Making Waves: A Dive into Aquatic and Leisure Facility Flooring Design
Aquatic and leisure facilities need to be constructed as spaces where people can relax, exercise and be healthy – however if the building materials and design are not properly considered then the site can instead pose a long list of troubling health and safety risks.
In this blog post, we discuss how flooring design can help ensure that aquatic and leisure facilities are a clean, safe and fun environment. From the potential for bacterial growth and the spread of microorganisms to the many slip and trip hazards that can arise from standing water and people walking around without shoes, a leisure centre needs to carefully analyse each aspect of its design in order to ensure that it will support a clean, safe and fun environment.
An Overview of Flooring Demands
Facility design is central to the prevention of drowning and other injuries, with surfaces in particular being a critical aspect of a building’s safety and hygiene credentials.
The floor finish has many roles to play in order to be fit for purpose, with cleanability, durability, chemical resistance, drainage and slip resistance all being important criteria. Getting all of this right means carefully considering a long list of flooring aspects, including the texture of the finish, its colour and smoothness, the thickness of the coating and the junction between the wall and floor as well as access and egress points.
A common factor throughout any building that has a swimming pool is dealing with large quantities of water on the floor. This is obviously most likely on the concourse surrounding the pool, but also needs to be considered in the changing rooms, corridors, back of house areas and generally anywhere within splashing, dripping or spilling distance of the water.
Ponding water in any of these areas is a concern, as it could become a prime site for bacterial growth and contamination. This will be more likely if the floor is covered in depressions, gaps or cracks which will result in water stagnating in hard to clean places. If the floor does not properly drain, then a leisure facility could run the risk of contaminated liquid finding its way into the main body of water – which would pose a very serious hygiene risk!
The floor’s colour and design plays both a safety and interior design role. Many site’s will want a floor that complements the colours and visuals of the facility, making it a fun and engaging place for the patrons – especially in venues that welcome a lot of children. When choosing the colour of the floor it is important to ensure that the colours won’t inadvertently hide contaminants or detract from important signage.
The facility may also choose to place safety or navigational signs on the floor. Where this is the case it needs to be done in a way that will survive all the water, foot traffic, chemicals and wear that it will face and the signage needs to be applied in a way that is clearly visible. Bright safety yellow against a pale background is a good way to guarantee that the messages, warnings, arrows or symbols will be seen.
In fact, it specifically states that “Aquatic facilities shall be constructed of materials that are non-toxic to humans under normal conditions of use, impervious, enduring, capable of withstanding design stresses, and provide a watertight structure.”.
In addition to all of these points, the floor must also be “impervious, durable, easily cleanable and continuous, with no cracks, joints or protrusions other than structural joints”. A long list of demands that rules out most types of flooring, even many hard-flooring materials! For example, unprotected concrete is not impervious and is prone to cracking, wood (even if treated) could pose a number of hygiene and safety issues, very smooth finishes such as marble or ceramic can be a slip hazard and tiles will incur joints for grouting.
For these reasons, seamless resin flooring solutions have become a popular choice among aquatic and leisure facilities due to the ability of these systems to satisfy the regulatory requirements and create fit for purpose surfaces that will provide many years of high-performance functionality.
Slip resistance is a recurring point throughout the design regulations and best practise guides, therefore we’ve given this topic its own section to get to grips with the issue. This section deals specifically with this flooring safety issue and puts each area of a facility into three different categories of slip resistance to ensure that the available friction is sufficient to enable a person to traverse the surface without unreasonable risk of slipping.
The categories are:
Category 1 surfaces don’t require as much slip resistance, as there is less potential for a dangerous slip or trip. This includes: passages normally maintained in a dry condition that are used by barefoot staff or patrons; changing and locker rooms; and water body floors where the water depth is greater than 1.0 metres.
Category 2 includes the majority of floor surfaces in an aquatic facility, such as: pool surrounds, concourses and bulkheads; passages normally maintained in wet conditions that are used by barefoot staff or patrons; shower rooms; resting steps and benches and some types of pools.
Category 3 covers the areas where slip resistance is most critical, including the stairs leading into the water, starting platform top surfaces and sloping pool edges.
To determine whether or not a surface meets the HB 198 – 2014: Guide to the specification and testing of slip resistance of pedestrian surfaces, the wet barefoot ramp test method is used. The wet pendulum test is a common international benchmark which measures the dynamic coefficient of friction (CoF) in order to determine the potential for slipping on clean, dry or contaminated floors. The test does this by replicating a pedestrian heel strike, as this is what causes most slips to occur. When a heel hits a wet floor, a fluid film is created between the two points which can result in a slip.
This test has five different categories of slip resistance, with very smooth surfaces being at P1 and the most slip resistant finishes registering at P5. Standards Australia recommends that swimming pool ramps and stairs leading to water should be in the top P5 category, swimming pool surrounds and communal shower rooms need to meet at least P4 and both communal changing rooms and undercover concourse areas should come in at P3.
Stay tuned to our Build Smarter Blog for more insights into the flooring design considerations of an Aquatic or Leisure facility or check out our other posts on everything from waterproofing to industrial grouting.
If you are building a new aquatic or leisure facility and need some inspiration, visit Flowcrete’s website and check out some of our project case studies or reach out to our team and lets chat about how resin flooring could help you take your facility to the next level.