December 12, 2017
by Wade Brown, CDT, LEED AP
How inviting is a facility’s entrance? Many factors play a role in welcoming students, tenants, patients, or guests to a building—flooring at the entrance is an important one in creating a first impression. This means the entrance flooring should be clean, pleasing to the eye, and protects those who walk over it from slipping.
An entrance flooring system is a durable product covering entrances with heavy, consistent foot traffic. They can be installed in commercial buildings such as schools, offices, hospitals, or airports. These systems are located where building users frequently enter and exit and can be made from varying materials, including aluminum, stainless steel, carpeting, or rubber. They sometimes contain panels that lift so trapped dirt and water can be easily removed. These systems are typically installed on a building’s ground floor, but they are also successfully employed at heavily-traveled entrances on sky bridges or upper levels.
While it is obvious entrances should have some type of flooring or matting to catch dirt and wipe shoes, choosing the best type of system for a facility can be challenging. Facility managers and building owners have many options when it is time to renovate or build, and it may not be apparent whether carpet tiles or entrance mats are the right choice. Each has its advantages, so it is essential to consider several factors before making an investment.
Carpet tiles versus mats and grids
Carpet tiles have been the go-to choice for facility managers, designers, and project managers for years. These modular pieces comprise nylon or polypropylene carpet affixed to backing material. Traditionally glued to the floor using corner glue tabs or adhesive, some manufacturers offer tiles with a peel-and-stick installation process, which allows maintenance crews to remove and replace individual tiles as they become damaged or worn.
This entrance flooring system is available in a range of options, including economical ones. The cost savings can be attractive in the short term, particularly if a project is on a tight budget. This choice also offers design versatility since manufacturers make tiles in virtually every color and a range of textures to integrate branding elements and create a cohesive environment.
Architectural-grade mats and grids are specifically designed to be installed in a building’s entrance. They can comprise aluminum, vinyl, or stainless-steel rails and may contain tread inserts made with heavy-duty material, such as durable carpet, abrasive tape, poured abrasive material, or rubber. As foot traffic passes over the mat system, water and debris fall through the rails into the recess underneath for future cleaning.
The rails and hinges are engineered with a lightweight material that will not produce a rattling noise or disrupt the facility’s atmosphere. Manufacturers produce rails in a range of depths. Environments prone to bad weather could have entrance flooring with deeper depths to store more water and debris than typical mats.
Entrance mats and grids are ideal for new construction, but they can also be installed on renovation projects. They can be surface-mounted or recessed flush with the surrounding floor finishes.
Building owners and designers likely have priorities guiding how investment decisions, whether it is a renovation or a new facility. The following checklist helps one make an informed decision.
Minimize slip and fall hazards
At busy hospitals and schools, safety is a key concern—guiding entrance flooring decisions. Slip and fall accidents cost organizations time, money, and reputation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “falls, slips, and trips accounted for 27 percent (309,060 cases) of the total occupational injuries and illnesses in 2015,” making these accidents a significant liability issue. (For more information on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2015 study, “Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Requiring Days Away from Work,” visit www.bls.gov/news.release/osh2.nr0.htm.) These risk-reducing entrance flooring options are often an afterthought in building design and function. In the value-engineering phase of construction, these options are often eliminated first to cut costs. When considering the average cost of a slip, trip, or fall claim—which is $20,000—excluding an entrance flooring system from the building may be far more expensive in the long run. (To read more about slip, trip, and fall claims, visit BIC Magazine’s article, “Business Cost of Slips, Trips and Falls.”)
Depending on the level of moisture being tracked into the building, carpet tiles can contribute to slipping accidents because incoming water and debris sit on the surface. Therefore, friction decreases and slipping hazards increase as the tiles become more saturated. Carpet tiles can also become dislodged or begin to fold at the corners, becoming an additional liability. It is important to invest in a powerful adhesive solution so carpet tiles will not become dislodged in inclement weather.
Entrance mats and grids can deliver a safer, smoother walking surface. When properly maintained, they trap dirt, debris, and moisture under the surface. This helps maintain traction so visitors and occupants of buildings are less likely to slip. As entrance mats and grids can either be recess-mounted or surface-mounted with a powerful adhesive, there is less risk for the product to become dislodged and pose an additional threat to building occupants.
Maintain a clean facility while keeping costs down
The geographic location plays an important role in the type of entrance flooring system one chooses. Weather conditions can range from snow, ice, and rain to dust and sand, or can be a combination of many elements.
It is given these weather elements will work their way into the entrance area. If it has carpet tiles, those substances may sit on the surface, risking an unsightly mess. Cleaning staff can get locked in a seemingly endless battle to keep the carpet tiles clean. Luckily, carpet tiles are easy and inexpensive to replace, so if a tile is ruined from excessive moisture, installing a new one is simple. Further, because carpet tiles are made from stiff, coarse materials, they are ideal for buildings in dry environments.
Like carpet tiles, entrance mats and grids are designed to help facility managers maintain a clean entryway. Facility crews simply roll back or lift the entrance flooring and then vacuum dirt and debris from the recessed area to clean it. This reduces the time spent on maintenance and can create a safer walkway.
Rolling loads and foot traffic
Another crucial safety consideration is the amount of heavy rolling loads and foot traffic entering the building. Rolling loads are described as a weighted item dynamically placed upon an entrance mat or grid, potentially causing damage to the system. These weights are typically rolled over the mat or grid with a piece of equipment with multiple sets of wheels.
It is important to remember to factor in how much the facility encounters large pieces of equipment. For example, hospital entrances frequently see portable CT scan machines whereas in airports, luggage carts traverse the entrances. Machinery like scissor lifts and vending machines pass through a variety of buildings on a regular basis.
Heavy loads crossing a building’s threshold could damage the flooring material, which could impede accessibility or cause harm to building users. Due to this risk, it is important to select a thoroughly vetted flooring option to help ensure heavy rolling loads do not damage it.
Carpet tiles are appealing in this way, and stand up to heavy machinery and lots of foot traffic. The downside is they wear down over time and need to be replaced. Still, doing so will not break the budget.
Many manufacturers of entrance mats and grids test their products to prove they stand up to heavy rolling loads. The most powerful entrance grid on the market meets the demand of loads up to 454 kg (1000 lb) per wheel. Foot traffic and potential rolling loads are important factors in product selection, but cost is also another consideration. For example, a publicly funded K-12 school may not have the budget a large national hospital may have. Understanding the products and materials used and reading the manufacturer’s literature is a good way to make the right entrance flooring selection for a building. Also, facility managers can ask manufacturers how they measure the rolling load capabilities of their products to confirm the flooring has undergone the appropriate testing procedures.
Green building goals
In recent years, environmentally responsible options and sustainability considerations have risen to the forefront of design and construction. Building owners now choose to construct and occupy green buildings. Architects and designers are finding ways to creatively design healthy interior environments. Manufacturers optimize their processes to provide products outperforming their predecessors in terms of sustainability.
Additionally, building occupants want to work, play, or recuperate in spaces that will not harm their health. In fact, research suggests people who work and live in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings are more productive and healthier than those in buildings that are not certified. According to a recent study, “improved indoor environmental quality is associated with better health outcomes. Recent research has demonstrated an impact of the indoor environment on cognitive function. … in high-performing buildings additional benefits to health and productivity may be obtained through green certification,” further explaining the correlation between green buildings and improved overall functioning for building occupants. (Read the article, “The Impact of Working in a Green Certified Building on Cognitive Function and Health” by Piers McNaughton, et. al. in the March 2017 edition of Building and Environment.) Luckily, many carpet tiles and entrance mats are available in environmentally responsible options, contributing to LEED credits. (View particular Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] credits for entrance flooring at www.c-sgroup.com/files/literature/pedisystems-sustainability-guide.pdf.)
Select carpet tile varieties contribute to LEED building standards and some manufacturers collect used tiles—they will not be sent to landfills after their life cycle has ended. (To learn more about credits for carpet tiles, visit www.usgbc.org/search/carpet%20tiles?filters=type:credit_definition.) The downside is carpet tiles do not have a long life cycle. Additionally, because they do not collect water (like an entrance mat or grid), indoor air quality (IAQ) may suffer and the potential for airborne illnesses could increase.
Entrance mats and grids offer an additional advantage—tracked-in water and debris is trapped below the system. Therefore, they cannot become airborne and affect air quality. Use of entrance mats and grids are often recognized by many sustainability-focused programs, like LEED. Some products are even certified through initiatives like the Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program developed by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. (For more information on the organization and the standard, visit www.c2ccertified.org.)
Life of entrance flooring
Carpet tiles are incredibly easy and inexpensive to replace, but as mentioned they can have short lifespans. While maintenance crews can replace damaged tiles onsite without the need to close off the area, replacement tiles are not always the perfect matches to the rest of the carpet, which may become faded, worn, or stained over time.
With entrance mats and grids, facility managers benefit from architectural-grade materials that hold up under high-traffic, high-abuse applications. Most options can handle excessive rolling loads while maintaining their function and appearance. They are also better suited for entrances frequently exposed to soggy foot traffic. Metal pans or recesses in concrete floor can also be employed to trap debris—some of these systems have the ability to lock grids down with a concealed lock. Entrance flooring made from these materials has an exceptional life cycle, with some models lasting 10 to 15 years before they require replacement. Manufacturers also usually supply replacement inserts for products containing carpet or rubber if they become worn and ineffective.
First impressions matter. When it is time to choose flooring for an entrance, one’s choices contribute to that first or continued impression.
Carpet tiles are available in an array of colors and textures, allowing facilities plenty of options for creating an ideal entrance. Color-matching technology makes it easier than ever to select the right products to match a facility perfectly. Some manufacturers can even incorporate logos or images into the tiles for a custom look, fully integrated into a building’s design.
Other entrance flooring options also offer design versatility. Entrance mats and grids come in many colors and textures to add the right aesthetic value to any building. Manufacturers offer customized entrance flooring designs as well, making it easy to integrate into other design elements. High-end models can be made from stainless steel, and some of them can even be custom-milled to create a dramatic surface pattern look.
In addition to carpet inserts, recycled rubber and poured abrasive insert options are available—some manufacturers have developed entrance mats and grids inlaid with custom, precision-cut graphics, text, or logos. The logos are incorporated into the mat material and not dyed, so they do not fade or become damaged by wear and tear.
Whether a facility houses high-end clients or entertains children, its entrance is guaranteed to take a beating. Investing in a flooring option delivers what owners need to create a safe, durable building, maintaining function and appearance for many years. Carpet tiles and entrance mats/grids can have plenty of benefits depending on the requirements. Considering the building type and challenges it faces every day helps one make an informed decision on the best product to use for a project.
Wade Brown, CDT, LEED AP, is the senior manager of product marketing for the entrance flooring division at Construction Specialties. He has more than 15 years of experience in the construction manufacturing industry and is a member of American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), International Interior Design Association (IIDA), and United States Green Building Council (USGBC). Brown has a degree in Architectural Technology from the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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