A typical question and perhaps answered by a Case Study example from the United States.


Rubber flooring was initially specified for a new 25-bed neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Lafayette General Medical Center, but when initial pricing showed that the project was coming in over budget, the flooring came under consideration as a possible line item cut.

“Flooring is a big issue for NICUs,” says Marie Lukaszeski, AAHID, IIDA, project designer. “It’s a challenge to get inside a NICU for a terminal clean. A floor that requires waxing multiplies this challenge, and there’s an odor associated with stripping and waxing floors that you just can’t have in a NICU, which means all the babies need to be moved somewhere else during waxing and drying, for three or four days at least four times a year.

Hospital staffs often complain that the chemicals involved give them headaches.”

In the end, Lukaszeski was able to convince hospital executives that the rubber flooring needed to stay because of its many operational benefits as well as from health and safety standpoints. In fact, after the completion of the NICU project, Lukaszeski was selected to design a $70 million renovation of Lafayette’s 10-story hospital, including a pediatric emergency room area.

A combination of rubber sheet goods and tiles were used in corridors, patient rooms, patient restrooms, nurses’ stations and linen closets.

The rubber flooring at Lafayette General Medical Center contributed to a variety of evidence-based design principles.

  • Reduced patient falls and injuries.
    -Rubber flooring offers excellent slip resistance properties, exceeding ADA recommendations for slip resistance on flat surfaces. Raised and textured patterns allow dirt and water to drain off the walking surface, increasing traction and slip resistance. Low profile versions are ideal for areas with small-wheeled traffic.
  • Reduced patient stress through environmental noise control 
    -Rubber flooring absorbs ambient noise and reduces the sounds of rolling carts and footsteps to create a more peaceful environment. This is especially important in a NICU environment because premature infants are particularly susceptible to loud noise, due to sensitive cochleae and immature central nervous systems.
  • Reduced risk of hospital-acquired infections 
    -Rubber tile has a natural resistance to bacteria and fungi when tested in accordance with ASTM G 21. Some rubber tiles also meet chemical resistance specifications in accordance with ASTM F 925. Seamless installations meet strict hygiene requirements. In addition, antimicrobial agents can be added to adhesives used for installation to protect against mold and bacteria. Sheet products require rubber welds to create a monolithic floor, keeping fluids and contamination from getting beneath the flooring and coves. In rubber tile installations, butt joints form a tight seal that doesn’t require further treatment.
  • Create a positive work environment 
    -Rubber flooring provides additional cushion underfoot. This reduces leg and back fatigue, thus increasing the comfort of caregiver staff who spend most of their work day on their feet.
  • Positive influence on healing 
    -A wide array of texture and color combinations enhances a variety of décor themes and styles. Organic patterns help hide stains caused by spills of common medical chemicals, as well as scuff marks, helping to prevent interiors from looking worn or tired.
  • Environmental advantages 
    -Many rubber tiles are constructed of as much as 90 percent post-consumer waste when manufactured using post-consumer recycled tires. Also, rubber tiles are partially compounded using natural rubber (renewable resources from the rubber tree). No-wax rubber flooring does not put harmful refinishing chemicals back into the environment and requires less water to maintain.
    -Rubber’s environmentally friendly characteristics help meet some of the credit points for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, which means it’s not only good for the environment, but it’s good for business as well.
  • Improved indoor environmental quality 
    -Air quality is a major concern in healthcare environments and may be affected by offgassing from the flooring material itself, as well as from surface coatings and materials like wax and strippers.
    -The low-maintenance nature of rubber flooring also helps specifiers minimize environmental pitfalls. Rubber tile contains no PVCs and will not emit vinyl chloride, plasticizers, asbestos or CFCs. Low volatile organic compound (VOC), water-based spray adhesives also do not contribute to offgassing, and oftentimes require up to 80 percent less adhesive on jobs.
    -Spray adhesives also allow for immediate foot traffic after rolling. Low emissions and quicker turnaround times mean patients can be moved back into renovated units faster.
    -Sprayable adhesives offer the same quality adherence as do traditional alternatives; when a sprinkler malfunctioned at Lafayette General, the rubber flooring which had been applied with spray adhesive survived the minor flood and never once lost its grip.
  • Improved life-cycle costs and benefits
    -Rubber flooring lasts longer (a 20- to 30-year life-span is common) and because it requires no waxing, costly and time-consuming efforts are not expended for its maintenance and upkeep. This longer life-cycle also dramatically reduces the costs and inconvenience of replacement—especially critical in a hospital, which operates 24/7/365. Despite a slightly higher upfront cost, the project team estimated that by choosing the rubber flooring for the 200,000-square-foot renovation project, the hospital will conservatively save $150,000 on maintenance in the first year alone.
  • Reduced stress through ease of wayfinding 
    -Rubber tiles can be cut by water jet to create unlimited custom graphic and design options that can be used for wayfinding techniques, which allow patients and visitors to navigate easily and without confusion through the hospital.