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Sometimes, being the second choice can turn into a truly first rate opportunity. That’s certainly the case for Crossville regarding its products’ specification for the Commons building on the campus of Mesa College in San Diego.

The team with The Miller Hull Partnership had initially selected tile products from an Italian manufacturer for the new 60,000 square foot, $44.3 million facility. When news came that the Italian tile was unavailable, the project architect, general contractor, and subcontractor came together to discuss alternatives. The architect refused all replacement products proposed—until the Crossville porcelain tile was presented. Crossville’s solution met the requirements of the original specification for a through-body product, offered optimal quality, could be cut to a custom, couture format, and were available in-stock to meet the project’s tight timeline.

Tile is a very prominent surfacing material inside and out of this impressive facility that serves as the heart of Mesa College’s student life. The Commons building houses the university’s food services, a bookstore, a coffee bar, a convenience store, the campus stockroom, faculty/staff reprographic services, auxiliary conference rooms, the culinary arts/culinary management program with a student-run restaurant—and a rooftop garden. Suffice to say, the Commons is a high profile—and high traffic—gathering place and hub for the campus, and the design team prioritized the aesthetics and performance of surfacing materials throughout, selecting long-wearing solutions that would look good for years to come.

Tracking for LEED certification, the Commons design features sustainable elements, including natural ventilation, solar water heating, radiant floor heating, storm water harvesting, and daylighting. For this reason, the design team favored materials with a conscience that would contribute to the building’s sustainable profile.

Because porcelain tile was specified for the building’s interior and exterior, the design team required a solution that would allow for the creation of a unified look while withstanding two trying environments—the elements outdoors and the interior bathroom and locker room floors and walls indoors. They chose Crossville’s Main Street porcelain tile collection in the colors Gallery Grey and Boutique Black. Thanks to Crossville’s Get Planked program that allows specifiers to order custom plank sizes, the architect was able to select Main Street from the company’s full catalog, then order the 3” x 18” tiles needed to achieve the desired look.

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The exterior porcelain tile installation on the Commons acts as a dramatic accent. The exterior is a modern design clad with rectangular panels of varying widths and heights, executed in a variety of materials—the highest and most striking of which is the highly textured portion covered in Crossville porcelain tile. The vertically installed planks reach a 52’ height, pulling the eye upward and adding visual variation with its two tones. The 3”x18”ceramic plank mosaic, comprised of 80% Boutique Black and 20% Gallery Grey, was installed from a 60 foot boom.

The mosaic installation was replicated on the bathroom and locker room walls, while Main Street Boutique Black in a 6”x18” format was utilized for the floors.

The Miller Hull team chose to protect San Diego Mesa College’s materials investment by adding Crossville’s Cross-Sheen® finish to the porcelain. Cross-Sheen is an integrated finish that protects the look of the tile from the defacing impact of scuffs, stains, and graffiti—a vital application in a busy college environment. By creating an advanced, easy-clean tile surface, Cross-Sheen allows for fast removal of unsightly marks using only mild cleanser, rather than harsh chemical solvents—a favorable solution for both human and environmental health.

In addition, the Gallery Grey and Boutique Black colors from Crossville’s U.S.-made Main Street porcelain collection both contain a minimum 20% pre-consumer recycled content. This supported the Commons’ LEED quest, which ultimately resulted in silver certification.

Begun in June 2015 and completed in July 2016, San Diego Mesa College’s Commons is a beautiful cornerstone for student life at the university, ready to serve generations of Mesa students for decades to come.