection on flooring is really critical in areas that are occupied 24/7,” said Hutchins.
“When it comes to patient safety in the healthcare setting, acoustics and falls are among the top issues to address,” added Bautista. “Slip resistance, footfall noise, and comfort underfoot then become the factors to consider when selecting flooring.”
The project team also conducted extensive in-house testing of an 18-m (60-ft) mockup of a rubber flooring system in an unoccupied area of the hospital. The mockup was used to assess cleanability, waterjet cutting, heat welding, patching, push/pull of heavy equipment, and static load indentation recovery of both standard and bariatric beds.
“For push/pull tests, we asked staff to push weighted standard and bariatric beds, radiology equipment, ultrasound machines, and any other heavy objects that people move around,” said Hutchins. “We then asked if anyone had issues pushing the equipment on the floor and no one complained. They all thought it was acceptable.”
Cleaning crew tests included scuffing the floor, dirtying it with spills, using the scrubber machine, testing heat welds, and damaging the floor to perform repairs.
“The environmental services flooring supervisor reported that the surface was easy to clean and would be more cost effective for overall floor care maintenance,” said Hutchins.
The indentation recovery tests spanned two weeks and assessed the floor’s resilience under a standard bed and a bariatric bed with weights to simulate the weight of a patient. The team then photographed the indentations and tracked the time it took for the flooring to recover.
“We measured the dimples in the floor and then watched as it progressively recovered,” said Hutchins.
During the design and evaluation process, the hospital also considered feedback from patients and families.
“Our hospital system really believes in the importance of including patients and families in the decision making process for all of our projects,” said Hutchins. “We met with representatives from the Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC) on several occasions to show them the product, present test results, and to make some design adjustments based on their aesthetic preferences.”
With testing and evaluation complete, UW Health proceeded with the installation of the selected flooring—5 mm (197 mils) of rubber fusion-bonded to the back of a heterogeneous vinyl layer.
The team chose a wood grain look for patient rooms. For a more modern look in the corridors, a combination of honey beige and sea grass was selected.
“The soothing, tonal nature of the flooring acts as a timeless backdrop to the modern design,” said Bautista.
The team also specified a premium noise reducing ceiling tile as another acoustics measure to work in conjunction with the floor.