Polyflor SA recently assisted Cape Town-based Noero Architects with an installation of a 624 m² floor at Wynberg Girls’ High School (WGHS) as part of an innovative expansion project at the school. Founded in 1884, this beautiful and historic school is situated in the shadows of Table Mountain has once again proven why it is renowned for offering excellent facilities and its ability to embrace change.
We need to grow… but where to?
According to Uno Pereira of Noero Architects, the school needed to add additional classrooms in order to meet the demands of a growing school. Previously, they were told that the only way to build eight new classrooms was to add an extra floor onto the two side existing banks of classrooms. This, however, would obliterate the view of the Table Mountain range from the courtyard and paralyze the use of eight classrooms below the new classrooms during construction, creating havoc with the school’s timetable.
Noero Architects suggested an alternative to this option. After much deliberation, they presented a novel solution by creating a “street” between existing classrooms and the new ones on either side of the court that allowed for the adding of two new wings of four classrooms. Each wing was placed to either side of the court at ground level.
Classrooms for the future
“The school’s headmaster, Shirley Harding, wanted us to start imagining what the classroom of the future would be like. To this end, she allowed us to hold a series of workshops with the teachers and students to understand how the classroom environment and teaching methods have changed and what new possibilities await us as we embrace new technologies and rethink how learning can happen in these new spaces,” Uno explains.
The newly built classrooms were covered with earth for environmental and climatic reasons – resulting in a new inclined planted courtyard and which offers even better views of the mountain range. The increased size of the courtyard and the shape itself allows the school to use the space for a whole new range of uses, such as concerts and performances, or a communal space which can be used by a number of different groups of pupils of varying sizes and ages.
The right floor to do the job
Fortunately, the task of deciding which floor covering to use to not only complement the interiors, but also be able to withstand the rigorous demands of school life in the newly completed classrooms, posed to be less of a challenge.
“We selected Polyflor based on the excellent support they had given us during previous projects that we had worked on together, especially the UWC Sports Centre”, Uno explains. He adds that the requirements and guidelines set out by the Department of Education specified the use of vinyl tiles as mandatory floor finish of choice for WGHS.
“We had a limited palette of colors to work with due to maintenance requirements from the school. With the interior walls being painted white and the polycarbonate sheeting used for the skylights diffusing the light and dulling most colors, we needed a warm color on the floors to make the interiors more vibrant. For this reason, we selected Polyflor’s XLPU 2mm in Citrine, which gave us a modern look that was warm, yet practical and worked well with the school’s colours,” he observes.
Understanding the specific flooring demands of educational environments
Commenting on the success of the project, Polyflor SA Chief Executive Officer Tandy Coleman says they were very excited to work on the project. “Because my father and the Chairman of Polyflor SA, Denver Coleman, is an Old Boy of Wynberg Boys’ High School, we have a strong connection with the WGHS. We also have in-depth knowledge of the particular demands that the school environment puts on floors and how to best meet these needs with our floors,” Tandy says, explaining that educational establishments, in their very nature, are busy and challenging environments that require a high performing floor.
“The primary function of a floor finish is to provide a durable, safe, clean, attractive and affordable surface. The specific type of flooring selected is often a complex decision that is influenced by various factors, such as the age of the children, function of the space, activity levels and the intensity of footfall. Durability and ease of maintenance are general concerns throughout teaching and classroom facilities. However, floors should always enhance the learning environment,” Tandy explains. She emphasises that the overwhelming advantage of modern day vinyl flooring is that it meets all the performance, design and flexibility requirements and contributes to a superior learning environment.
“Today’s school floors are bright, colourful and cheerful without sacrificing on practicality or ease of maintenance. For this reason, we have seen an unprecedented increase in the amount of vinyl floors that are being installed in schools targeting all age groups over the past decade. The successful installation at WGHS has once again demonstrated the importance of understanding what the needs of the learners and the teachers are, and trying to find a floor that will best fit between those creating the learning environment, those who will use the learning environment and those providing the products for the learning environment,” she concludes.
For more information, visit www.polyflor.co.za or www.noeroarchitects.com