People’s expectations of interior spaces are becoming increasingly complicated. To keep pace (and even outpace) our complex lives, today’s built environments must offer more than ever before. It’s not enough for the spaces we live and work in to simply exist – they need to contribute to our lives, offering something positive.
At Interface, we’ve introduced the idea of +Positive spaces™. These are environments that have positive impacts, resulting from the attributes of the space and the people who use it. We believe every space can and should make a positive impact.
We also know that to create +Positive spaces, we must employ better products. An exceptional product has to offer more than just a beautiful design. It has to improve people’s lives, their spaces and the world they live in.
Where form and function commingle
In its simplest state, a product must perform an intended function – whether it’s a desk, a lamp or the floor we walk on. In the case of flooring, it may need to accommodate high traffic areas, roller mobility, specific work and congregation zones, hygiene requirements – and so much more, depending on each space’s unique set of circumstances.
In a commercial space, nothing gets as much abuse as the flooring. Although unseen by users, a floor’s key performance attributes including durability, usage and longevity can positively affect a space.
Conversely, noisy workplaces can cause huge distractions and a negative experience for employees and visitors. Sound reduction is especially important in commercial environments with high occupancy rates. A 2013 study from the University of Sydney found that the largest drain on employee morale resulted from a lack of sound privacy. Further, a 2014 study by Steelcase and Ipsos found that noise distractions may cause workers to lose as much as 86 minutes per day
Besides eliminating (or minimising) the things that make noise in an environment, using certain products in a space can make a dramatic impact on the acoustics. While designers may prefer hard materials for their sleek style and durability, they may not be the optimal choice for noise control. Quiet Mark can help give some guidance. Quiet Mark is the international award programme for excellence in low-noise technology and solutions to unwanted noise, associated with the U.K. Noise Abatement Society. The programme encourages companies worldwide to prioritise noise reduction within the design of everyday products, machines and appliances, providing consumers and industry with a trusted mark of approval to help transform the aural environment for the benefit of all.
Noise reduction is especially important when it comes to flooring since it’s perhaps the largest finishing in a space. In particular, impact sounds such as footsteps and dropped objects, can cause floor-to-floor disturbances, and can be problematic in multi-story office, education, healthcare, multi-family and hospitality environments.
Of course, a great product exceeds simple usage. It must also deliver design aesthetics that help create +Positive spaces and contribute to people’s well-being. Keeping up with design trends and anticipating what’s around the corner, we’re creating products that enhance a space and the people who use it – from mixed materials (think carpet tiles married with LVT) to unique patterns, colours and textures inspired by nature.
Cues from nature
Spaces that reflect the beauty of the natural world provide positive experiences for occupants. And products that are designed with nature in mind offer huge benefits not just from a beautification standpoint, but also from a sustainability perspective. Employing biomimicry in product development uses nature’s innovations and unique patterns to create a better product. From carpet tiles inspired by the random beauty of a forest floor to glue-free installation systems that mimic a gecko’s ability to adhere to surfaces.
Use of biophilic design in the workplace has a strong, measurable impact on key employee outcomes such as well-being, productivity and creativity. According to the Human Spaces report into the Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, those who work in environments with natural elements report a 15% higher level of well-being, a 6% higher level of productivity and a 15% higher level of creativity than those who work in environments devoid of nature. From floor to ceiling, products used in a space can facilitate a connection with nature through colour, light, pattern and accessibility to the natural world.
A better product must also interact in a healthy way with the world around us. Today’s products should do more with less – using fewer resources and delivering smarter, more sustainable solutions. In our case, that means reinventing products to reduce and even eliminate carbon emissions, waste and energy use.
Products that interact with the space and its users
A space can be as small as your favorite booth at a restaurant or as big as a city. Applying that theory to built space, it refers to the ability of an interior environment to provide a range of specific, spatial moments that offer people the choices, tools and permission to work as they see fit.
At Interface, we believe our flooring solutions have the power to move people. With the expertise of architects and designers, the floor can contribute to a space that lets its users thrive, so they can live, work, learn and regenerate.
When selecting products for a space, it’s important to take a holistic view and to not just consider them as individual products, but rather systems. Like modular furniture, the best products should interact and “play well” with other things in the space, as well as the world and environment.
Today’s challenge is to develop spaces that enhance the productivity, creativity and well-being of those who use them. Ultimately, the products used in today’s spaces must allow for flexibility – so people can grow and create their own ways of work and play. Spaces succeed if they respond to feedback and change to meet the new cultural conditions – a need in all kinds of built spaces, as well as the products that go into them.