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
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. MARMORETTE™,
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.
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 MARMORETTE are used in the design. The cheerful, eye-catching field color is in ember orange. The notched arrows are made from MARMORETTE
charcoal gray. The compass center and other miscellaneous insets are MARMORETTE 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 MARMORETTE 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.”