“Any grout joint is one too many”: Enamelled shower surfaces replace tiled wet areas in the hospital

The Asklepios Group today is one of the largest companies in the German healthcare sector. It currently operates more than 150 healthcare facilities with some 26,500 beds and over 45,000 staff in Germany and abroad. Corporate social responsibility in the group extends not only to its innate mission to provide high-quality medical care. The Green Hospital Program initiated by Asklepios in 2010 also created the first comprehensive network alliance promoting responsibility for the environment, medical prevention and sustainability. Hospitals, doctors, experts and partner companies in this forward-looking initiative are focused on developing approaches to a “green” hospital. As a member of the program, Kaldewei is presently fitting a model room at the Asklepios private clinic St. Wolfgang in Bad Griesbach with the seamless enamelled shower surface Xetis with integrated wall outlet as part of the research project “Greening the Patient Room – The Patient Room of the Future”. For the project, the shower surface was provided with the Kaldewei Secure Plus finish. Engineer Michael Scherer, senior project manager of Corporate Architecture and Construction of the Asklepios Group, explains the advantages of floor-level shower surfaces made of Kaldewei steel enamel for hospital environments.

Mr Scherer, why is sustainability such an important aspect to the Asklepios Group?

Michael Scherer: “Sustainability is a big issue for hospitals, much as it is for other businesses in the industry. One of the reasons here, obviously, is social responsibility. We must ensure efficient use of the resources available to us. But there are also economical factors to consider: Day-to-day operations at a hospital involve processes that place a relatively high burden on our environment. Take the cleaning, for instance. Hygiene is paramount in a hospital, but chemical disinfectants are harmful to the environment and they are expensive. They can also be too aggressive for certain surfaces and easily cause damage. What we need are fitments or surfaces that are hygienic and durable enough to withstand frequent cleaning – preferably without chemicals.”

What was your experience with materials used so far?

Michael Scherer: “The shower areas in our patient rooms still largely have conventional tiling. The disadvantage here is the amount of grout joints. In 85 per cent of the cases, problems arising in the wet area are due to grout joints. They quickly become unhygienic and require even more cleaning. A grout joint and a hygienist will always be at odds. Our cleaning crew has pleaded for ages that we keep the grouting in wet areas to an absolute minimum, as it causes significant problems for cleaning. Add to that the fact that grout joints can crack and cause structural damage due to moisture penetration. We’ve had such a case recently in one of our hospitals. The tiling in the shower areas got damaged and soaked the floor underneath, corroding the heating pipes. It caused huge havoc – both structurally and in economic terms. Which proves exactly my point: Any grout joint is one too many. So long as I’m responsible there will be no more tiled shower areas.”

How does damage caused by defective tiling affect hospital operations?

Michael Scherer: “The defective shower areas need to be replaced without interrupting operations. This brings with it significant difficulties. The affected patient rooms need to be closed off for a day or two, and the whole affair obviously costs a lot of money. Hospitals are usually refurbished once every 30 years. That’s a problem where tiled shower areas are involved. Our approach therefore is to invest from the start in a quality solution without grout joints that will in the end last for much longer. The 30-year material guarantee for Kaldewei steel enamel was an additional bonus here.”

So would you say that enamelled shower surfaces are the way to go then?

Michael Scherer: “We are increasingly changing our shower areas to a design that involves a minimum of grout joints. Enamelled shower surfaces from Kaldewei are very conducive to this approach: Steel enamel as a material can withstand frequent cleaning and is hygienic and durable. What’s more, the enamelled shower surfaces from Kaldewei have absolutely no barriers and are also available in larger sizes. In Bad Griesbach, for instance, we installed the Kaldewei Xetis with wall outlet in a size of 1 x 1 m. It gives us a spacious shower area without grouting that can easily be accessed even with a walking frame or provided with a shower stool. Having the outlet in the wall is, in my opinion, a highly innovative idea – not to mention hygienic. Combined with the steel enamel, which holds many advantages for us, it makes this product unique in the market.”

Was the Kaldewei Secure Plus finish in any way a compelling factor for you?

Michael Scherer: “The risk of patients slipping in the wet areas of a shower is obviously high. This must be avoided at all cost in the hospital. I have been in the business for 13 years and unfortunately have seen the one or other fall with serious consequences. An anti-slip surface that meets the requirements of R10B and is hygienic is a must for safety. This is yet another aspect where the market is rather thin, and Kaldewei stands out here with relevant developments.”

What is your experience with installing Kaldewei shower surfaces?

Michael Scherer: “I have fitted a few Kaldewei shower surfaces myself. We have had very positive experiences with their installation, everything goes just as it should. The installation systems from Kaldewei are an absolute bonus here – they are perfectly matched to the product and a great aid. We also value the fact that it all comes from one source – this is important not least in terms of product guarantee. In case of a complaint, having various suppliers invariably involves the argument over who is to blame. A product with a perfectly matched installation system eliminates this risk.”

Where do you see the trend in hospital design going?

Michael Scherer: “Since the damage described earlier I would no longer advocate tiled shower areas in hospitals. In my opinion, a floor-level shower surface with wall outlet and a minimum of grouted joints is the product of the future. If it is also made of a material with the necessary hygienic properties, you cannot get any better.”

Source: Franz Kaldewei GmbH & Co. KG. Copy requested.

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As part of the research project “Greening the Patient Room – The Patient Room of the Future”, engineer Michael Scherer from the Asklepios Group tests different products of partner companies in the Green Hospital Program under real conditions in the hospital. He has had bad experiences with tiled shower areas. “Our approach therefore is to invest from the start in a quality solution without grout joints that will in the end last for much longer,” says Scherer. The enamelled shower surface Xetis with Secure Plus finish from Kaldewei tipped the scale for him.

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The system of enamelled shower surface Xetis, integrated wall outlet and installation system enables innovative designs of floor-level shower areas. No outlet disrupts the seamless shower surface, the technology is hidden in the wall. The surface of Xetis made of durable Kaldewei steel enamel is hygienic, easy to clean and protects against damage due to moisture penetration – a major advantage over other materials, especially tiled shower areas.

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Kaldewei Secure Plus is the first virtually invisible full-surface finish for enamelled shower surfaces. The German technical inspection association TÜV Rhineland has certified Kaldewei´s Secure Plus as having anti-slip properties compliant with quality class B for wet barefoot areas (DIN 51097) and quality class R10 for anti-slip characteristics in work spaces and working areas with an increased slip risk (DIN 51130).

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