How to choose floors for public and high-traffic areas

There are currently a multitude of flooring options available on the market, each with its specifications and particularities. When designing a public space, it is essential to ask the right questions to define the materials according to the requirements and functions of each of its parts. To start: where will the floor be installed? (indoor/outdoor area; wet/damp area) / how much traffic will it be subjected to? (light, moderate, high traffic) / what type of flow will the floor receive? (People, bicycles, light vehicles, heavy vehicles) / what kind of insertion do you want to add considering the preexisting context, in  Hardwood flooring in St augustine.

From these questions, a more accurate and effective profile can be drawn in relation to the “abrasion resistance” of the floor (a fundamental factor to ensure the durability of the material). Afterwards, the aesthetic, functional, economic and sustainable factors are added.

For areas that receive intense flow, even more attention should be paid to characteristics such as:

  • Safety, convenience and accessibility for all users.
  • Resistance to weather and climate changes.
  • Ease of maintenance and long-term durability.

Different materials can offer totally different conditions. Lighter floors generate more pleasant and comfortable spaces for people to socialize, or for children to play, while more robust floors facilitate and speed up the flow of people and vehicles.
There are those that offer colors and textures and others that look cleaner and have more modern features.
The right choice will contribute to the quality of life of users when they leave home, but, above all, it will allow for the effective inclusion of all citizens.

Experts indicate some types of floor covering materials in high traffic areas. Below are some of those options:

Cementitious

They have high durability, good mechanical resistance and require a very simple maintenance and cleaning routine. For external areas for public use, they must be manufactured with specific high-performance concrete (CAD), which offers more impermeability, less shrinkage and even higher durability.

There are many options for patterns, colors and different resistances, so they are quite common. It is recommended to use technical porcelain tiles as they have low porosity and a more homogeneous structure. They are available in two finishing options: polished and natural, more suitable for high traffic areas. Always check these indexes before making your specification.

Ceramics

One of the criteria used for sizing and choosing ceramic floors is the PEI index, which classifies glazed ceramics according to their wear and tear in the flow of movement. For example: a ceramic evaluated as PEI 1 has low resistance to abrasion, being indicated for areas where one walks barefoot or in slippers such as bedrooms and residential bathrooms. In the case of external areas or public areas that receive very high traffic, it is recommended to use PEI 5, suitable for external or internal areas such as restaurants, shopping centers, airports.

Wood

Wooden floors are very common in indoor areas as they provide warmth to the environment. Therefore, there is a strong interest in transposing this characteristic to external spaces and for collective use. In these cases, it is essential to pay attention to the quality of the wood, and that it be treated to withstand the weather. It’s also important to do specialized maintenance every 2 years.

In most cases, the material is used in the form of a deck (no subfloor is needed) and, currently, the option of PVC decks is available on the market, which offer the same visual advantages as real wood, but at a reduced cost and less maintenance required.

Natural stones

Save to My ArchDaily© Sandra Pereznieto . ImageConstruyendo Común-Unidad / Rozana Montiel | architecture studio
Although naturally resistant, with regard to floor coverings, it is essential to consider points and to prefer finishes in a rougher state rather than smoother ones. This will ensure greater safety for users in relation to slipping. They are usually easy to clean (with mild soap and water) and do not require much maintenance.

Miracema stone – has a very non-slip finish. Another interesting feature is the variety of colors in which it can be found, being widely used in mosaics.
Draining plates – very interesting solution for rainy regions. They are non-slip, athermal and do not allow water to puddle.
Limestone – this is the type of natural stone used in sidewalks with ‘Portuguese mosaic’. It has a great cost x benefit and can be found in different colors.
Basalt – tough, non-slip and durable material. Considering its characteristics, it has a good cost-benefit ratio.
Granite – very resistant to the traffic of people and vehicles, it can be used in cubes, rectangular pieces, or even in customized formats. Its biggest disadvantage is that it absorbs the ambient temperature, that is: it gets too cold in winter and too hot in summer.


How can technology help?
If sufficient resources are available, it is interesting to consider the application of technological solutions that go beyond the aesthetic/functional issue and aim to minimize contemporary problems such as the climate issue. For example, floors were developed that generate energy by being subtly pressed by pedestrians as they walk. There are also floors that capture rainwater on the sidewalks to direct it to plants or waterways.

Warm floors, in turn, further aggravate heat islands in urban areas by radiating even more heat into the atmosphere. Opting for light colors is the simplest way, but in cases where this is not possible, such as on paved roads or highways, you can intervene in some ways.

“Cold Pavements” (or “Cool Pavements”) work as solar reflectors and maintain a cooler temperature compared to traditional pavements. Their technology is interesting because they can be made from the same traditional materials (such as cement).

Finally, it is possible to add a clear binder to increase the reflectance of old floors, since the solar reflectance of the floor deteriorates with use, preventing heat from accumulating and remaining on the floor.

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