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American Hardwoods Enhance Healthy, Healing Spaces
Meeting the exacting requirements of aesthetics, sustainability, durability
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Advertising supplement provided by The Hardwood Council


Life-Cycle Cost

When it comes to choosing interior surface materials, health care facilities often have opted for synthetic products because of their durability, ease of maintenance and “sanitary look.” But these materials may contain harmful polyvinyl chloride and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

What’s more, architects have begun to challenge the notion that synthetic materials are less expensive than natural products. Sue Tartaglio, Interior Designer, Burt Hill, Butler, Pennsylvania, has developed a life-cycle cost comparison of a dozen frequently used synthetic and natural flooring products, based on manufacturers’ published maintenance data/life-cycle costs, and conversations with manufacturers’ representatives. The matrix shows that in facilities with a lifetime use of more than 15 years, hardwood flooring, while it may have higher upfront costs, has life-cycle costs that are significantly lower.

The daily maintenance on these floors is really greatly reduced. Frequently, it’s a matter of sweeping or damp mopping them to remove surface soil. And with their smooth surfaces, hardwood floors don’t harbor animal dander, fleas, dust, mites, pollen or other allergens—the reason that doctors often recommend them for patients with allergies and respiratory problems.


Linear Accelerator
Margaret Mary Community Hospital, Batesville, IN
At Margaret Mary Community Hospital in Batesville, Indiana, an American cherry ceiling serves as a “positive distraction” for patients undergoing a procedure in the Linear Accelerator Suite. Photograph Jeff Millies © Hedrich Blessing
Courtesy of BSA Life Structures and Maregatti Interiors


“Over the long run, acrylic impregnated hardwoods, in fact, have one of the lowest life-cycle costs,” says Tartaglio, referring to pre-finished hardwood floor products in which acrylic has been forced into the wood pores, creating an extremely hard surface.

In the comparison, average installed costs per square foot range from $1,400 for vinyl comp tile to $12,000 for bamboo and hardwood, with linoleum, cork, rubber, sheet vinyl, carpet and ceramic tile falling in between. Since the comparison considers useable product life, replacement, cleaning and labor cost over 15 years, products with some of the lowest initial costs wind up having among the highest total life-cycle costs. In fact, hardwood, rubber and bamboo flooring have the lowest total cost at 15 years among the 12 flooring materials compared.

Of the more than 1,200 species of fast-growing grasses known as bamboo, the Moso bamboo species is considered optimal for use in flooring, with a few caveats: the bamboo should be properly aged and only the middle section of each stalk should be used in order to deliver the proper strength and moisture content. In addition, architects should ask bamboo flooring suppliers whether the bamboo plantations use pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and what type of resin is used to bond the grass stalks in the flooring manufacturing process.


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