Like offices, education projects have been getting another look: it’s no longer the case that any attempt to beautify these spaces is purely about aesthetics. Some studies point to pleasant and comfortable built environments as positively impacting students’ retention, attention, engagement and motivation — all factors in the learning process. To accommodate the new theories on learning, rapidly advancing technologies, student interaction and head-down concentration, contract manufacturers are responding with products that can inject some life and dynamism, provide flexibility or enhance occupant comfort without breaking the bank. Here’s a look at recent interior products that can provide first steps toward improving educational settings, whether we’re speaking of spaces for kindergartners or college seniors.
Brooklyn- and Philadelphia-based design-build studio Milder Office Furniture has been helping offices, schools, libraries and healthcare facilities solve their programming needs while keeping within budget and space constraints — especially as space is a premium. For instance, its Mobile Storage Partition + Display pulls triple duty: it appears as a double-sided writable surface or cork pin-up wall; viewed from the side, it reveals open storage sandwiched between the wall faces. The partitions move on casters to accommodate changing privacy, layout and activity needs. The units can also be ganged together to create wider walls.
Ideal for office and higher-education settings, this seating system comes in two- and three-tier versions that support a range of sitting and gathering postures. Its bleacher-like tiers are also perfect for informal audience seating in presentations and meetings.
A simple side chair, Chips is a lightweight stackable unit that can be quickly stored or reconfigured. It comes in plastic (10 colors), oak or walnut wood or upholstered. Versions with tubular metal arms are also available.
First Office (an OFS Brand): Applause
The trapezoidal-top version of this training-table series can be moved, turned and rearranged to accommodate fewer or more sitters — perfect for a classroom, library or activity room in flux. Tops can be specified in a choice of 20 wood veneers or 20 laminates, while the metal legs come in nine finishes.
In today’s tech-savvy world, higher-education and even some K–12 facilities need to provide easily accessible plug-in points for student laptops, tablets or smartphones. One way to accommodate this provision without overhauling a space with new fixtures and furnishings is to retrofit furniture with integrated power receptacles. Mockett has a vast array of power receptacles that can be integrated into furniture ranging from upholstered seating to tables. Styles range from flush, concealed flip-up, concealed recessed, domed, round, square, rectangular, colored, metallic and wireless grommet.
Learning and studying spaces ideally provide enough quiet for individual concentration. If soft furnishings and acoustical ceiling tiles aren’t cutting it, consider adding wall panels and coverings that dampen sound while also making design statements. This felt-furnishings specialist offers a simple wall covering made of — what else? — felt. Dubbed BuzziSkin, the covering comes as a 98-centimeter-long self-adhesive roll, in a range of colors that one can mix and match to produce an eye-catching focal wall.
This Class A fire-rated, high-performance acoustical material makes excellent wall or ceiling paneling or hanging baffles, even in lofty spaces where noise control is a huge challenge. Echo Eliminator panels are composed of recycled cotton, are completely recyclable after use, contain no VOCs or formaldehyde and are fungi-, mold- and mildew-resistant.
Walls are of course the first surfaces that come to mind when considering applications of wayfinding or graphic art. But the surface beneath our feet can also present visual interest, zone demarcation and wayfinding, as well, thanks to a number of flooring products. Boasting low maintenance requirements and a long life cycle, this rubber-flooring collection comes in a variety of styles, patterns and both vibrant and muted colors. Rubber also lends itself well to custom cutting for special designs and shapes.
Mosaics are excellent for producing murals, whether on the wall or floor, as demonstrated by Artaic in its custom installation at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Within the central lobby, a nearly 30-foot-wide floor section features a mosaic-tile map of the Kendall Square and MIT area in which this Biber Architects-designed building is located.
The use of carpet tile is growing in K–12 and university spaces thanks to its modularity, customizability and value as well as its ease of installation and single-tile-replacement capability. And its soft-fiber face helps absorb sound, to boot. Contract carpet giant Interface offers a diverse array of patterns, texture and color for its tile and plank products, which utilize the patented TacTiles installation system — eliminating glue and reducing installation hassle. Additionally, the manufacturer offers a 20-year warranty for education projects.