Life Floor Product Line Announcement

Life Flour.jpg

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!

Write here…

Aquatic Concussions: Anecdotal Problem Or Widespread Issue?

 No Diving Signs

No Diving Signs

The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) uses March as part of their awareness campaign to educate and expand the conversation around traumatic brain injuries, including helping the general public understand both the incidence rate of brain injuries, as well as how to support the brain community and their families.

Five to 10 percent of athletes will suffer from a concussion during any giving sporting season; the highest demographic being athletes between the ages of 15 and 17 years, according to the Southwest Athletic Trainers Association (SWATA). While many of these injuries will happen to the usual suspects (football, hockey and soccer players for high impact sports; cheerleaders and gymnasts for  high fall potential), one area in which head injuries occur that doesn’t get nearly enough attention is in and around swimming pools. Competitive swimming, synchronized swimming, and diving are sports where concussions and head injuries are understudied and often overlooked.

First, what is a concussion?

A concussion is considered a “mild” head injury by medical providers, in that (in the range of potential head injuries) it is usually not life-threatening. However, the effects of a concussion can be serious, long-lasting and invasive just as easily as they can be a temporary inconvenience.

A concussion is, according to the CDC “caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.” (x). Essentially the brain is normally protected by veins and fluid to stop it from jostling against the skull. However when the head, or body, are jostled too fast or sharply the “sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells.”

Different parts of the brain can be affected depending on the specifics of the injury and how different people will recover. “Most people with a concussion recover well from symptoms experienced at the time of the injury. But for some people, symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer.” (x)

Immediate symptoms include (severe symptoms requiring immediate emergency attention in bold):

  • Loss of consciousness (even brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously)

  • One pupil larger than the other

  • Confusion (Unusual behavior, restlessness, agitation)

  • Headache (Which gets worse, or doesn’t go away.)

  • Slurred speech (Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination)

  • Dizziness

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Nausea (Vomiting, convulsions, seizures)

  • Amnesia

  • Tiredness (Inability to wake up or drowsiness)

Of these symptoms, the loss of consciousness in water presents the most immediate danger to swimmers and divers. The good news, though, is that 90% of concussions occur without loss of consciousness.  However, many swimmers who experience concussions in the pool often do not immediately notice their condition, continue the activity, and do not check in with a doctor because of the lack of awareness around concussions in swimming.

How widespread is the issue?

Today, facilities protect divers by regulating the depth of diving wells, posting ‘No Diving’ signs and Swimming Etiquette around commercial pools, and lifeguards monitoring the activity in and out of the pool. Swimmers, for the most part, however, have little to no safety equipment in and around the pool to protect against concussions, which is possibly why we are seeing 70% of pool injuries related to the head and neck.

In December 2016, Washington Post published an article titled ”Swimming is supposed to be low-impact, so why the concussions?” (x) in which writer Marlene Cimons details the experiences of two swimmers who had recently suffered concussive blows to the head from other swimmers. “We just don’t know what’s going on outside organized school sports, including among adults, although we believe the risk in swimming and diving to be fairly low,” says behavioral scientist Matt Breiding, who leads CDC’s traumatic brain injury team, part of its division of unintentional injury prevention. “We are trying to put together a national concussion surveillance system to get a better estimate.”

How are swimmers getting injured?

There are a few distinct situations where we see concussions taking place in swimming:

  • Diving into shallow water

  • Bumping against the pool wall during lane turns

  • Colliding with other swimmers (swimming the wrong direction, swimming too close in another lane, not following swimming etiquette)

  • Slipping on the pool deck

  • Dryland training (x)

While swimming has less occurrences of concussions than other sports, we see the added element of risk in a few places. For one, many injuries that happen to swimmers occur out of view and underwater so it can be difficult to isolate a moment of injury and swimmers can continue practicing or competing out of muscle memory, and by misattributing their symptoms. According to SwimmingWorldMagazine: “Swimmers are sometimes slow to recognize they have a concussion because many of the symptoms, like dizziness and blurred vision, can be caused by swimming upside down and holding their breath for long periods.”

What can we do?

As pointed out by the Washington Post article, a significant danger to swimmers is other swimmers. Swimmers pose a threat to each other when they do not follow proper lap swimming procedures, which is why posted signs detailing the proper lap swimming etiquette can prevent someone from significant injury (imagine a full-force kick to the head).  Facility staff can also monitor lane behavior, educate beginner swimmers, and enforce proper lap swimming procedures to prevent collisions.

As far as equipment and facility safety, helmets have been proposed for swimmers to absorb impact (such as with crashing into a wall, the force of water during a dive, a direct kick to the top of the head). While helmets reduce injuries and concussions in these situations, the NFL knows only too well that helmets are not concussion proof and do little to protect athlete’s brains from rotational or side impacts. (x)

To continue the NFL parallel, the association has created safety standards to prevent concussions that includes both personal padding and surfaces with Gmax impact absorption. One could argue that having impact surfacing on the walls of a pool as well as on the deck to reduce slip and falls (which are one of the leading causes of injury in most applications, not just aquatics) could prevent concussions in and out of the water. This doesn’t solve the problem of in-water collisions but does potentially address one piece of the puzzle.

As part of our company mission to help create safer aquatics facilities, we are writing about this issue to support the most universally helpful solution, awareness. Because we all know, there’s no such thing as risk elimination, but we can work together to provide risk mitigation. To learn more about awareness and concussion prevention, visit the BIAA website to see how you can get involved and bring awareness to your community and aquatics programs.

A Fount of Possibilities

 Florida Aquarium Splash Pad

Florida Aquarium Splash Pad

In the Beginning: Urban Fountains

Society has an interesting history with the concept of public fountains. Depending on current technology and culture, fountains have been designed as drinking water dispensers for urban populations, markers of courtly love locked in cloisters, elaborate Persian floating gardens, and elaborate works of lasting art and architectural prowess.

With the rise of accessible indoor plumbing, the need for potable public fountains diminished. Fountains with less historical importance were destroyed or replaced, while fountains that stood as pieces of art, landmarks, and important symbols of a community’s history remained. Unofficially and un-ideally: fountains also remained as places where children played.

With the summer season and the scorching heat, many socially acceptable options (other than the obvious bodies of water) included sprinkler systems, wading pools, water tables, and the aforementioned public fountains. (And to a horde of overheated children, fountains often were the best place to have a summer splash party in city centers.)  However, in 2010, ABC ran a story asking “Are Public Fountains Too Dirty to Play In?”(x) with the answer being an almost inevitable “yes." Public fountains were not designed to be splashed and played in because of the lack of water treatment and filtration systems. Hence, the rise of the modern splash pad and spray deck.

Enter the Modern Spray Park

The splash pad or spray deck is a zero-depth, water playground designed to be active and interactive. Essentially, it is the modern public fountain designed to be enjoyed by the public with water filtration and treatment standards in place.

Splash parks were not designed to replace swimming pools, which serve both a wider audience, and are necessary for teaching children and adults a life-saving skill. But as more cities adopted spray parks, it became clear that keeping an urban population cool by having a zero depth, water play area designed for interactive play, was hugely popular.

From a practical standpoint, splash parks were and are a perfect solution for young kids who cannot swim, are not big enough to go on waterslides, and who quickly become bored with the limited offering of wading pools. Splash pads also became favored by parents who wanted an afternoon water stop that didn’t require floaties.

We’ve written at length about splash pads on this blog from a practical standpoint, but given the passing of the torch from public fountains to interactive fountains, what we want to address in this post is another perspective: interactive fountains as art.

Spray parks are interactive. You don't just look at them, you play in them. "Unlike traditional urban fountains, spray parks are interactive. You don't just look at them, you play in them. But unlike swimming pools, spray parks lack large expanses of standing water, and fit neatly into urban places. They're a flexible middle ground bridging the gap between public art and public recreation." writes Dan Malouff, the editorial director of Greater Greater Washington. In his work, he writes specifically about the DC. Area, and points out several spray parks and sprinkler plaza that invite both play, and public appreciation.

In many cases, where art and recreation meet, it’s not with great ease. A public park may have a sculpture garden, but children are not invited to play on it. There may be a mural, a plaza or other installation, but while these art pieces exist in public space and for public appreciation, they’re not usually designed to be played with in the same way a carefully engineered playground is.

So, much like public fountains before them, landscape architects and designers have a unique opportunity to blend function with form and create playful spaces that highlight the strengths of an area in terms of artistry, while still giving kids the freedom to play, cool off, explore and experiment with water physics with the help of unique features developed by splash pad manufacturers.

The unique strength of spray grounds, as Malouff points out, is that they can be grounded nearly anywhere. Kids can walk from a spray ground directly to other amenities nearby, like the park playground or the city center.

And spray parks can be designed to fit thematically with any area of the city. Features can be designed to mimic local monuments or plantlife. Water can be directed to create urban waterfalls and playful streams in areas gridlocked by urban development. (Which ties into our post last week about the 10 Minute Walk To a Park campaign.)

Criticisms and Pushback

With the widespread and rapid adoption of splash grounds, it’s unsurprising the feature as a whole has had constructive criticism. There are concerns over water loss in flow-through systems, water sanitation (mostly around the potential to spread bacteria), and the other amenities splash pads replace (municipal pools are vital places for children to learn how to swim.) Because of these conversations, splash pad manufacturers have created and adapted systems to be more efficient and more effective.

From a design perspective not every architect views the sudden and explosive rise in splash pads as an ultimate good. In his article “Splash Pad Urbanism” and 2017’s other notable developments in landscape architecture”  Charles A. Birnbaum President & CEO, The Cultural Landscape Foundation had this to say about the boom:

“[T]he crowd-pleasing splash pads that have seemingly become the must-have, one-size-fits-all park amenity in many cities (a successor, of sorts, to the wooden parcourse exercise stations that were plopped down in hundreds of U.S. parks in the 1970s and 1980s). The increased reliance on them raises the question: are we becoming lazy?—or just willing to accept a little mediocrity in exchange for a planning board’s easy approval (and public buy-in)?”

Here Birnbaum is resisting what he views as the homogeneity of our current splash grounds market. But we’d like to argue that it is the landscape architects’ job to marry architecture with the surrounding landscape. Just as with public fountains, the fountains that stood the test of time and were worth renovating were the fountains that complimented and enhanced their surroundings, especially and often as artwork.

He goes on to say: “Of course, not all splash pads are created equal, and, when intelligently sited and designed, as at Chicago’s Navy Pier by James Corner Field Operations, they can succeed.”

Overcoming Objections

We disagree with the perspective that splash pads lack the capacity to provide a unique design. Spray park manufacturers are continually innovating and delivering new design features each season, especially with individual flair.

With the demand for splash pads rising, there are definitely opportunities to incorporate features that complement and resonate with natural surroundings. Cities can even choose to utilize sites that are important to the community by adding spray fountains and splash features to plazas, around monuments, or as part of a new park design. These options are, however, somewhat limiting as it restricts both where a splash pad can go (which defeats the purpose), and requires a more extensive budget.

We propose a somewhat more universally accessible option to create community-driven spaces with spray parks. An option that complements the existing site, resonates with the community and supports the idea of creating an experience.

Let’s look at public fountains again. Necessity can be combined with artistry to create lasting impact.  A spray deck, by necessity, must have a surface for kids to run, play and splash on. For many communities, this is a canvas that is often left blank. Taken as a whole, one concrete circle, (or kidney bean) looks very similar to another, and here is where we find another opportunity for differentiation for designers.  

Architects can incorporate surfacing into unique spray park designs. With the right design, the splash pad could stand out and become the centerpiece of a park by itself. In fact, we’ve worked with architects who utilized a surface design chosen by members of the community. Surfacing can also mirror local murals, incorporate local animal footprints, and have playful pathways that guide children to each splash feature. A multiple-colored mosaic pattern can mimic the paver stones of the city plaza. Chosen together, splash features and surfacing can create a fully themed and unique spray park.

We love the accessibility and universality of spray parks and how they have solved a long-held problem for urban communities. We love the unique perspective many communities have for incorporating interactive fountains with existing areas and parks. But mostly we believe that artistry and functionality are far from mutually exclusive: in order for something to continue to function as needed, it should have elements that endear it to the people who use it, outside of its basic function.

We believe and know there is an opportunity to grow, develop and create something lasting with each splash park project, and we’re excited to see how the aquatics industry steps up to this challenge.

10 Minute Walk To A Park

 Cedarcrest Park in Bloomington, MN

Cedarcrest Park in Bloomington, MN

One of the great joys of living in Minnesota (Life Floor headquarters are located in Minneapolis, MN, which at the time of writing this, is a balmy -4F) is the emphasis on parks, green spaces and natural landscapes. We’re a land of 10,000 lakes, and just about every single one of our lakes has a park attached, usually with a playground, a well-maintained trail, and (our favorite) splash pads. As people who have grown up with beautiful parks, and who are raising our children to enjoy these parks, we cannot be more thankful that we live in a part of the country that treasures park and recreation programs.

But not every part of the country is as fortunate as Minnesotans. 1-in-3 Americans do not have readily available access to public parks. The Trust for Public Land’s 10 Minute Walk To a Park is a campaign founded on the idea that no child in America should grow up more than 10 minutes away from a local park, green space, or preserved open area. Since its founding in 1972, The Trust for Public Land has helped over 7 million people by creating 4,900 parks nationwide and protecting 3,544,000 acres of public land. Their main focus is to create green spaces in urban areas where a lack of parks leaves children with limited options for play.

The public demand for parks is supported by a solid base of research. A study by the Trust for Public Land has shown that bond measures involving the acquisition of parks or conserving open space have had voter support exceeding 75%. This is an amazing majority of the public that views parks as a vital part of government spending.  Beyond the economic, environmental and health benefits of having accessible parks (which are many) neighborhood parks become a centerpiece of the social atmosphere of a community. They are often the spaces where people socialize, where communities gather together to volunteer, learn, vote, celebrate, mourn and interact without barriers to entry.

So essential are parks to a thriving community that, according to the National Recreation and Park Association, “there are no communities that pride themselves on their quality of life, promote themselves as a desirable location for businesses to relocate, or maintain that they are environmental stewards of their natural resources, without such communities having a robust, active system of parks and recreation programs for public use and enjoyment.” (x)

The 10-minute Walk To A Park campaign helps Americans of all ages, but there’s no question that children are hugely impacted by the condition of our public parks. The importance of play (x) has been well documented in terms of childhood development. Green spaces, playgrounds and splash pads are safe, unique and engaging ways to encourage experimentation and imagination.  Access to parks, as well as other recreation opportunities, have been strongly linked with reductions in crime and juvenile delinquency, which is a benefit to everyone.

The more innovations that go into making parks a boon to every member of the community, the more vital it is that every American has access to them. Whether that’s turning empty lots into playgrounds, industrial riversides into river walking trails, or revitalizing space that already exists and needs to be protected, there exists a way to create space that’s safe, green and accessible to everyone.

We strongly believe in creating places of play that are safe to play in, as energetically as kids want to, without the risk of serious injury, and look forward to partnering with municipalities around the country to support their aquatic play areas.