Flotex helps create calming environment for autism centre

Forbo Flooring Systems provides floor coverings for new Caudwell International Children's Centre

Forbo Flooring Systems provided floor coverings for the new Caudwell International Children's Centre

Forbo Flooring Systems’ Flotex Penang flocked flooring has been installed at the Caudwell International Children’s Centre (CICC), the UK’s first independent purpose-built facility dedicated to autism diagnosis, intervention and research.

The subtle aesthetics and tactile nature of Flotex will help to create a calming and easily-cleanable environment for children with autism and neuro-developmental conditions.

Launched by national charity, Caudwell Children, the 60,000sq ft building at Keele University Science and Innovation Park was designed through a close working partnership between the charity’s chief executive, Trudi Beswick, and Cheshire-based architects, C4 Consulting.

Forbo’s flocked flooring, Flotex Penang in Grey, was installed throughout the public areas, in each of the assessment suites, meeting rooms, and family areas.

The inspiration for the CICC’s design is primarily based upon 15 years of working closely with children and families; learning how children with additional needs react to different environments and situations

The semi-plain Penang design from the Flotex Colour range offers a subtle linear effect with no pattern repeats, reducing wastage and making installation easier.

The unique construction of Flotex provides the comfort and warmth of a carpet combined with the cleanability and durability of a resilient floor, which is particularly important in an environment for children, where accidents may happen. Flotex is also the only textile floor covering to be awarded the prestigious Allergy UK Seal of Approval.

Forbo’s Allura Wood Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) in Blue Pastel Oak was selected for the main corridors of the public area.

The assessment suites and breakout spaces lead off from the corridors, so the variation of flooring would allow the children to differentiate each space and identify their direction of travel.

The building, shaped in a butterfly figure of eight, houses a variety of multi-functional spaces including state-of-the-art assessment suites, a sensory integration room, and teaching kitchens.

Beswick said: “The inspiration for the CICC’s design is primarily based upon 15 years of working closely with children and families; learning how children with additional needs react to different environments and situations.

Forbo’s Allura Wood Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) in Blue Pastel Oak was selected for the main corridors of the public area

“We then conducted extensive consultation with a wide variety of stakeholders including clinicians, academics and, crucially, the families that will use the facility.

We knew that the versatile and tactile nature of the floor covering was a perfect fit for the demanding criteria we had to meet

“This insight, and the charity’s direct involvement in the design process, proved to be an important part of the building’s construction.”

James Pass, director and architect at C4 Consulting, added: “We carried out a lot of research into the causes and effects of overstimulation for children with neuro-developmental conditions and their coping mechanisms.

“Using this research, and Trudi’s unique insight and invaluable input, together we looked into how we could design functional and safe spaces to accommodate the children’s needs while also trying to reduce distracting stimuli to aid engagement.

“In the design we had to take into consideration that colours and patterns can be a significant source of overstimulation, and even anxiety, for children with autism spectrum disorders.

“Overtly-patterned floors can be distracting to walk over and can lead to fixation, or even confusion. Therefore, we had to ensure that any patterns present in the floor coverings at the CICC were minimal and that any repetition in the pattern was not discernible.”

He added: “Trudi’s previous experience as a designer, combined with our joint research into the effects of colour and texture, identified that pastel colours were associated with a calming effect for the children, while greys were considered neutral.

“As such, we looked to keep to those colours wherever possible. The challenge was therefore to find easily cleanable, resilient and subtle patterned flooring which could be used in multiple locations while also meeting stringent Building Control and Health Technical Memorandum standards.”

In the design we had to take into consideration that colours and patterns can be a significant source of overstimulation, and even anxiety, for children with autism spectrum disorders

Commenting on the choice of flooring, he continued: “There were a number of considerations, not just colour and pattern, that contributed to the choice of flooring specification.

“Caudwell Children is working towards receiving NHS referrals, which means that the assessment suite areas needed to meet specific Health Technical Memorandum (HTM) standards.

“The chosen flooring needed to be easy to clean and have ‘minimal jointing’, therefore Flotex was ideal as it comes in a 2m wide roll, which meant it could be easily installed in the designated areas.

“In addition, its subtle and non-repeating pattern was crucial to the product’s selection in these areas due to the children’s perception of their environment.”

Flotex Penang in Grey was installed throughout the public areas

Another factor the team had to consider was meeting Building Regulations Part E and the BB93 requirements governing audio privacy and reverberation, both of which are a significant distracting stimuli to children with neuro-developmental conditions.

As such the team wanted a product that would exceed all current acoustic requirements for room-to-room sound transmission and reverberation.

“Flotex sheet offers up to 20dB impact noise reduction and assisted in reducing reverberation times in the key areas,” said Pass.

“While traditional carpet may have been able to offer this; they would not have been easily cleanable or available on a roll, which was critical for HTM compliance.

“This was a significant benefit in the product’s favour and, when presented to the client, we knew that the versatile and tactile nature of the floor covering was a perfect fit for the demanding criteria we had to meet.”