When it comes to both healthcare and hospitality, there is something to be said about the additional elements used in these segments, which have provoked designers to really think outside of the box. Beautiful yet functional spaces are consistently being designed while also keeping in mind the people who will inhabit and frequent them.

With hospitality, customers usually expect, at the very least, a certain level of quality, cleanliness and comfort. As for healthcare, residents, as well as employees, also have their own expectations. Both parties, though, are interested in spaces that feel homey and safe, while also remaining sanitary, easily maintainable and fully functional.

“The current trends in healthcare flooring selection is a big focus on patient safety, acoustics and comfort,” said Sonja Bochart, principle of A&D firm SmithGroupJJR, in Phoenix. “We are also seeing interest in lower maintenance products. Cost still seems to be a big driver, but generally performance is key.”

Designing spaces such as these require those involved to really think about the end user. In a clean and sterile environment, industry professionals strive to design these areas by touching upon many important elements, such as appearance, functionality and comfort—to name a few.

In terms of hospitality, a couple of things come to mind right away. Since employees in the hospitality industry are usually on their feet for long periods of time, the flooring should help alleviate fatigue and general discomfort. Not to mention, the high volume of foot traffic that occurs almost demands the flooring be long lasting to ensure a certain level of reliability. Lastly, the flooring used should coordinate with and complement the surrounding décor. Visuals are everything nowadays.

“The look is becoming more sophisticated and along the lines of corporate standards rather than traditional standards,” said Scott Johnson, principle of Wolcott Architect Interiors, located in Culver City, Calif. “The corporate standards now bring in more natural materials, such as reclaimed wood, instead of materials like granite. I think it tends to make people feel as though they’re in a space where someone cares about them and actually placed care in the selection of not just the materials but the furniture, colors and lighting.”

Aesthetics, as always, is extremely important in both healthcare and hospitality. In terms of healthcare, whether it is a hospital, an assisted living facility or a doctor’s office, patients want to feel safe and secure in a home-like environment. As for the hospitality industry, customers can easily make their decisions based on appearance alone, which makes businesses go above and beyond to have their establishments eye-catching in various ways.

“When I first started in healthcare, wood-looking sheet vinyl was a big trend—a product that looked like wood, but was also kind of homelike and seamless,” said Linda Moses, director of interior design at Plunkett Raysich Architects, in Milwaukee. “Now it seems like the seamless thing isn’t as big of an issue or as important because our healthcare clients are becoming more like hospitality clients and it’s really the look they’re after. LVT, for example, allows us that sort of design opportunity without the huge cost investment.”

Resiliency is another important element to be considered. Both the healthcare and hospitality industries seek out flooring that not only looks nice, but is functional and easy to maintain.

“The other trend we’re trying to promote in long-term care is the use of padded products for both acoustic and safety,” added Moses. “It’s a little more expensive initially, but in the long-term, it’s a really good idea because the biggest issue with elder care is the falling of residents. So if we can, in our initial budget, we’ll get a product with a little bit of cushion to it that doesn’t hamper wheelchairs but allows for a little bit of softness under foot and an acoustic quality. That’s been a huge growing trend.”

Importance of Quality

All things considered, whether speaking in terms of the medical industry—hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, dentist and doctor’s offices or clinics—or the hospitality industry—hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and leisure facilities—there is one thing that they both have in common: They require quality flooring.

Quality is slightly different for both industries for different reasons. When it comes to healthcare, floors are more likely to be considered for hygienic and free of certain chemicals while also absorbing, and not reflecting, sounds from passing gurneys, IV stands and other equipment that may transfer noise.

In the hospitality sector, where a great deal of food and beverages get served, businesses tend to seek flooring that is both slip-resistant—for the safety of employees and customers—allows for quickly cleaning up a mess or simply maintaining them on a daily basis.

“In assisted living, what we have noticed the most is utilizing a sheet vinyl product in the patient rooms or in the resident’s rooms with the wood grain material, which would give it a very homey feel,” said Michael Ansari, president of AIC Contracting in Cincinnati. “In the hospitals, we have seen mostly a wood grain LVT material—some with a combination of sheet rubber—which are low-maintenance, visually appealing and cost effective.”

In the common areas [of retirement homes], such as the dining rooms or entertainment areas, the floors are mostly carpeted.  However, many establishments seem to be switching to luxury vinyl tile, according to Phil Buda, AIC’s segment manager for assisted living.

Floor coverings have changed to the point that many businesses don’t use anywhere near the amount of carpet they used to,” he said. “Most are now replacing it with sheet vinyl or vinyl plank—quite a bit of vinyl plank, actually. That has changed quite a bit over the last few years. I think the healthcare industry is [switching to] vinyl because it is easier to keep clean, maintain and it’s simply more visually appealing.”

Buda also discussed the overall building design for healthcare facilities. “Many places are being designed with larger lobbies, gathering spaces and entry points. Corridors have gone from 6-feet wide to 8-feet in order to easily accommodate more walkers, wheelchairs, etc. I’ve also been noticing medical establishments, such as assisted living centers, are now building smaller, private dining areas/kitchens that are attached to the resident’s room so they don’t have to walk as far to eat each day. So the quantity has gotten bigger.”

More Carpet, Please

While segments of healthcare might be pulling away from carpet doesn’t necessarily mean that hospitality is doing the same—quite the contrary, actually.

“With hospitality, carpet has gotten larger with more colorful patterns as technology has grown,” said Jeremy Lewin, sales and estimating manager of East Coast Flooring & Interiors (ECF&I), in Pompano Beach, Fla. “Changing carpet patterns in the corridors to include breaks and borders definitely changes their look and feel. Not to mention, decent padding underneath makes for a flawless transition from a hard surface, such as marble or tile in the lobby.”

Moses also discussed the large penetration of yet another product seen in both hospitality and healthcare industries. “Aside from the influx we’ve seen—we’ve even used it quite a bit in both areas—is a walk-off mat that looks like [broadloom] but is actually carpet tile and has a different feel to the surface. Many of the carpet manufacturers are coming out with these carpet tiles that look like broadloom but they function like a walk-off and that’s been a really big deal for us because we can use them not just in the vestibules, but way into a facility since it looks like really beautiful carpet.”

That’s not the only product that allows for designers to be innovative and think outside the box. The times are changing and so are the products that design today and tomorrow.

“I think changes have followed the introduction of plank products,” added Lewin. “There is so much more that can be done now that tile can be installed to look like wood, and vinyl can be used and also have a neat wood look to it. Natural products, like wood or stone, will always be desirable so to be able to achieve that look with less expense, and in the case of vinyl, sanitary and healthcare mandated, is awesome.”

Johnson also mentioned if the area seems more custom that it usually feels better to the end user. “[Design] has drifted from being kind of cookie cutter and primary colors to something that is much more [custom], and the colors are much more sophisticated to reflect the general understanding that design affects all our lives in various ways.”

The design differences between healthcare and hospitality are actually not so different after all. Both industries are consistently designing their places of business to satisfy the people who will benefit from it the most—the end user—and there isn’t a single industry that doesn’t benefit from customer satisfaction.