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Practical advice for flooring design in prisons & correctional facilities 
Practical advice for flooring design in prisons & correctional facilities

With the population of prisons in the UK expected to rise to 106,300 by March 2027 (a 13% increase from the 83,000 or so recorded in February of this year), it is critical that the buildings and facilities within the prisons estate are clean, safe and fit-for-use by staff and those in custody. 

On top of the rising number of persons in custody, it is reported that 500 prison places are taken out of action each year due to their poor condition.

According to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, between 2015–16 and 2019–20, the Inspectorate of Prisons rated more than 40% of prisons it inspected as ‘poor’ or ‘not sufficiently good’ for safety; it is stated within the same report that these poor conditions and the resulting overcrowding contribute to high levels of violence. 

Not only are a number of existing correctional facilities in need of critical refurbishments, there are several new developments planned in order to deliver on the £4bn project to add 18,000 additional prison spaces promised in the 2020 spending review, as well as a host of new-build and refurbishment projects to the value of £1.8bn currently out to tender, in the early stages of starting on-site or somewhere in between. 

Understanding the unique challenges of correctional facilities 

There are a range of distinctive challenges faced in prisons that can make choosing flooring for these unique and demanding facilities a tough task! 

First and foremost, the top priority is safety and security. The flooring in prisons should be able to withstand constant use, endure heavy foot traffic and resist impact and abrasion… not to mention potential attempts at tampering. We’re dealing with an environment where durability isn’t just desirable, it’s critical. This is where resin flooring truly excels. 

But durability isn’t the only consideration. Maintaining a hygienic environment is also of the utmost importance. These types of facilities require flooring that is easy to clean and maintain, with minimal fuss. The seamless nature of resin flooring and its resistance to stains, makes it an ideal choice for these settings. Not only that, resin flooring’s innate chemical resistance ensures it can handle spills and cleaning agents effectively, maintaining its integrity even in the face of harsh substances. 

The transfer of sound between floors can present a significant challenge. Unwanted noise can disrupt the tranquillity necessary for the rehabilitation of folks in custody, as well as staff productivity. While vinyl flooring has been a common choice due to its sound-absorbing properties, it can often lack the durability and chemical resistance found in epoxy systems. However, an excellent alternative that addresses both the acoustic concerns and performance requirements is PU comfort flooring. This type of flooring offers exceptional sound insulation, effectively reducing noise transmission between floors. PU comfort floors also deliver the added benefits of durability, chemical resistance and ergonomic comfort, making them an ideal solution for correctional facilities seeking to strike the right balance between acoustic control and functionality. 

According to Mick Pimblett, assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA), the approach of “warehousing prisoners” where their time in custody doesn’t “rehabilitate them to lead law-abiding lives”, is part of the problem with overcrowding, saying that “…with the increased populations there is less opportunity for them to have any meaningful regime.” Resin flooring can help to create welcoming, fit-for-purpose spaces for work, education and exercise within prison facilities, giving those in custody a better chance at rehabilitation. 

The advantages of resin flooring 

There are a range of different polymer flooring technologies, each with their own unique performance benefits. Selecting the most appropriate flooring solution for each area is critical to ensuring the surface underfoot is suitable, regardless of where staff and those in custody are within the facility. 

Robust & reliable: epoxy flooring 

Epoxy flooring is a popular choice in areas where high durability and chemical resistance are paramount. In prisons, epoxy coatings find their place in areas such as corridors, cells and common areas, where heavy foot traffic and the potential for spills and impacts are common. The seamless, non-porous nature of epoxy prevents the ingress of liquids, enhances cleaning efficiency and contributes to a hygienic environment. 

Versatility at its best: polyurethane flooring 

Polyurethane flooring offers a winning combination of durability, chemical resistance and aesthetic appeal. It is an ideal choice for areas within prisons that demand exceptional performance and longevity, such as common areas and corridors, cafeterias and educational space. 

Comfort & durability combined: PU comfort  

PU comfort floors go the extra mile in providing enhanced comfort and ergonomic benefits. Ideal for areas where staff spend extended periods standing, such as control rooms, guard stations and administrative offices, these floors reduce fatigue and improve overall well-being. They can help to reduce the transfer of sound between cells, owing to their sound absorption, or to provide a safe, cushioned flooring solution for indoor gymnasiums and workout spaces. The seamless and non-slip properties of PU comfort floors promote safety and facilitate easy cleaning. 

The perfect blend: PU concrete 

PU concrete flooring excels in areas that necessitate a combination of strength, chemical resistance and aesthetics. Prison workshops and storage areas benefit from the durable, slip-resistant nature of PU concrete floors, while the kitchens and food-service areas can take advantage of the seamless, hygienic finish these systems feature. These floors can withstand heavy traffic and the occasional chemical spills that are can crop up in these environments. 

Excellence & efficiency: methyl methacrylate (MMA)  

MMA flooring offers rapid installation and cure times, making it a practical choice for minimising downtime during renovations or in new-build construction schedules with time constraints. Its exceptional chemical resistance and durability make it suitable for areas like kitchens. Formulations with additional slip resistance can also be installed in in-cell showers as well as communal wet areas like shared wash facilities and bathrooms. 

Bounce into action: wet-pour rubber crumb 

Wet-pour rubber crumb systems offer impressive shock absorption and impact resistance, reducing the risk of injuries during physical activities, making them ideally suited for outdoor recreation and workout areas. Their slip-resistant finish also enhances safety during outdoor activities even in wet conditions, and their durability and low maintenance requirements make them an ideal solution for creating safe and enjoyable outdoor spaces within prisons. 

Wander with wonder: resin-bound stone 

In walkways and outdoor recreational spaces, resin bound aggregate systems deliver a permeable and visually appealing surface. The smooth, seamless finish provides a comfortable and accessible pathway for both pedestrians and wheelchair users. Resin bound aggregate systems are resistant to UV rays, ensuring long-term colour stability and minimising the need for frequent maintenance. Additionally, the permeability of these surfaces allows water to drain through, reducing the risk of standing water, enhancing safety. 

Team effort: collaborating for successful specification 

When it comes to designing and specifying resin flooring for prisons and correctional facilities, collaboration between the resin flooring manufacturer and the architects or specification professionals involved in the project is key. By working together, we can ensure that the flooring solutions meet the unique requirements and regulations of these specialised environments. Here’s a look at the essential aspects of this collaborative process… 

Understanding facility needs 

Effective collaboration starts with a deep understanding of the facility’s needs, objectives and operational considerations. Combining expertise in prison design, layout and functionality with an in-depth of resin flooring systems and their capabilities and open communication and an exchange of ideas, we can gain a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and constraints, ensuring the flooring solutions are tailored to the specific requirements of the facility. 

Compliance & safety 

Prisons and correctional facilities have stringent regulations and safety standards in place. Collaboration between resin flooring manufacturers, architects, and specification professionals ensures that the chosen flooring solutions meet these requirements to create a safe and secure environment for staff and persons in custody, addressing potential risks and concerns at specification stage where possible. 

Tailoring solutions to spaces 

Every space within a prison facility has unique demands, from high-traffic areas to specialised zones. Selecting the appropriate resin type, texture or thickness with the architectural vision in mind ensures that the flooring not only meets functional needs but also aligns with the design goals of the facility. This collaborative effort ensures a harmonious blend of performance, durability and visual appeal throughout the prison environment. 

Long-term performance 

Resin flooring is an investment that should stand the test of time in challenging environments like prisons. Choosing the most appropriate resin systems for various areas within the facility, considering factors such as foot traffic, chemical exposure, impact resistance, and ease of maintenance, the specified resin flooring solutions can deliver long-term performance and durability, minimising the need for frequent repairs or replacements. 

Specifying solutions for secure spaces: enhancing prisons with resin flooring 

When it comes to flooring design in prisons and correctional facilities, resin flooring stands out as a versatile and reliable choice to contribute to the creation of spaces that foster rehabilitation, enhance functionality and contribute to the well-being of staff and inmates.  

If you have any questions or require further guidance on resin flooring options for prisons, please contact your local team

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