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Study shows carpet tile creates less stressful hospital environments

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 2.28.28 PMCalhoun, Ga. — Carpet tile has a greater impact than terrazzo and rubber floorings on decreasing the effects of environmental stressors found in hospital settings, according to research that will be published in the spring 2015 issue of Health Environments Research & Design Journal (HERD).

Researchers found flooring selection can make a difference in the stress levels of healthcare workers, patients and providers. Dr. Debra D. Harris, Ph.D., of RAD Consultants, conducted the study, “The Influence of Flooring on Environmental Stressors: A Comparative Study of Three Flooring Materials in a Healthcare Setting,” which was funded by the Mohawk Group.

“Funding this study is a reflection of Mohawk’s commitment to understanding how flooring affects the end user’s experience,” said Kent Clauson, vice president of brand at Mohawk. “These insights will be used in the development of new products and help our customers select the right products for their needs.”

The study took place in an older hospital and tested three flooring conditions (terrazzo, rubber and carpet tile) in patient unit corridors over a period of 42 weeks. The healthcare system participated in the study because it was in the process of building a new replacement hospital, and it intended to use the research to inform its flooring selection process for the new facility.

Environmental stressors in healthcare facilities include ergonomic factors and sound. The study examined the impact of different flooring materials on sound levels within the corridors, the perceptions and preferences of healthcare workers when it comes to floor covering in the workplace and the patient experience as it related to how often the area around the patient’s room was quiet.

RAD Consultants’ findings indicate that carpet tile performed better for sound level attenuation by absorption, reduced noise levels, lessened the impact of noise on the healthcare employees’ jobs and on the patients and improved speech privacy. Carpet tile also had a positive effect on air quality, reduced discomfort from reflected glare, increased comfort underfoot and provided a preferred aesthetic.

Some results from this study:

  • Patients indicated that carpet had a measurable effect—a 6% reduction (translating to 3.14 decibels)—on noise levels when compared to rubber flooring.
  • Healthcare workers were 11% more likely to prefer carpet tile than rubber and 26% more likely to choose carpet tile rather than terrazzo as their preferred flooring.
  • Light Reflectance Value (LRV) should be between 20% and 30% for patient unit corridors, according to the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA). LRV was 62% for terrazzo, 60% for rubber and 24% for carpet tiles.
  • HCAHPS surveys indicated that during the carpet tile phase of the study, 60% of patients responded with “always” when asked, “How often is the area around your room quiet at night?”—which was higher than patient responses during the terrazzo and rubber phases. HCAHPS is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems.

Complete results of the study can be found in the Spring 2015 issue of Health Environments Research and Design Journal.