Diana Mosher, a contributing editor with The McMorrow Reports, connected with Catherine Prossen, K-12 Market Segment Manager at Interface. They discussed the functional and aesthetic solutions that all three Interface and nora flooring categories offer K-12 school districts, as well as new sustainability features.
What has changed in the K-12 world since COVID-19, and how are Interface products positioned to help?
Prossen: There is a hyper-awareness and sensitivity to the level of cleanliness within a school environment. This includes multiple cleanings of high-touch surfaces every day. Some end users in some districts are minimizing their application of soft-surface products within facilities in favor of even more resilient flooring.
What products has Interface rolled out recently for K-12?
Prossen: In October, we launched two new collections of LVT specifically designed with K-12 in mind, with another collection coming in the first quarter of 2021. All of these new products have a very high saturation of bright colors to help with school branding, wayfinding or even designing for distance learning.
And, Interface just rolled out a new backing system that will lower the carbon footprint of our carpet tiles even more. By innovating with the addition of new bio-based materials and more recycled content to our backings, we are able to create carbon-negative backings. It’s just another step in Interface’s mission to restore our planet and leave a positive impact.
How do all three products offered by Interface—carpet tile, LVT and nora rubber—work together in school facilities?
Prossen: When I am working with an end user, I talk about the fact that with carpet tile, LVT and nora rubber, we have products that can address all of their needs throughout their building depending on the use and level of durability that’s needed. We have carpet tile solutions for an office or administrative area. In the corridors and classroom environments a combination of LVT and carpet tile can be used depending on the desired level of acoustics or the preference of a soft surface versus a hard surface. In more active, multipurpose spaces like cafeterias and athletic areas, nora rubber provides a very high durability solution. Specifying everything from one manufacturer simplifies the supply chain and also the point of contact for the district so they can reach out to just one or two individuals to get maintenance, technical or sales support.
Do some products work better for different age groups?
Prossen: It varies on how the space is going to be used, not necessarily on the age of the students. For example, in a high school chemistry lab you’d want a much more stain-resistant, chemical-resistant product than in a standard classroom for a kindergarten or first grade. We typically see brighter, more saturated colors for the lower classroom levels. Many middle school and high school environments today are mimicking more of a higher education environment with a tailored, contemporary aesthetic and less of the bright rainbow of color that you would see in a K-5 environment.
Are there any other special features you would like K-12 designers and facilities managers to know about?
Prossen: Acoustics and ease of maintenance are a major driver in the K-12 learning environment.
While all three of our products reduce noise where it matters most, our LVT has a Sound Choice™ backing that helps from an acoustic standpoint compared to VCT or other hard surfaces. Our K-12 customers who want to go to a hard surface fear it will be noisy, but this product helps dampen that sound.
At the same time, our LVT and nora rubber product don’t need special coatings or sealers, which translates into a simplified maintenance routine. Proper maintenance keeps our flooring looking great for years, and all you really need is a mop and water. No chemicals and no heavy equipment usage.
And, that’s not to mention the real benefits of our QuickShip program.
What does your QuickShip program offer and how does it differentiate your brand?
Prossen: Just this year we added nora rubber to our QuickShip program, which means we can now ship the most in-demand styles of all three Interface products within 10 to 14 days. This includes products that historically sell well in K-12 and have all the benefits we’ve talked about for school facilities: durability, ease of maintenance, acoustics and design flexibility.
QuickShip is ideal for quick-turn projects that have to be done, say, over a weekend, and our QuickShip product portfolio works for high-traffic areas, classrooms and athletic areas.
What has been the response from the K-12 marketplace?
Prossen: The feedback has been positive regarding the level of service and the fact that Interface can provide rubber, LVT and carpet tile all from one central company with a simplified supply chain. Accommodating and supporting districts and developing relationships has become very important for us.
Additionally, while higher education has been a leader in driving the importance of sustainability, K-12 is starting to have that heightened awareness as well. Interface is a leader in sustainability, so we can partner with school districts and help educate school boards and the community on how selections of internal finishes within a building can have an impact on sustainability.