Supplement Feature - September 2013
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Hardcore Floors

Environment, Maintenance Vital to Flooring Lifespan

By Deborah L. Vence


Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood floors have been around for years, beginning in the 1900s in athletic gyms. They are nice-looking, durable and typically have a long lifespan, which makes them desirable for recreation facilities.

"I think years ago, hardwood, and I say years meaning 50 years ago, every gym had hardwood floors in it. Hardwood floors dominated the marketplace," said Colleen McKenna, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, associate principal, Cannon Design, a full-service architecture, engineering and interior design firm.

The fact is, "wood is the ideal surface for basketball," added Reed Voorhees, AIA, LEED AP, vice president, Cannon Design. "It's got a great look."

To top that, hardwood floor systems have progressed in the past few years, too, making them more forgiving for high school and college athletes who endure aggressive training and play harder than ever before.

For instance, pads are being used underneath wood floors in higher education and recreational centers that have basketball, volleyball and badminton.

"We're using more systems that have a pad underneath rather than rubber or shock pads that occur every 12 inches," he added. "We are using a pad that is continuous under the entire wood system. Plywood goes on top and the wood floor on top of that. It's extremely quiet, and makes the room much quieter. It takes the vibration out of the floor system. Spaces are quieter, and nicer to play on."

Voorhees pointed out a client example that involved acousticians coming into the recreation facility suggesting that pads be put in underneath the wood floor to reduce noise, not only in the gym, but to alleviate noise in other areas of the facility as well.

"Owners are getting more particular about the noise levels in general. Buildings often are somewhat noisy to begin with. When you have spaces that are meant for more quiet activities, you have to make sure they meet acoustical criteria," he said.

"Having all sorts of activities, you just don't know quite what activities [you will have] in certain spaces. Making sure you can accommodate them is important," he added. "[You have to consider] the transition of sounds to spaces below, and putting in group exercise, dual layer systems, hearing, pounding and balls bouncing."

McKenna also noted that pads are much more cost-effective, too.

"If you were doing a high-caliber basketball venue, it's likely you would go with the full sleeper system. In a recreation facility that might be more budget-conscious, a pad is a more cost-effective way to go," she said.

"It may be used in a renovation where you are replacing an existing floor, [or] the thickness of the new floors needs to match the thickness of the old floor you are replacing. Overall, you are looking at the whole system," she added.

Nevertheless, in choosing a particular system, facility managers always need to ask: What are the characteristics of different systems? If you are trying to match floor heights and floor transitions, then that's something facilities should think carefully about of the system that they are trying to match.