|Project:||Ritenour School for Early Childhood Education|
|Location:||St. John, Missouri|
|DESIGNER / ARCHITECT:||KOUBA+KNOOP Associates|
|ARMSTRONG FLOORING:||LinoArt Marmorette Sheet
LinoArt Linorette Sheet
LinoArt Granette Sheet
Ritenour is a relatively small school district with extremely progressive ideas. Their education model for three- and fouryear old children is loosely based on the Reggio Emilia approach, which places emphasis on self-guided learning and the relationship children share with their environment. The district also strongly supports environmental sustainability. So, when the community approved selling bonds to construct a new early childhood development school, they stipulated two mandatory goals: the building itself needed to be an integral part of the learning process, and it must meet criteria to obtain LEED® Gold certification. Armstrong MARMORETTE, GRANETTE, LINORETTE and UNI WALTON™ linoleum flooring helped Ritenour attain both objectives.
The Ritenour School for Early Childhood Education was completed and ready for students in the 2010–2011 school year. The $50 million bond issue to construct this and several additional buildings and building additions throughout the district was approved, in part, because of the administration’s promise to the community to incorporate sustainable design. Dr. Cheryl L. Compton, Superintendent, Michael Wieland, Assistant to the Superintendent and Karen Flavin, School for Early Childhood Education Coordinator, discussed options with the architect. Doug Kouba, project architect and director of design at KOUBA + KNOOP Associates, St. Louis, Mo., says, “Other than the goal of making this a LEED® Gold project, we were given no specific direction with respect to materials and finishes besides using resilient flooring for corridors and classrooms, and carpet for offices and the library. We suggested linoleum because it is produced from renewable materials including linseed oil, wood pulp and cork. The visual aspect of Armstrong’s linoleum made the choice even more attractive because it has great colors and a variety of textures that most other flooring manufacturers don’t offer.”
LEED® criteria include using materials that have longevity and require low maintenance. Armstrong linoleum contributes to LEED® credits in both of these areas, with its legendary performance record and, easy-to-maintain NATURCote coating. Kouba, who has been designing education buildings for more than 25 years, believes that even without a LEED® goal, today’s school decision makers are interested in materials that offer a high level of design flexibility plus excellent quality and easy maintenance. Armstrong linoleum’s excellent durability, superior stain and scratch resistance, and no-polish maintenance option were added benefits communicated to Ritenour’s cost-conscious school administrators. Kouba used technical data and a personal anecdote to support his linoleum flooring recommendation. He told school administrators, “Linoleum was on grandma’s kitchen floor for at least 30 years and other than the pattern being a bit dated, it really showed very little wear!” Ritenour administrators were convinced Armstrong, with more than 150 years in flooring, had the linoleum that was the right choice for multiple interior spaces in their new school.
The decision to use linoleum was been based largely on LEED®- contributing attributes, but the visuals and vibrant tone step colors in Armstrong’s linoleum portfolio enabled designers to fully explore creative floor patterns supporting the Reggio Emilia learning philosophy. Because nature is emphasized as a key component in the learning process, the school’s colors are interpretations of earth (terra cotta/orange), plants (greens) and sky (blue).
With Armstrong’s Color CONTINUUM™ system, this color palette was easy to find and match. Four patterns and ten colors of Armstrong Linoleum create the interior landscape. They are MARMORETTE LP092 sand; LINORETTE LP401 yuka tan, LP460 grand canyon, LP402 brisbane blue; GRANETTE LP139 holly go lightly, LP153 black widow; UNI WALTON™ LP207 mustard, LP230 dark green, LP208 night blue and LP260 warm brown. Each of the three classroom corridors features one of the three base colors with accents of the other two. Artist Nancy Carrow repeated the same colors in the ceramic sculpture in the courtyard, titled “Air, Land and Water.” Kouba says the floor patterns came from an interpretation of the building spaces and forms. “We chose to reinforce the linearity of the corridors, which also gives teachers a tool to organize and move students from one space to the next. These lines intersect panels or ‘area rugs’ in project or activity nodes situated along the paths. We also included ‘counting squares’ at the entrance to each classroom.” Classroom One has one square, Classroom Two has two squares, and so on. Kouba says this worked well for the first eight or nine classrooms, but when the program expanded to 14 rooms, “We had to get a bit more creative with the square’s arrangement and placement!”
The school’s Studio Room, which doubles as a science and art exploration space, uses different floor colors to suggest subdivisions. The colors in the room enable wayfinding for multiple activities, each with their own implied spaces. Sweeping lines through the pattern mimic the vaulted ceiling, tying earth and sky together. In the Activity Room, which is used for assembly, indoor play and large motor development, designers added game lines and large geometric shapes to follow on foot or on tricycles.
The school administration, the community, parents and students are excited about the final building. In addition to looking great and supporting the learning modalities, the flooring is a contributor to the school’s LEED® Gold certification. Kouba says, “It’s actually only six points from being LEED® Platinum. Had we added a windmill or a solar panel or two, we might have made that next mark.” He adds, “But we created an attractive, sensible learning environment built with economical and sustainable materials that are durable and easy to maintain. Knowing that the building fits the client’s needs and functions well makes us happy too. I guess you could say that genuine sustainability makes the planet happy as well.”