The wow factor… With the onset of the designer ‘gym’ David Carter takes a look at sports flooring and the importance of safety.

Fitness centre, sports hall and gym designs are starting to show more much more character, and the choice of sports flooring can play a major role in both safety and the aesthetics. Sport England still state that the floor and its performance is the most important aspect of any design.

Whether you’re designing a new facility, or redesigning an existing one, never underestimate the impact that flooring can have in terms of design, sustainability and bio-friendliness and of course protecting those that use the facility. Whilst flooring must be practical, affordable and meet the specific programme and application needs, it must also be safe and user friendly.

From professional stadiums to college recreation centres, early years education multi use halls to senior school sports halls, the primary concern in the specification of sports and athletic surfaces is still the prevention of injuries.

This comes as no surprise, of course, in professional sports where athletes are paid huge sums of money to perform. An injury that takes them out of the game amounts to money out the window. In community and school sport something more important is lost, the user’s ability to exercise and enjoy time with their peers.

With innovation such a key factor in sport it’s no surprise to see that products that are developed in conjunction with major sporting federations are now “tweaked” to make them absolutely mainstream. We all know that motor racing technology from five years ago is now commonplace in many road cars, who would have imagined you can buy a Vauxhall Corsa with a rally car type gearbox? Is it then any surprise that you can have a floor used at the Olympics designed to be able to withstand the daily pressures of a primary school hall in inner London? A floor that copes with rolling loads means that rolling out even dining equipment is no issue and more importantly, wheelchair users can still make use of these facilities.

Although the financial considerations are not there, the same levels of safety are true for schools, from primary right through to universities. To the best of its ability, a school is responsible for keeping its students safe. Thoughtful specification of sports flooring is one way in which a school has control over its students’ safety. We can’t control what footwear people have or what level of ability they have to enable them to avoid injury but we can with careful specification and insisting on the best products available, control the flooring used.

In sports facility management, energy efficiency, sustainable technologies and careful use of resources will all continue to gain in importance in 2015.

A good ecological balance, sustainable building materials and consistently implemented accessibility measures allow private and public operators to differentiate themselves from the increasingly fierce competition. The ongoing battle of durability has also been in the fray when it comes down to specification.

One of the reasons that durability matters is the way that deteriorating floors harm the member experience. On an emotional level, they might be put off joining or staying with a gym that has worn or scuffed flooring. But what matters even more is the fundamental issue of whether the flooring protects their physical wellbeing.

Impact absorption is a huge factor in gym environments and flooring manufacturers have stepped up to the plate in the past decade or two. They have developed flooring that offers huge impact protection, with impact still being one the biggest causes of injury.

David Carter is a Sports Specialist with flooring manufacturer Gerflor

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