By Brian Waite
The Laclede Group, Inc., a St. Louis, Missouri utility company, decided to repurpose existing, under-utilized real estate in its downtown high rise office building into a multi-purpose space to be used for education and meeting spaces as well as various community and charity events. The Laclede Group is a public utility holding company committed to providing reliable natural gas service through its regulated core utility operations, while engaging in non-regulated activities that provide opportunities for sustainable growth. From the start, as a utility company and leader in its industry, Laclede Group and the project team strived to achieve LEED certification for the space.The first floor space that would be renovated had previously contained a sales showroom for gas equipment and a billing area. The space is a long and narrow but large, at 5,000 square feet.From a sustainable standpoint, a multi-purpose space reduces the need for a variety of spaces, each with a single function. This multi-purpose space required a variety of systems and materials to help it perform to high standards in each of its uses. Our goal for the finish palette was neutral colors with accents of dark wood, creating a refined yet contemporary look.The existing flooring was a mixture of terrazzo, VCT and carpet. The terrazzo was assumed to be original to the facility, which was built in 1969, and, while the carpet in the office area was newer, the VCT had been in place for over 25 years. In the bid documents, the existing terrazzo was to remain and be refinished and patched as required. All the existing flooring was aged, but the parts of the terrazzo that were not covered with carpet or VCT looked like they were in good shape. When exploring the options for flooring, we first looked at utilizing the existing terrazzo, which would be ideal for both sustainable and budget reasons. The new multi-purpose space is right off the main lobby, which has a white and grey terrazzo floor with gold separation joints and stone tile inserts. The same main field terrazzo mixture was used inside the multi-purpose space, creating a nice visual transition between the lobby and the new space.During design, we worked with a local terrazzo company to develop samples that would match the existing terrazzo. We also made sure to note that once demolition was complete, the general contractor, flooring contractor, client and architect were to meet and examine the existing condition of the terrazzo and make a decision on how to move forward. This is when several issues arose. The multi-purpose space utilizes a telescopic seating system to allow for various presentation scenarios. The telescopic seating is mounted on motorized rollers that require a level surface. Unfortunately, we found the existing terrazzo did not meet the levelness requirements of the seating system. Also in several of the areas that had been covered by carpet or VCT, the existing terrazzo was badly chipped and could not be removed without taking up portions of the structural slab below. Therefore, we had to look at options that cover the terrazzo and provide a level floor.Being conscious of cost, we wanted to stay within the same budget allowance we had for refinishing and patching the terrazzo. A 12”x24” porcelain tile in a straight-lay pattern was already being used in the adjacent new breakroom and restrooms. We used American Olean’s St. Germain in a grey finish with grey grout. The porcelain tile was selected for these two areas because of its durability, cleanability and recycled content, as well as for its subtle pattern. Grey resilient tile by Flexco with a dot pattern was used in the storage and audio-visual rooms. The vestibule that connected the multi-purpose space to restrooms and the break area was to have carpet tile. The carpet tile consisted of beige and grey tones with a geometric pattern.We explored a few different flooring options but ended up pulling from the materials already specified for cost and aesthetic reasons. For the telescopic seating area, we used the same St. Germain grey tile but changed the size and pattern. We used a 6”x24” tile in a staggered pattern with a one third overlap. To ensure the seating system would roll out properly, a slope, not to exceed 1/8” in ten feet, was specified. Although this was difficult to achieve with the proportions of the tile and pattern, the flooring contractor took great care to ensure it was installed as specified.When the telescopic seating is pulled back, motorized shades close to hide the seats. The porcelain tile provides a durable surface for the open area that can be used for various functions, such as training, cocktail events, presentations and informal meetings.To add visual interest in the area around the porcelain tile and seating, we used the same Interface S201 carpet tile that was used in the vestibule in a quarter-turn pattern. This area included the walkway between the telescopic seating and projection screens, as well as the pre-function area. Having carpet in these areas instead of the existing terrazzo or tile helped with foot traffic sound reduction. It also assisted with the transition from the main lobby into the multi-purpose space, creating a softer feel while differentiating the pre-function space and the front presentation area from the audience space. The carpet finish works well with the grey tile and has a pattern that brings interest to the room but does not distract.A solid wood 4” high wall base with 1/4” reveal was the standard base at the multi-purpose room, vestibule, and breakroom and was produced by a local millworker. The restroom used tile base that matched the flooring, and the back of house spaces utilized resilient base.The telescopic seating has its own custom flooring. There are several standard options for carpet or resilient flooring, but to match the level of finish of the space, the team decided on Interface’s Softsisal II carpet tile in black.The project was a success because the design team, contractor and client were all flexible in finding a workable solution once the existing terrazzo was not an option. The project’s goal was to become LEED certified under the commercial interiors rating system. It achieved silver certification, and the flooring helped contribute to this effort. Laclede now has a maintainable, flexible and aesthetically pleasing space for staff and the community to use.
Copyright 2013 Floor Focus