Unlike domestic specifications, which tend to centre on aesthetics and budget, a sports floor needs to perform to the highest standards too. Numerous other factors also come into the mix – including accreditation, suitability, maintenance, construction parameters, fire testing and environmental impact. In the past, ensuring satisfaction across all areas was a complicated task. Manufacturers were able to quote different standards in different countries, and quality information in terms of sports science was fairly thin on the ground. By setting a minimum and consistent standard for sports floors, wherever they are located in the European Union, EN 14904 makes it easier to compare different types of surfaces in terms of their compliance with minimum safety and performance standards. And, in today’s market, this is an issue that is becoming more and more important.
A large portion of sports floors are installed in schools and leisure centres, which not only accommodate a wide range of school sports and activities, but also host external events to create extra revenue. School halls are regularly hired out for a variety of different clubs and classes and, as a result, floors need to be able to cope with a multitude of sporting and non-sporting activities.
As part of the UK government’s ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme, a huge refurbishment and building programme is taking place throughout primary and secondary schools. Following the publication of EN14904, Sport England is also advising organisations to adhere to the new rules and many other parties are using the Standard to set parameters on the funding of new projects. For companies able to invest in product development, it’s a great opportunity and a rare area of the building sector that is booming, despite current economic conditions. But, for others, it could greatly impact their future business success.
All sports floors, which previously met BS7044 part 4 as a minimum standard, now have to comply with the new European EN 14904 standard. Various performance characteristics are tested to meet specific parameters. They include: Vertical Deformation 2.3 – 5mm – to reduce the risk of injuries caused by diving and falling; Energy absorption 55-75% – to reduce injuries caused by jarring and Uniform friction – for optimum grip/slip performance across the entire surface; Vertical ball bounce – for a true and consistent bounce across the surface; Resistance to indentation, rolling loads and impact; Abrasion resistance, and correct light reflection, so that both sighted and visually-impaired can clearly see line markings at all speeds.
Today, many different wooden sports floors successfully meet all of these criteria, with timber now accounting for a large percentage of the sports floor market. Engineered constructions, in particular, are becoming more and more popular, providing an eco-friendly alternative to solid constructions. By using slow-growing hardwood throughout the top layer only, down to the tongue and groove joint, valuable resources are saved; resources used below this level serve no purpose, as a floor can only be sanded down to its joint. In addition, each layer within an engineered board is laid at right angles, producing a ‘criss-cross’ construction that creates maximum stability and minimal movement.
Within the engineered arena, specifiers have a choice of either a traditional sports floor or an ‘all in one’ construction. Traditional ‘tongue and groove’ sprung sports floor systems are nailed onto battens, using T or L format nails, positioned just above the tongue. Some boards, like Reflex’s Multisport system, feature a ply back and header joint which eliminates the risk of breakage during installation. Meanwhile, nails used in these applications are often slightly flexible, to allow for movement in timber.
Further design features also promote performance and easy installation: Resilient closed cell foam is often used on the underside of battens to aid shock absorption and spring. In addition, for applications with uneven floors and varying floor depths, ‘cradles’ can also be used to level floor battens, such as the Reflex Sports Cradle.
Meanwhile, ‘all-in-one’ sports floors, like the EN-approved Activity Floor from Kährs, feature integral shock-absorption and reinforcement properties, so remove the need for battens and fixings entirely. Kährs’ design also features a glueless Woodloc® joint, which promotes fast installation and allows the floor to be dismantled and relayed elsewhere.
By Richard Darby, Reflex Sports Ltd
For more information on sports floor solutions, including Multisport ‘batten’ floors, cradles and Kährs Activity Floor, please contact Reflex Sports Ltd on tel. 0800 345 7085, email email@example.com or visit www.reflexsports.co.uk