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Laying the foundations for a healthy school environment

Altro Serenade acoustic flooring has been used throughout the new £17m Reach Free School, in Rickmansworth, providing the highest level of sound reduction and comfort underfoot.


The newly-constructed school has created places for 840 secondary level students in a cutting-edge environment. Architect ADP created a very modern design for the school, and reducing noise throughout the new building was a priority.

ADP Associate Director, Neil Lister, said: “Our concept for the school was an open plan space with a lot of openings that connect the various floors. This meant the potential for noise and reverberation throughout the school was quite high, and we wanted to find ways to reduce that.

“We consulted an acoustician at the early stages of our design, and were advised that a flooring with an acoustic rating greater than 17dB would give us significant reduction in noise from footfall, chairs scraping in the classrooms and overall background noise volume.

“The school itself specified vinyl flooring rather than carpet, for robustness and ease of cleaning. It was also important for the school that the flooring would bring comfort underfoot.”

Altro Serenade flooring was recommended by Horizontal Limited, which installed the product. Managing Director Jonathan Bown explained: “We needed a floor that not only had a high acoustic rating, but was also great looking, hard wearing, stylish, contemporary and very comfortable underfoot. I have been working with Altro for nearly 25 years and I knew they had a product that would fit the bill and that quality would be guaranteed.

“At 3.9mm thick and with 19dB impact sound insulation, Altro Serenade fits the brief perfectly. It’s ideal for this type of busy, noisy environment where there is a great deal of foot traffic. Many manufacturers struggle to make good acoustic flooring that doesn’t mark or indent but, with Altro Serenade, Altro has cracked this issue with a superb quality product.

“I love this flooring and would fit it every day. It’s sublime looking, with a very luxurious look and feel that raises a floor above the ordinary. It has a great colour palette – the school selected the shade Encore; a pale grey with a good textural design that will hide marks and scuffs over time. It’s a good colour base which complements the strong school colours of teal blue and purple.

“For the installer, it’s a very easy floor to work with and fit, and a vital point is that it withstands the immense wear and tear during installation and construction. Some types of flooring have to be replaced even before the project is handed over to the client, because it gets so scratched and damaged during the build. This can add a great deal of cost to a project. But Altro Serenade never marks or scratches and stays looking pristine throughout.

“We laid just over 1500m2 of the flooring on the ground and first floor in all communal areas, stairs and classrooms, and it makes a huge impact on the whole look of the building. It looks stunning. People don’t fully appreciate how important a flooring can be for wellbeing and overall effect, but I was there the day the new school opened and I was blown away by how the flooring lifted the whole space.”

The new Reach Free School was built by Willmott Dixon. Senior Surveyor Iain Charnley commented: “We work closely with Altro and have a long-term supply agreement with them, so we know they are a trusted and professional company. Their ability to supply us with Altro Serenade quickly was vital and enabled us to complete the project on time under very tight deadlines. Their overall service and co-operation with us was also superb.

“The school was very involved in the selection of Altro Serenade and the headteacher wanted to put it through its paces before he gave the go-ahead. He was doubtful it could withstand the rigours of school life, so together we put it through some pretty tough ‘kick’ tests. This involved repeated kicking to see how quickly it would scuff. He was surprised and very impressed that it stood up to this treatment extremely well and it passed with flying colours.”

Richard Booth, Headteacher at The Reach Free School, is thrilled with his new school and how the Altro flooring is contributing to the look and feel of the space.

He said: “The school looks wonderful, the students and staff are very happy, and I must say that everyone who comes to look around comments on the flooring more than anything else. They assume it’s carpet, because it looks so smart, and they are astounded when I tell them it’s vinyl. The floor has pattern to it, which not only makes it look great, but it helps to hide marks. In terms of overall quality, it really is a huge cut above the other vinyl flooring we were looking at.

“In terms of comfort and noise reduction Altro Serenade is really helping, and anything that damps down the volume that the students create here is a huge plus for wellbeing. We find that furniture doesn’t mark the flooring, which means we can be so much more flexible in arranging the internal spaces without fear of damaging the flooring.

“I needed to be happy in my own mind that the flooring was tough enough for the continuous footfall, mud, dirt and potential scuffing it would be subjected to, so I put on my skiddiest shoes and took some time to see what it was made of. I struggled to make any marks on it, and I was amazed that a flooring that looked so good could also be practical and hard wearing.

“It cleans very well too, and comes up like new every time. I would recommend this flooring to anyone that wants a hard-wearing, great looking modern solution that also helps to reduce noise and increase comfort in the environment.”

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