Many schools are doing away with carpet in classrooms and at first glance the reasons seem to make sense. Right up until you take a look at the thousands of tennis balls those teachers, administrators and facility people place on the bottoms of chairs to stop the scratching of hard surface and reduce chair noise. If you look a little closer to that tennis ball that will never see Wimbledon, you will find a pile of dust highlighting the filthy allergens that we force our kids to live with while they sit on the cold hard floors trying focus on what their teachers are saying. This becomes even harder to understand when you see the carpet samples and area rugs that schools buy to make the learning environment better for children after they suffer through the hard floors for a while. Does this make sense to anybody?
To be fair, poor carpet can be hard to keep clean and some say it might cause mold and mildew and that cannot be good. Well actually, carpet does not cause mildew. Moisture and certain temperatures allow mold and fungi to form but let us not confuse the discussion with facts. Let’s just assume that carpet causes mold and we do not want our kids exposed to biological hazards. But before we throw the carpet out with the mold, everyone should understand that carpet offers greater acoustics for a better learning environment, better thermal characteristics for a more comfortable place to learn as well as the elimination of the need for those ugly dirty tennis balls.
Now that we have that settled and we throw out the carpet then what do we do? What schools tend to do is go to the cheapest alternative flooring which is VCT or vinyl composition tile. This choice always overlooks the fact that VCT actually increases dust particulates and can worsen indoor air quality for our children. The hard surface also causes increased noise levels, increased glare, increased energy costs, a less comfortable learning environment for teaching and yes, the need for more tennis balls on the bottom of chair legs. What makes this choice even worse is that the cost to operate and maintain VCT over a 10-year period dwarfs alternate cleaning methods for other resilient hybrid soft surfaces. Wait, “resilient hybrid products?’ Yes, these products are not hard surfaces and are not carpets but they are rather alternative flooring products that offer the benefits of soft surface along with the durability of hard surface while being fully recyclable.
To start your education on school flooring do a Google search on VCTT and investigate hybrid resilient flooring products. Since hybrids are the combination of technologies designed to produce a better solution to a problem, much like hybrid cars, this might be a great place for schools to learn about new flooring.