For a junior and senior high school in LaFayette, NY, the design team from Ashley McGraw Architects, located in Syracuse, NY, wanted to make a school auditorium that is designed for performance – and that doesn't refer only to what happens on the auditorium stage. The team prioritized the technical performance of all elements of the auditorium's design – including the all-important surfacing materials that also had to meet the right standards for aesthetics and style.

From the beginning, the design team knew that an environment created for students required long- and hard-wearing material specifications in order to endure the wear-and-tear that was sure to come as soon as the space was open for use. Another important feature was ease of cleaning. As far as aesthetics were concerned, members of the team sought to create a look that fit the grander scale of the space and provided a style that would last many years for the school. The project started in October of 2015 and finished in 2016.

Vestal Tile, located in Vestal, NY, was the tile distributor for the project and introduced the design team to Laminam by Crossville Travertino Avorio 3+ as an alternative to skin the auditorium walls. A very prominent design element of the auditorium is the wainscoting along the walls. "Members of the design team focused on creating a monolithic appearance with minimal grout joints, while also adhering to the stringent technical requirements for the space," said Tom Sweeney, architectural sales representative for Vestal Tile. "The Laminam by Crossville was installed in a lengthwise fashion above the handrail, imparting a warm travertine look in the space. In addition, the material is not only easily cleaned and durable but resistant to the sort of intense abuse that students might throw its way."

On site, the challenge became one of layout and alignment. "The LED cove lighting would rake across the wall, highlighting the joints, so planar alignment was critical and where an installer would typically use the floor as a guide upon which to square-up a wainscot, in this case, the auditorium's slope towards the stage rendered it ineffective in this capacity. Once an alternative solution was found, however, the installation process went off without a hitch."

"As the designers, we were adamant about a precision installation, as any misaligned joints would be highlighted by the LED cove lighting," said Scott R. Perry RA, technical director with Ashley McGraw Architects.

The installation team at Integrated Industrial Services had learned the techniques for proper installation of Laminam by Crossville porcelain tile panels by attending an in-house seminar held by distributor Vestal Tile in January 2016. Representatives from adhesives manufacturer Ardex Americas, European Tile Masters and Vestal Tile led the educational demonstration, teaching the correct process from start to finish, including cutting, drilling, application of thin set mortar and positioning on a substrate using proper tools and techniques. Integrated Industrial Services put its new knowledge to use almost immediately when it was hired to complete the LaFayette Junior/Senior High School project.

The project provides the students of LaFayette Junior/Senior high school with a lovely and functional auditorium that will perform for years to come. "The district and the public are thrilled with the results of the auditorium makeover," said Perry.