National Parks and Rec Month: Project Spotlight

Happy National Parks and Recreation Month!


Municipal spaces, near and dear to our hearts, are something we love to explore and talk about. In previous blogs, we’ve discussed The 10 Minute Walk To a Park Initiative [x] and our work to standardize splash pad safety [x]. We’ve especially taken joy in sharing the public splash pads we’ve designed through the years: Bloomington, MN [x], Westfield, NY [x] Clarksville, TN [x].

This July we’re celebrating three municipal projects that embody the importance of Parks and Recreation.

Shoreview Community Center (Shoreview, MN)

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Even before we were a company, the Tropics Indoor Waterpark has been an important part of the Life Floor story.  Growing up in Minnesota, several of us found our love for aquatics at this community center. Now we’re watching our kids swim in this same center thanks to the city’s dedication to educational and fun aquatic programs and facilities.

In 2017 the City of Shoreview became an even greater part of the Life Floor story. The city announced a 13 million dollar expansion, with City Manager Terry Schwerm noting, “We’re really trying to make sure the whole community remains a really desirable place for young families.” (x) With this new focus in mind, the Shoreview Community Center is refurbishing the current indoor Tropics Waterpark, and expanding the aquatics facilities to include a new zero depth splash pool and multi level play structure, With our early childhood ties, our team is thrilled to be part of the refurbishment project, providing a color palette to fit the water park’s theme of tropical, beach fun.


Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Splash Pad (Town of Huntington, NY)

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We are highlighting this project for National Parks and Recreation month because it showcases an important aspect of public spaces: memorializing the life and impact of a notable member in the community. This public splash pad was built for the children and families of Huntington, NY to memorialize and honor Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo who was killed in the line of duty in 2016 (x).  “Sgt. Tuozzolo’s wife, Lisa Tuozzolo, and all those who knew him through the NYPD and SCPD wanted to do something to memorialize his dedication to family and community” (x).

This splash pad became Huntington’s first, and features dump buckets, spray hoops, nearby benches and memorial trellis. The splash pad allows visiting loved ones to honor Sgt. Tuozzolo while children of Huntington interact and play with each other to create a community of shared experience at Elwood Park. Because pools, parks, recreation centers and green spaces aren’t just resources for the community to use, they are often what builds and brings a community together.  

Elk Grove (Elk Grove Village, IL)

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The Pavilion Aquatics Center in Elk Grove, IL is a wonderful testament to how parks and recreation programs can grow with a community. The Pavilion, officially named Jack A. Claes Pavilion Community Center, commemorates the 29-year-long career of Jack Claes as the district’s only Executive Director. During his career, Claes expanded the parks and recreation program from “a few rented rooms”(x) to a rich and varied experience. "We built the programs up and the community responded," Claes said. "Now there's an endless stream of people going in and out.”

Life Floor has had the honor of being part of the program’s growth with installations at Rainbow Falls Waterpark, the Pavilion Aquatics Center, and Fountain Square Park. Our team has loved visiting these facilities to witness the hub of activity and fun for everyone in Elk Grove Village.

A big THANK YOU to all the parks and recreation professionals who build up our communities and create safe, fun spaces for everyone to enjoy. Happy National Parks and Recreation Month!

Water Safety Month: Slip-Resistance

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In aquatics, we talk a lot about slip-resistance, slip-resisting surfaces, and reducing slip-and-fall injuries. Wet areas can be slippery: it’s why we have bath mats, and slippery-when-wet signs, and Bon Jovi albums.

While it’s pretty easy to tell when something is slippery, defining slip-resistance has been an ongoing discussion. We believe a clear standard can not only help clarify what slip-resistance is, but create a better standard of living for the people who use and love aquatic areas.

What is Slip-Resistance?

The greater the coefficient of friction created between a floor and a foot, the better the slip-resistance is. That being said, people still need to be able to walk on it- since wet areas usually have barefoot traffic, the amount of grit needs to be comfortable and safe enough that it doesn’t abrade bare skin. Sandpaper, for example, has a great coefficient of friction, but it isn’t something you’d want to sit, stand, or walk on for too long.

When Life Floor first came to market, the standard reference in the ADA and most building codes was the ASTM Standard 1028-C. While this test did measure a coefficient of friction for wet flooring, it only measured a static coefficient of friction, which is the amount of force it takes to get an object to move from a point of stillness. Unfortunately, this standard wasn’t exactly related to real-world conditions.

Over time, it became apparent that surfaces which passed this test still witnessed significant slips and falls, especially in areas where kids were active in and around water. ASTM standard 1028-C was pulled in 2014.

How Should We Test For Slip-Resistance?

That’s the trick. Finding a good test that mimics real-world conditions needs careful consideration, which is why we compiled a list of factors that a slip-resistance test should include: 

Running

Kids use splash pads because splash pads are designed for kids. Multi-level play structures and recreational pools also see use from the smallest patrons. In all cases, the challenge is the same: posted rules, parents, and lifeguards can only do so much to restrain the energy of young children. Kids will be kids, and aquatic facilities are designed to encourage this simple truth. Which means that any test for a slip-resistance standard should use equipment that measures dynamic coefficient of friction to simulate running feet and active play.

Water

It’s pretty straight-forward that any aquatic surfacing standard should anticipate surfaces that are constantly wet. The dynamic coefficient of friction should be measured wet, and should take into consideration both treated water (pools and recirculating splash pads) as well as potable water (flow-through systems).

Most slip-resistance tests use soapy water. While soapy water makes sense in shower areas and may apply to locker rooms, soapy water is never used on actual splash pads and is very rare on pool decks. Tests should be completed with the type of water with which the guests actually come into contact.

Bare Feet

While shoes and flip-flops do occasionally come into play, the majority of people using splash pads and pool decks do so barefoot. Only one slip-resistance test, the variable ramp, uses an actual barefoot person. Every other test merely simulates bare feet. Using a rubber “foot” as a slider matters, as it most closely simulates a bare foot or a soft-soled shoe.

Test in Multiple Directions

Pool decks, splash pads, and other aquatic areas can expect traffic coming from all angles, which means that any test measuring the slip-resistance of a surface should test the surface at multiple angles. Testing from multiple angles will prove which surfaces with different grains are either slip-resistant or slick.

Testable in the field

Finally, while lab tests are important, to insure that existing surfaces adhere to the standard, any test that works in the lab should also work in the field. In most cases, it’s simply not practical to remove a pre-installed surface from an existing application and ship it off for testing.

Which Test is the Most Accurate Slip-Resistance Test?

Over the last four years, we have worked with a variety of safety testing companies to find a test which we felt would actually hit all these criteria. We wanted to demonstrate Life Floor’s slip-resistance while wet in real, aquatic-recreational situations. We even created our own test to start this process. As you can see, however, this test didn't hit every need we identified, specifically being testable in the field.

In the end, we did find an existing test that was both reflective of actual performance and most correlated with reduction of injuries: the British Pendulum Test. We use this test because it has a clear measure of both slip-resistance when wet and the degree of slip-resistance. According to the British Pendulum Test, anything with a rating of 36 is deemed slip-resistant when wet. For example, when our tiles are wet, their BPT ratings range from 39 for our Slate texture to 58 for our Ripple 2.0 and Boardwalk textures

Tellingly, most of the developed world already uses the British Pendulum Test. We also found that the Australian standard was the most thorough in establishing criteria for just about every application (pool decks, zero depth entries, locker rooms, being separate areas requiring different levels of slip-resistance).

To learn more about our work on safety testing and standards, you can read our white paper, “Splash Pads Need Safety Surfaces,” here.

The Sand Paper: Shortage, Supply, & Safety

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Atlantis The Palm Splasher Play Area

At Life Floor, we've seen a lot of sand in and around water parks, other aquatic installations, and in other human-made environments. That may not be a good thing. To paraphrase a philosopher, "We don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere." (seen here) Digging into the problem a little deeper, we realized that trucking sand into these places from mines, beaches, and riverbeds isn't just annoying, it's potentially dangerous. Here are a few reasons we think the aquatic recreation industry, and any industry, should rethink sand usage:

Issue #1: We’re Running Out of Sand

According to Dr Pascal Peduzzi in a UN report titled Sand, Rarer Than One Thinks, “Sand and gravel are mined world-wide and account for the largest volume of solid material extracted globally… [T]he world consumption of aggregates may exceed 40 billion tonnes a year. This is twice the yearly amount of sediment carried by all of the rivers of the world, making humankind the largest of the planet’s transforming agent.”


Most of the sand used in construction and on beaches is quartz sand (x), which is used because it has large enough grains to bind into concrete and is sturdy enough to withstand weathering. This type of sand isn’t manufactured yet. In fact, quartz sand starts in the mountains, breaks down from time and weather, and slowly makes it way to the ocean and beaches by way of rivers. Most of the earth’s sandy beaches were formed naturally over centuries, which is why our growing demand is starting to outstrip supply.

But, what about the deserts? The finely ground sand of the world‘s deserts may stretch as far as the eye can see, but is too fine for construction (while people are working on a solution, it isn’t in the bag yet).

According to the Independent’s 2017 article Sand Mafias and the Vanishing Islands: How the World is Dealing with the Global Sand Shortage, riverbeds are being emptied, beaches are being stripped, and “[I]n Indonesia, islands have literally vanished due to excessive mining.” (x)

The boom of developing countries has created the greatest demand for sand with the development of infrastructure. Countries such as India, China, Vietnam, and Indonesia are among the largest users of sand (x). “So enormous is China’s appetite for construction, in fact, that between 2011 and 2013 it used more concrete than the US got through in the entire 20th century.“ (x)

Aside from concrete, the demand for sand is also caused by natural phenomena. Singapore, for example, is one of the world’s biggest importers of sand as they attempt to protect the low-lying island from rising sea levels (x).

In places like Florida, where tourist communities are desperate to keep their eroding beaches from falling into the waves, beaches are replenished by the truckload. With the high costs of offshore sand dredging (sand is a heavy, therefore an expensive material to freight around) driving truckload after truckload of sand is becoming the go-to answer for community renourishment projects (x). Which brings us to issue #2...

Issue #2: Safety for Vulnerable Communities

Removing sand from its natural state influences the safety of individuals as well as entire communities. According to the article The World is Facing a Global Sand Crisis, “Sand mining has serious impacts on people’s livelihoods. Beaches and wetlands buffer coastal communities against surging seas. Increased erosion resulting from extensive mining makes these communities more vulnerable to floods and storm surges.” (x)  As countries struggle to protect their beaches from the sand shortages and global demand, “sand mafias” have formed and have created a black market founded on illegal sand mining operations. These illegal mining operations take advantage of vulnerable beaches were sand is a vital protective barrier for communities and they also pose immediate criminal implications for the area. (x)

Now that we’ve addressed the issue of sand on a global level, let’s take a look at how sand affects the aquatics industry on a day-to-day operating level...

Issue #3: Reduced Accessibility

One of the reasons many playgrounds have moved away from sand, and loose fill materials in general, is that these surfaces don’t meet ADA standards for propulsion or turning.

Modern amusement and water parks have developed initiatives to make parks and destination locales more accessible to people with mobility assistance needs, but when water parks take the term ‘beach entry’ literally and use sand as the surfacing around activity pools and wave pools, this hinders wheelchaired guests from getting to the waves.

When sand is also used around splash pads and next to concession areas, guests in wheelchairs may be separated from the simple pleasure of sitting next to their family for fear of getting stuck in the lurch.

Issue #4: Hygiene & Maintenance

The first and most obvious problem with sand, or any loose fill surface, is that you can bury things in it and it is harder to clean. Everything from glass shards, leaked “accidents”, or animal droppings can hide just below the surface (x) And the cleaning problem (and thus the hygiene problem) doesn’t just involve the sandy shores. Sand can’t be completely contained by retaining walls, which means it (and whatever else is in it) gets into pools and filters.

We’ll give you this: sand has better impact cushioning than concrete, and can help reduce fall injuries (of up to 4 ft). It also cools down more quickly than concrete (or, at least, you can dig your toes down to cooler layers).

Sand also requires daily maintenance to sweep and keep it around areas with a fall height specification (which is also a huge time burden for staff). Sand also tracks easily from one area to another, which spreads the hygienic problem to an even wider area and can even cause other surfaces to break down faster.

What Can We Do As Global Leaders?

We compiled this summary of data and research in honor of Earth Month to bring to light an environmental issue in surfacing that many of us here at Life Floor didn’t even know the extent of.  Our hope is that this post will also help educate other aquatic leaders around the world to choose sustainable options that do not further marginalize vulnerable global communities. At Life Floor, we believe as leaders we can choose to set the precedent that manufacturers and operators can partner together to alleviate and eliminate the environmental burden our current planet faces. More on our new recycling program in the next few months… but in the meantime, we wish you a safe, green, and happy Earth Month!

Life Floor Product Line Announcement

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Life Floor Product Line Announcement

At Life Floor, we hear this all the time, “I want more Life Floor but I’ve run out of aquatic areas to cover... how can I get more Life Floor without more floor? Can you start a fashion line? A pop star music career? Maybe a cosmetic company?”

We have a lot of design ideas, but we are morally against shoes, and the average day at the office has our staff rocking a Life Floor polo and khaki shorts, which, frankly, is already the height of fashion. We can’t launch our pop star careers with infectiously good earworms because we don’t support microbe growth, and while the market for waterproof and brightly colored cosmetics is booming, our focus on geometric and impervious designs didn’t get us too far past the fashionista focus group.

But we heard these concerns loud and clear, which is why we’re proud to announce Life Floor’s new brand: Life Flour.

That’s right.

We’re starting a recipe blog. You may be thinking, “How on earth will Life Floor switch from writing about flooring tiles to writing about baked goods?” We think we’ll get the hang of it…

Soft Chocolate Modular Cakes

Life Flour SDS

(All measurements in imperial and metric to support our international customers)

1 1/2 cups (210 grams) of sifted and whisked co-polymer flour. That is, 1 part cake flour, and 2 parts all purpose flour. (the best way to avoid abrasive, sorry, lumpy cakes is to whisk and sift all the dry ingredients together.

1 cup (190 grams) of granulated Porcelain, sorry, white sugar. (If you side with the Correct Side Of History and hide your sugar in the fridge to prevent ants, you’ll want to bring this to room temperature for better seams blending.)

½ cup (95 grams) of Gobi Light brown sugar

½ cup (70 grams) of good quality cocoa powder (Sourcing good raw ingredients is the best way to achieve the longest lasting and most durable, aww jeeze, tastiest and richest cake.)

¾ teaspoons (3ml) baking soda (not be confused with baking powder)

1 teaspoon (5ml) baking powder (not to be confused with baking soda)

½ teaspoon (2ml) kosher salt (or iodized salt if you feel a goiter coming on)

1 cup (2 sticks) (200 grams) unsalted butter, softened (Not melted! Melted results in flatter and less cushioned cakes.)

4 (200 grams) large eggs (The eggs, like all the other ingredients, should be room temperature for easy installation. To check egg freshness, make sure to bounce on Life Floor.)

1 cup sour cream (200 grams) (Afterall, our tiles are designed for the aquatic environment... we can’t publish a recipe that’s going to end up dry!)

2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract

Sprinkles (for the non-abrasive, slip-resistance on top of the cupcake)


Life Flour Installation Manual

  1. As everyone knows, the best things come in squares. So you’ll want to use square cupcake pans.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) for an even cure cook and an equal amount of impact distribution.
  3. Site prep is very important for cupcakes. Use muffin liners so the cupcakes don’t stick… wait, this has to be a mistake. We want to make the substrate slippery??!
  4. Alright fine! You caught us...
  5. Happy April Fools!