Designer Forum - Aug/Sep 2012

By Brian Hilvert


Located on a campus setting, the new London Middle School sits adjacent to a new elementary school and renovated high school and completes a decade-long rebuilding process to reinvent the London City School District. The new sixth grade through eighth grade school was designed with the latest technologies and sustainable initiatives, and it supports the district’s goals of enhancing the performance of both students and teachers, as well as being good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars. 

The exterior is a combination of traditional elements, matching the other two existing schools, along with contemporary massing and styling to give the building its own unique style. The interior boasts a 21st century learning environment flooded with natural daylight, with technology and materials that are sustainable, durable and help in reducing maintenance costs. In fact, the project was such a success that the district immediately saw improvement in both teachers’ and students’ attitudes, with improvements in test scores and reduction in both student and teacher sick days. The school is a model for energy efficiency and sustainability and is the first school in Ohio to earn a LEED Platinum rating.

The school boasts a geothermal heating/cooling system, 20 solar tubes and light baffles for daylighting, and 20 acres of prairie grass for restoring habitat. In addition, 37% of the materials were regional and 25% were made from recycled material. Savings compared to baseline standards include 42% energy savings and 40% reduction in water usage. A 71.2kW solar array also generates more than 15% of the school’s yearly energy needs.

The building is laid out with three classroom wings, each housing a grade level. Connecting each classroom wing is the central corridor that also links them to the main office, gymnasium, student dining and media center. The use of roof monitors and light baffles, along with view windows, allows ample daylight to flood into every classroom. Some of the connecting corridors were single loaded, allowing for glass on the exterior side to bring daylight and views in the corridor spaces. DayLite tubes bring natural light into areas like the kitchen and restrooms, and even as a decorative item to light an acrylic media column as a focal point in the library.

One of the main design themes used throughout the school was the idea of creating spaces and rooms that went beyond the boundaries of walls. This was achieved in several areas throughout the building and enhanced with floor patterns, ceilings and color. The floor pattern in the Extended Learning Area (ELA) is depicted as a large solid color area that extends into the corridor, and is mimicked by the lowered floating ceiling plane that pulls your eye into the ELA as you walk down the corridor, giving the impression that you are walking through part of the room. This same idea is also implemented at the student dining area and media center. Each of these rooms is separated from the corridor by glass walls, allowing them to visually appear to extend into the corridor while maintaining acoustics and security in each space. 

Wayfinding was also an important concept in the design of the school and was established by the use of graphics, color and floor patterning. When designing schools, you are always expected to use the school’s colors, which can be difficult. Because of this, it was decided to provide each grade with a color and use that as the primary accent color in its respective wing. In the case of this project, the school’s primary color of red was used for the 8th grade wing, blue in the 7th grade wing and green in the 6th grade wing. The base field colors were shades of beige and tan to keep the overall palette neutral and warm. The accent colors were used in the floor patterns in large solid color blocks to establish the overlapping of spaces.

The flooring materials were chosen with four things in mind: cost, durability, maintenance and sustainability. The majority of the flooring throughout all of the classrooms, corridors and student dining spaces is Nora’s Environcare rubber tile flooring. Even though the initial cost for rubber tile is higher than most traditional flooring products used in schools, like VCT, the district chose to go with the rubber tile because of its superior durability and minimal maintenance as a no-wax floor. The high durability of the rubber tile is its strongest sustainability feature, allowing the product to remain on the floor through most of the life of the building, thus minimizing new material cost and landfill waste of the old material. The no-wax, low-maintenance feature also affects its sustainability profile by reducing the amount of chemicals and solvents needed to maintain the floor. In addition, rubber tile products have good acoustic abilities, helping the keep down the noise between classrooms, which also helped in achieving the LEED credit for acoustics. Carpet tiles from Shaw are located in areas like the main offices and media center. This a great solution for a high-traffic environment, because any stained or damaged piece of carpet tile can be easily cleaned or exchanged without having to replace an entire area; the damaged tile is simply removed and replaced from attic stock without any down time or moving of furniture and equipment. Shaw’s Site Lines and Gradient carpet tiles offered both post-consumer and post-industrial recycled content. The carpet tiles are also PVC-free, 100% recyclable at the end of their life, meet the requirements for CRI Green Label Plus, and are MBDC Cradle to Cradle Silver certified.

In the end, the school district got more than it asked for. The new London Middle School not only boasts a better learning environment but it also contributes positively to the community by saving money in both energy costs and lower maintenance costs. This allows for more funds to go where they are needed most, to the teachers and the students, highlighting the positive impact of sustainable design.

Copyright 2012 Floor Focus 

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