Case Study Berkley School District

Project Details
Project: Berkley School District
Segment: Education
Location:  Chicago, Illinois
DESIGNER / ARCHITECT: Gilfillan Callahan Architects

Gilfillan Callahan Architects specializes in designing and master planning community architecture.The firm, which services the Chicago, Illinois, metro area, is the Architect of Record for 30 educational districts and has designed dozens of school buildings over the past decade. So, when Berkeley School District #87 asked the firm to design their new Administration Center in 2000, architects at the firm considered all the usual flooring options: products that were affordable, long-lasting, easily maintained, and available in patterns and colors that would coordinate with other educational interior finishes. They selected a product that had been used in schools for generations but was only recently in the process of being reintroduced to specifiers—genuine Armstrong linoleum.

When the new Administration Center was in the design stage, linoleum wasn’t even in the consideration pool. The design team’s first choice was hardwood, but the school’s budget nixed that possibility. Architect Richard Hamielec says, “We wanted a product with a rich look, but one that was still economical. We wanted the floors to set a nice tone for the building, but we needed to create a feeling of richness within the client’s budget.” They asked their local Armstrong representative for ideas. At that time, Armstrong was rolling out their new linoleum collection, and although linoleum was being used in schools elsewhere, this would be a new use for the flooring around Chicago. Hamielec says, “At that time, we were aware that linoleum was available, but the choice of manufacturers was limited. Our Armstrong rep really opened our eyes up to linoleum’s pros and cons, and what Armstrong’s new product line had to offer.” The design firm was intrigued by the potential of using a natural material other than hardwood that would still be within the client’s budget.

Armstrong’s Linoleum collection is made from abundantly available and renewable raw materials for low environmental impact. The collection features six products that are design and color integrated for natural cross-pattern design flexibility. LinoArt MARMORETTE Linoleum, with 58 colors rooted in our natural world, is the foundation of the family. The classic, sophisticated, marbleized visual easily coordinates with other commercial interior finishes.

LinoArt MARMORETTE Linoleum was specified for the main entrance center foyer, the corridor leading to the boardroom, and the elevator cabs. Of the design, Hamielec says, “The pattern is loosely based on a rose compass. The points converging in the center symbolize that students come together in this school district from many different backgrounds, income levels and ethnicities.” Three colors of LinoArt MARMORETTE Linoleum are used in the design. The cheerful, eye-catching field color is in ember orange. The notched arrows are made from LinoArt MARMORETTE Linoleum charcoal gray. The compass center and other miscellaneous insets are LinoArt MARMORETTE Linoleum cream. In the boardroom corridor, the same colors are used in a bold geometric featuring bands of gray and cream inset in orange.

“School officials also wanted a product with a very long life cycle,” comments Hamielec. “This was driven more by economics than by a wish for sustainability. Linoleum satisfied the client’s desire for a long-lasting floor, and it gave us the option to design with a sustainable product long before ‘green’ was trendy. It’s been over five years since the installation, and the client seems very happy with the performance and the maintainability. They really like it!” In fact, Berkeley, Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Transportation, Grant Sabo, confirms, “The LinoArt MARMORETTE Linoleum floor looks the same as the day we installed it. It is performing well and maintains as easily as vinyl composition tile.”

Because of the product’s newness at the time, the design firm relied heavily on Armstrong and the flooring contractor to work together as a team on this project. Hamielec points out, “Our local Armstrong representative helped us write the product specs and checked on color availability. The installers, Midwest Floor Covering, Inc., stepped up to the plate on this installation too. They custom-cut the floor and installed it over a holiday weekend so that the client could move in over Christmas break. This project went smoothly because the manufacturer, architect and installer were all on the same page, working as partners at every level.”