For public sector specifiers – housing associations and councils in particular – there is a constant tension between the price and lifespan of kitchens installed.
With reduced investment budgets, there is pressure to buy at the lowest price; but this ignores lifecycle and maintenance requirements and costs beyond the upfront purchase of kitchen furniture and appliances.
So how do public sector specifiers create longevity for kitchens while helping to minimise the cost of ongoing maintenance and replacement?
It’s vital that social housing providers ensure the kitchens they specify conform to the most rigorous standards.
The most important is the BS6222 Part 2 Level H (Heavy Domestic Rating) which forms part of FIRA (Furniture Industry Research Association) testing. Kitchen furniture that meets the FIRA Gold benchmark for product performance is proven to last longer – but not all kitchen manufacturers have it. This assesses the quality, robustness and lifespan of cabinets, hinges and hanging brackets for wall units.
Cabinets and worktops are subjected to a 450N force applied to a base unit and a vertical load of 100kg applied to a worktop along with physical and chemical tests involving blades and everyday substances such as tea, butter and oil. Drawer tests assess strength and potential misuse by loading a drawer with marbles and slamming it open and shut 10 times while shelves have a vertical load of 100kg applied to the bottom surface to simulate someone climbing into a unit. This is the weight of a heavyweight boxer.
Having access to a reliable and rapid source of kitchen furniture supplies is also key to ensuring that overall costs are managed and efficiencies maximised. For example, Buildbase works with Symphony on several major projects across the country. One example is in the management of Portsmouth City Council’s housing stock to make sure materials are available when needed so there’s no waiting for installation, replacement or repairs. Buildbase’s co-location with a contractor means that materials are moved more efficiently to where they’re needed by the council.
Kitchen furniture innovations
A number of kitchen innovations help tackle the issues of long-term damage and cost in public sector spaces:
Soft close drawers and hinges
Drawers close gently when pushed to avoid damage if the user is careless. Kitchens last longer and this innovation adds little to the cost: in an average kitchen it’s a small uplift overall to have soft closing units and hinges.
One of the innovations supplied through Buildbase are hinges that open cabinet doors to 170 degrees. If someone walks into an open door or a child rams his trolley into it, there’s less risk of the door being ripped off.
Wipeable, aluminium cabinet savers line the bottom of a sink unit to protect it from water or other liquids, meaning less chance of having to replace whole cabinet.
This strip between tiles and worktop mean worktops can be replaced without damaging the tiling.
This aluminium strip protects the end of a worktop, a well-known vulnerable area in the kitchen.
Using cam and dowel assembly rather than gluing units means you can remove a unit to replace a panel without ruining the original cabinet. To demonstrate this concept Symphony can provide whole-life costing data that generates typical maintenance costs depending of the specifications of the kitchen. And Buildbase ensures all component parts are available to rectify quickly any damage.
The combination of quality assured kitchen manufacture, clever components and the streamlined operation of materials suppliers will ensure contractors help social housing organisations save money and expect years of kitchen durability.
This feature article was produced by Robert Newton, head of marketing – Symphony Group and Peter Loftus, lead divisional showroom manager – Buildbase, and first appeared in the December edition of Public Sector Build Journal.