Friday night was the gala of the year for AGC Colorado. The event is where members of the industry dress up and celebrate a year of spectacular projects. That evening, Colorado Hardscapes was awarded the Bronze award for the work at St. Vrain Elementary #26, in the subcontractor of the year under $2 million category. Colorado Hardscapes was honored to be part of such a unique project.

A Concrete Learning Environment

When the St. Vrain School District in northernColoradodecided to add a new school to their map, they did not want just another cookie-cutter 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 inEriecreates 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 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.

So come, walk the halls and grounds of St. Vrain Elementary School #26 to discover how the concrete applications complement the overall theme of this project. Enter the school through the rain gardens, pause a few moments to enjoy the mineral pedestal in the lobby, transition into the heart of the school as you walk on the cafeteria floor, and finish your tour admiring the interpretive wall that envelops the playground.

Award winning work by Colorado Hardscapes

Rain Garden

As students approach the school, they walk across a rain garden paved with Baja beach pebbles, concrete, grout, and stainless steel bands. When it rains, the Baja beach pebbles glisten as water flows through the pebbles, over the stainless steel, and into a slotted drain. The captivating effect of water on these different materials encourages student interaction.

CHI, A&P, and the design team worked with the grading contractor, storm water contractor, and landscaper to coordinate the different materials to ensure that the water drains properly and ties well into the surrounding finishes. Communication and coordination resulted in a successful and pleasing rain garden.

Mineral Pedestal

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. 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.

This pedestal evolved on-site through the detailed coordination of all parties involved. The architect and CHI worked together to find the perfect concrete mix for the topping by utilizing resources within a 500-mile radius of the school and creating a visually appealing high-end finish while not distracting from the educational geological components. CHI worked with the school as they selected and placed the rocks and in the proper level of exposure of the varying sizes of the rocks. A&P and CHI worked cooperatively to coordinate on-site changes to the layout, rocks, plaques, and other details of this feature.

Cafeteria Flooring

The 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 substituted large portions of the standard mixture of aggregate with black and white aggregate provided by quarries within 500 miles of the site. These materials were tested for density and quality characteristics to ensure suitability for this application and to meet the engineer’s requirements. 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. A crew of individuals who share a history of polishing projects used diamond abrasives and mechanical concrete removal tools selected over the last decade to achieve this acceptable level of polish on which CHI has built its reputation.

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.

Safety is always an integral part of construction, from pre-pour through the polished finish. This project’s heavy machinery included hydraulic pumps and high capacity generators. Respiratory protection, personal protective equipment, job-specific safety manuals, and regular safety meetings ensured that nobody was hurt during each phase of construction.

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 ofEriesits. 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.

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