A Concrete Learning Environment
When the St. Vrain School District in Northern Colorado decided to add a new school to their map, they did not want just another cookiecutter school. They hired RB+B Architects and the Birdsall Group to design an atypical school that would create an educational learning environment relevant to the history and geology of the town where it would be located. The resulting St. Vrain Elementary School #26 in Erie creates educational areas for students to learn about their region’s history and geology outside of the traditional classroom.
For this LEED certified school, the school district selected Adolfson and Peterson (A&P) as the general contractor because of its reputation for budget consciousness and its school construction experience. RB+B, the Birdsall, Group, and A&P worked with Bomanite Licensee Colorado Hardscapes, Inc. (CHI) during the design process to ensure that their visions for the concrete applications at this school could be constructed within budget and to the quality desired. As a result, the transition from design to construction flowed smoothly.
After students enter the school they are encouraged to engage in an educational component designed by RB+B in a typically un-used area of the lobby. Underneath a stairwell in the main corridor of the school, CHI worked with A&P to create a raised pedestal on which rocks from all four geological types were hand-placed and glued. The mineral pedestals had a polished Bomanite Modena SL with embedded rocks, and the perimeter curb was a light gray Bomanite Micro-Top. Local aggregates embedded in a concrete topping and polished to a high sheen exposed these rocks and created the protective surface on which to sandblast referral numbers next to each grouping of rocks. The school placed placards within the slab to help students identify each type of rock.
The Bomanite polished concrete cafeteria floor in this school serves as a transition point, moving students from the outside through the cafeteria and gymnasium. With a creative use of elongated steps, the steps leading from the gymnasium to the cafeteria doubles as extra seating for the gymnasium. In addition to aesthetics and functionality, the finish provides the school with very low maintenance flooring. The choice of polished concrete offers intrinsic savings to the total project by enhancing the mandatory concrete slab rather than covering it with a disposable overlay of carpet or tiles that have a shorter life cycle and higher maintenance costs. CHI created on-site mock-ups for approval from the architect and owner prior to actual placement of the floor in the school.
Because of the craftsmanship required in both the concrete placement and the polishing process of these floors, steps, and ramps, CHI used the expertise of different crews to perform the work. The polishing team needed to remove all surface cream as well as bisect large aggregate in a consistent visual texture across the entire area, including the edges, steps, and ramps. The ramp provided the challenge of needing to be dense, reflective, and cleanable, but it also needed to provide the correct traction and slip resistance for wheel chair access. After a couple of samples CHI found a successful stopping point in the polishing process that met all the requirements for this area.
Interpretive Site Wall
After students walk through the school and down the beautifully polished ramp, they can exit to a playground enclosed by an educational interpretive wall. The Birdsall Group and CHI team, through budgeting and design conversations, chose an integrally colored wall displaying both an organic form finish and a more refined, yet natural, Sandscape® finish. The wall tells a story on each side. The side facing the parking lot shows the terrain where the town of Erie sits. The side facing the playground gives a timeline of the history of Erie.
The construction of the walls took creative thinking and pre-planning. Because of the two different finishes on the wall, CHI’s crews developed unique methods for forming and facing the walls. The walls contained both finishes on each side and needed to be poured monolithically. CHI worked with the designers to adjust the design slightly to create a formed concrete solution. On site the crews used great care to place, strip, and finish the walls. Other contractors on the jobsite commented on the craftsmanship displayed.
Pulling It All Together
Through design meetings, samples, on-site mock-ups, coordination with all parties, and on-time delivery, CHI exceeded expectations on St. Vrain Elementary School #26. This project required extensive coordination for CHI to provide the variety of finishes required. Crews with different expertise worked side-by-side, offering the client ease in scheduling, contracting, managing and communication. With an accelerated schedule to open school on time, no other concrete contractor could meet the demands of multiple decorative concrete finishes, sustainable requirements, and coordination better than Colorado Hardscapes, Inc.