Australian hospitals and other health care providers are spending millions of dollars retrofitting wall protection in a bid to fight bacterial infection.
Unlike their European counterparts, many local architects, builders and end users fail to include wall protection and handrail systems in their planning and design stages.
For many, the perceived compromise on their design aesthetic is too great until the realities of trolley, wheel chair and other impacts damage walls and set up a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
Resilient flooring specialist and household name in health care, Gerflor, has launched a complete range of wall protection, handrails and accessories onto the Australian market.
Known as Gerflor SPM, this extensive collection of wall, corner, door and hand rail systems has been tested in real operating conditions with weights that correspond to trolleys and impact speeds consistent with people on the move at 320kg at three km/h.
These heavy duty characteristics are important in demanding health and education settings but, according to Eric Delville, global manager of the Gerflor SPM portfolio, it's the bacteriostatic and fungistatic characteristics of the ranges that make the most compelling story.
"For most architects, wall protection is a necessary evil," he said.
"It offends their design sensibilities to consider using panels and handrails on nice clean white or grey walls. For a long time in a lot of countries wall protection was never specified in the first stage of the project. It was only after construction and the building was in use that they saw the damage and the breeding ground that it sets up for bacteria, that protection was installed.
"Our SPM products are 100 per cent antibacterial. The entire Gerflor range is specially designed to prevent a build up of dust and germs. The non-porous surface and rounded design of every product is the result of in-depth engineering studies.
"To fight against bacteria, we promote also a complete waterproof solution on the basis of wall protection panels hot welded with Gerflor flooring.
An extensive palette of colours and designs and a host of options to customise these to complement a particular design aesthetic will help to stimulate interest amongst local architects and designers. But it could be the capacity to digitally print anything on panels to enliven operating theatres, corridors and wards that really sparks their interest beyond the inherent health and safety benefits.
Delville has been in Australia to help the local subsidiary launch the expansive range of SPM products. His experience in France where he has the lions share of the 30 million Euro health care market will be invaluable to the local team in their discussions with architects and end users.
His library of photographs cataloguing the consequences of not protecting walls, doors etc sets the alarm bells ringing for anyone charged with caring for people's health and well-being.
"Whenever we have time to discuss with architects and end users the antibacterial and anti fungal characteristics of SPM products, they understand the advantages of using PVC.
"In France we have been educating the market for a long time — more than 40 or 50 years — and they know PVC and choose this type of flooring. But when it comes to wall protection, we still have a lot of work to do.
"Gerflor SPM has thousands of designs that its customers can choose from to print on wall panels. But, generally architects won't choose from these designs. They want their own colours and designs to put their individual stamp on the project and that is a perfectly achievable additional feature of what is primarily and infection control story."