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Surface protection: luxury or necessity?

When it comes to finishing out the interior of a hospital, care home or other healthcare environment, there’s still a perception that surface protection is a luxury rather than a necessity.

Of course, this is understandable given the fact that healthcare budgets are more stretched than ever, and demand for services – especially in long-term care – is growing exponentially.  Often, the focus is on getting a new build complete and open as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, and to worry about wear and tear later.  

But the past 12 months have proved that wear and tear is much more than just an aesthetic concern, and since there’s no sign of our healthcare system getting richer any time soon, doesn’t it make sense to try and prevent it from occurring in the first place?  When it comes to surface protection, the old saying ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ rings truer than ever.  

In our own experience with the healthcare industry, renovations tend to run on a 20-year cycle.  Even those that invest in surface protection for their interiors will usually find that after 20 years, finishes  begin to look dated in terms of the colours, materials and finishes used, simply because these things are constantly evolving and improving.

But considering the cost of a healthcare renovation – both in terms of capital and operational downtime – we believe the timetable for such renovations should not be dictated by simple wear and tear.   Nevertheless, many architects and designers still specify minimal or no surface protection at the outset – a cost-saving exercise that can ultimately have the opposite effect.

Surfaces like walls, doors and especially corners will quickly break down when left unprotected.  Interiors can begin to show signs of wear and tear in just a couple of years and within 6-7 years, unprotected surfaces are often damaged enough to warrant repair.

A good wall protection system should extend the life of your interior to 10 years or even longer – so over the course of that 20-year cycle, it can cut out a significant amount of expense on remedial works, as well as making your staff’s jobs easier and keeping your service users safer.  Our experience suggests that surface protection can pay for itself quickly.

Of course, it isn’t just the visual appearance of healthcare interiors that’s important – although aesthetics do matter, and can have a measurable impact on the client experience including their overall wellbeing and health prognosis.  As well as looking unsightly, those scuffs and scrapes that begin to appear along hallways and around door frames can create a perfect place for bacteria and viruses to lurk.

Pitted, uneven surfaces are more difficult to clean.  It takes more physical effort to remove visible stains and dirt from these surfaces, while invisible pathogens can penetrate into the substrate itself.  When this happens, manual cleaning is no longer enough to sanitize that surface thoroughly – and as we’ve seen during the coronavirus pandemic, this can result in an infection risk.  

Wall protection made from polymer or metal substrates doesn’t just protect the wall –  a surface denser than the wall can perform as a “shock absorber” to prevent the kind of damage we often see in healthcare settings without breaking down.  As a result, it remains easy to clean throughout its lifetime, and as technology evolves, we’re even beginning to see wall protection options with built-in antimicrobial protection.

At some point, all interiors need to be refreshed, but the reason to refresh does not need to be dictated by the condition of your walls, doors or corners.  If an upfront investment in surface protection can delay the need for a major remodeling, then that investment can be quantified.  When added to the additional benefits of improved hygiene and better overall environment, it is likely to be an investment well worth making.

For information on Belroc’s range of surface protection products or to discuss an upcoming construction or refurbishment project, get in touch.