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Public schools often go decades without renovations. As such, when the opportunity for a redesign presents itself, it is especially important that the materials specified both hold up well to the wear and tear of the environment and look good for years to come. When Dekker/Perich/Sabatini was hired to complete the remodels for three Texas high school kitchen and cafeteria combos, the design team selected Laminam by Crossville for use on the walls to achieve a clean look that would offer long-term durability.

It had been an estimated thirty years since each of the three Texas schools—Amarillo High School, Caprock High School and Palo Duro High School—had last been renovated, and that age was obvious in the designs. One school’s existing cafeteria walls were glazed block in olive green, yellow and tan; another had a painted concrete masonry unit, and the third had painted wood paneling. A more modern look was long overdue. In addition to the updated aesthetic, each space was to receive added, modern functionality with the inclusion of a coffee bar and new kitchen equipment.

Project designers Kelli Henson and Jess Westhoff selected three colors of Laminam per school. Amarillo High’s school colors are gold and black, so, for that facility, the designers specified Laminam Collection in Fumo, I Naturali in Ossidiana V Scura and Filo in Rame. To capture Palo Duro High’s blue, white and silver color scheme, they selected Collection in Notte, Blends in Avorio and I Naturali in Ossidiana V Grigia. For Caprock, a warm neutral palette was created using Laminam’s Collection in Avorio, Blends in Noce and Filo in Oro. For each of the installations, the different material colors were randomly mixed on the walls.

The design team reports, “We were going for a clean look. The large tile with less grout joints really achieved that look. Also, less grout joints play into the cleanability factor for the kitchen staff. Trying to predict the future, we felt the colors, durability and size of the Laminam will be ‘in trend’ for years to come with the continual growth of tile in particular.” The team adds that the fiberglass backing on the Laminam 3+ panels offered an extra layer of durability that made it appealing for the project.

Introducing a new product to the market is often challenging, particularly with regard to installation, and that was certainly the case on the Texas schools project. Neither the general contractor nor the tile installer had every worked with Laminam previously, and A&S General Contractors, Inc.’s project manager Michael Drennan says that he and his team were somewhat anxious about installing the material on what was, already, a tight timeline, “Having never used the product we were concerned about the installation process and how long it would take to install…Looking back after completion, the product went up well and adds a great look to each facility…we would not be afraid to use it on future projects.” The installer, Ryan Chancler of A-1 Flooring, offers a similar sentiment, reporting that the team “really enjoyed installing the material once they got a system down.”

The designers note that finding success with a new material depends heavily on selecting the right partners, “Amarillo can have a very traditional architecture and design mindset in the community… Getting architects and contractors to agree to use a brand new material in a short time frame can be difficult. You really have to have the right design team to ‘sell’ the product to the owner and the right contractor/sub-contractor to have the confidence to install the material correctly and efficiently.”

Working together, all players in this unique project were willing to ‘get schooled’ on the design and installation of large format, lean profile porcelain panels—a new, innovative surfacing material. The result is a modern look that captures school spirit and will make the grade long-term.