Designer Forum - January 2011
By Ken Kornberg
Three decades ago, when Kornberg Associates Architects designed its first research laboratory for Stanford University, the standard lab was smelly, bleak and inhospitable: unpleasant to be in. But having spent many hours in the labs of family members as I was growing up, I knew that scientists would enjoy a working environment that was comfortable, attractive and inviting, and that these elements would greatly facilitate their curiosity and imagination. The creative use of flooring was one of the ways in which our firm was able to improve lab design, while still accommodating the technical requirements of the space. Advancements in flooring over the last 30 years have made it possible to find an even broader range of colors, patterns and textures, as well as products with improved performance and durability; these innovations have served to make flooring a more important design element throughout the scientific environment, and we have applied this success to other fields.
Although Kornberg Associates is best known for designing science environments, our experience covers a wide range of project types, including educational facilities. In 1994 we began working with Castilleja School on more than a dozen projects to upgrade its aging century-old campus. Castilleja is a college preparatory school for girls located in a residential neighborhood in Palo Alto, California, less than a mile from Stanford University.
Our first project converted a 40,000 square foot residence hall into a multi-use building, which now houses the foreign language department, the IT Center, faculty offices, the library, the dining room and a basement lounge. Other Castilleja projects included a fine arts center, classrooms, a swimming pool, a soccer field and an administration building. The last project we completed on the campus was the Joan Z. Lonergan Fitness Center, which accommodates the school’s fitness and wellness program. Like labs, fitness centers have historically been uninspiring, neutral-toned facilities. From our experience in the field of science, we knew that we could make the Castilleja School fitness center a highly functional and aesthetically pleasing facility.
Having served for six years on the city of Palo Alto’s Architectural Review Board, I was keenly aware of the issues that were important to Palo Alto’s highly sensitive civic government, which valued controlled growth within the community. Although the school needed to more than double the size of its existing athletic facilities, we were unable to expand the building’s footprint. Our design solution demolished the original 14,000 square foot gym, replacing it with 21,000 square feet of new space below grade and 14,000 square feet of new space at grade level.
The new Joan Z. Lonergan Fitness Center, which was named for the former head of the school, includes two regulation-sized gymnasiums suitable for competition play, a dance studio, a fitness and training facility, classrooms, a yoga studio, a physical therapy facility, a climbing wall, and separate shower and locker facilities for middle and upper school students.
Within an athletic facility, the selection of flooring is critical to the project’s long-term success. While the walls and ceiling offer a visual backdrop, the flooring addresses the performance, safety and comfort requirements. We selected rubber flooring for most of the public areas because it accommodates both the practical and aesthetic requirements of the project. In the cardio/weight room, this flooring was enhanced with a rubber substrate to provide the necessary shock-resistant properties. Custom mats by Swain Sportsmat in the yoga/meditation room provide a comfortable, slip-resistant surface and create visual uniformity in these adjoining areas.
The selection of a rubber flooring manufacturer began with a review of colors available by a variety of producers. Johnsonite was chosen because it was able to provide a custom combination of colors for both the stairs and flooring—including the vibrant red that is the school color—to produce a continuous look throughout the facility that rings with school spirit. In total, two collections of Johnsonite rubber flooring were selected. CityScape Rubber Floor Tile, in both standard and custom colors, was used in the hallways, stairwells and common areas, and the company’s Triumph Sports Tile, a rubber tile constructed to withstand extreme use, was selected for the fitness area and featured in a custom color.
Castilleja’s logo is comprised of five “Cs” which represent the core values of the school: conscience, courtesy, character, courage and charity. Utilizing laser technology, the logo was made an integral part of the rubber lobby floor and is the first thing you see when entering the facility. The same laser technology was used to incorporate an alligator, the school mascot, into the team locker room floor.
In addition to its design and performance benefits, rubber flooring was chosen on the basis of its green qualities. The project was designed according to LEED guidelines to not only adhere to the school’s sustainable design goals but also to set an example about the importance of sustainability for the Castilleja students.
Further contributing to the project’s LEED goals, carpet tile, with recycled content, was used in the student lounge and the offices. Tandus’ Crayons in the Outside the Lines color palette features a pattern that hides dirt and stains. In addition, the durable vinyl-backed carpet is easy to maintain and provides acoustic benefits and comfort underfoot.
In addition to choosing sustainable materials for flooring, we utilized energy efficient lighting, installed low flow plumbing fixtures, chose highly reflective roofing materials, and made sure the windows that provide daylight to the gym were appropriately shaded. The building was also designed, wired and fully prepped for 256 photovoltaic panels to be mounted on the high roof; these can provide 60 kilowatts of power. The panels are tilted towards the south and recessed from the edge of the flat roof so as not to be visible by the neighborhood. Castilleja’s new athletic facility is evidence of the school’s environmental commitment to its students, faculty, staff, administration and parents, as well as the local and global communities.
Acoustics are important in any athletic teaching facility, but within a space that is expressly designed to accommodate an exuberant, young student population, this is a critical design criterion. We specified rubber flooring throughout the hallways because of its sound-dampening ability. Rubber, which is acoustically softer than vinyl, reduces the overall noise level in the open stairways. Custom stair nosings were designed to not only meet the ADA requirements but also to provide a defining design element—a bright yellow that contrasts the dark-toned stair.
Basketball courts require resilience, durability, safety and comfort. For Castilleja’s two regulation-sized gymnasiums, we selected the industry standard maple hardwood flooring by Connor Sports Flooring. Its hard but resilient character provides shock absorption and traction, greatly reducing the potential for injuries, while at the same time providing a proven performance level. To protect the hardwood floor from damage, students are required to wear appropriate footwear on the gym floor.
Since the school has a strong interest in maintaining a polished appearance across its campus, it was important for us to select materials that provided a refined look with an ease of maintenance. The facility receives a great deal of foot traffic, and the durable rubber flooring, used predominately in the facility, does not require waxing or buffing, only washing. The carpet used in the offices can, of course, be replaced tile by tile if damage occurs—further simplifying the maintenance needs of the facility.
Castilleja’s long and rich history is a source of pride for current and former students, faculty, staff, administration and parents, and our selections of finishes, including the flooring, were intended to showcase that school pride. Building on our experience in the field of science, we were able to achieve a result that met the technical, functional and aesthetic needs of the Castilleja school.
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