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Accenting Education: How Color Plays a Role in the Classroom

By Jeff Alexander, VP of Sales, Coil and Extrusion Division, Valspar Corporation

Education is the cornerstone of our society. In addition to thoughtful curriculum, the youth of our nation need to have resources and well-designed spaces to help facilitate their growth and success. Color helps set the tone and mood of a building or room, and leaves a lasting impression. Utilizing color in the classroom, common spaces and building exteriors is no new trend; however, from elementary schools to universities we are seeing architects enlist color in new ways to encourage excitement and productivity. Below are highlights of a few ways color is being used in the design of educational facilities.

Bells Mill Elementary School. Click to see more on this project

Color Created by Community at Bells Mill Elementary School

In the design for Bells Mill Elementary School in Potomac, Maryland, WMCRP Architects drew on both historic and modern aesthetics, keeping the influence of color and the community top-of-mind. Architects for the project met with the community a handful of times to ensure the design was reflective of their neighborhood and parents involved with the project gave their input, largely influencing the final color selection.

“Color is used to break down different parts of the building and differentiate them,” said Mike Poness of WMCRP Architects. “I think you could find many of these colors in your community.”

WMCRP drafted multiple blueprints with a variety of color options, but championed a design that used four colors to create a cheerful and engaging aesthetic. The result? A complex featuring a brick and metal exterior that brings together colonial, schoolhouse and farmhouse design elements with a palette of Hemlock Green, Colonial Red, Sandstone and Slate Gray, all colors echoed in the area’s traditional homes.

The school exhibits a palette that achieves the rare feat of combining the cheerful appearance of an elementary school with the handsome, more subdued tones of its surroundings. The building also allows students to take pride in their school, and neighbors to admire the structure as a part of their community.

Eblen Intermediate School. Click to see more on this project

Coated Panels to Achieve Color Goals and Sustainability at Eblen and Koonz Intermediate Schools

To combat the issue of overcrowding in Asheville, NC, Buncombe County Schools commissioned the simultaneous construction of two new intermediate schools (grades 5-6) to alleviate the growing populations at its eight existing schools. The new Eblen and Koonz Intermediate Schools provide local students with two industry-leading and environmentally focused educational facilities that the community could be proud of.

Led by Shelco Inc. and designed by architects from the Architectural Design Studio in Asheville, plans were developed for two identical 107,000 square-foot facilities to house the growing student population. Designed with sustainability and color in mind, the buildings were oriented east/west for maximum natural light exposure, feature classrooms with skylights, and used environmentally-friendly building materials to become LEED Silver certified.

To achieve both sustainability measures and invite the opportunity to embrace a colorful palette, architects enlisted metal panels for the exterior of the building. Sheathed in multiple colors, the coated metal panels offer an energetic pop of pigment to complement the additional brick and mortar materials used to complete the buildings. A blend of Bone White, Champagne, Colonial Red and Arcadia Green accent the roof and exterior walls. Additional panels used for roofing and soffit paneling tie in earthier tones of Sierra Tan and Terra Cotta.

The colorful coated panels and energy-efficient design help both schools use 30-35 percent less energy than typical counterparts and earn LEED Silver certification.

Ryerson University Student Learning Center. Click to see more on this project

Using Color to Achieve Dimensionality at Ryerson University

The Ryerson University new Student Learning Center (SLC) was designed to offer students a home away from home, complemented by an exquisite design. Tall and visually striking, Ryerson’s Student Learning Center projects an edgy but confident look.

Snøhetter of Oslo, Norway and New York City designed the SLC in tandem with Zeidler Partnership Architects of Toronto. With its glistening gem-like façade of geometric panes, the Ryerson University SLC is eight-stories and more than 155,430 square-feet tall. Situated in the busy heart of historic Toronto at the intersection of Gould and Yonge Streets, it provides Ryerson students with everything they need to excel in the 21st century.

The exterior of the building features a complex system of triple glazed glass panes. The glazing aims to control solar heat and glare while adding interest to the natural interior lighting. From outside, these patterns create a dynamic sheen that enhances the building’s gem-like appearance. The SLC is also a certified LEED Silver building and dedicated 50 percent of its roof to urban green space to achieve this status.

The iridescent appearance the architects had envisioned was accomplished by utilizing an architectural coating. With the color dimensionality and illuminating shine achieved, the next challenge was to create the dynamic and geometrical appearance of the building’s exterior.

The finish of a prismatic coating on the metal composite panels evokes a molecular crystalline lattice as it might appear under a powerful microscope. Additionally, the prismatic coating finishes the soffit, which extends into the SLC’s spacious interior lobby and provides a continuous look. The high-gloss architectural coating gives the building a pearlescent finish that shimmers and reflects different shades of color depending on how the sunlight hits.

The inviting exteriors of the projects outlined above help to instill a great first impression and sense of pride for students and community members alike. Using colorful palettes to construct our children’s schools create welcoming buildings that promote education, growth and character, which help set the tone for the important lessons learned on the inside of these vital buildings.

About Sherwin-Williams Coil Coatings

Sherwin-Williams-SD-logoSherwin-Williams Coil Coatings delivers a full range of high-performance coatings in polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), silicone-modified polyester (SMP) and polyester formulas, designed to meet the most demanding environmental requirements while providing protection against weathering and pollution. The Coil Coatings Division is part of the Sherwin-Williams Performance Coatings Group, which supplies a broad range of highly-engineered solutions for construction, industrial, packaging and transportation markets in more than 110 countries in the world. Founded in 1866, The Sherwin-Williams Company is a global leader in the manufacture, development, distribution and sale of paints, coatings and related products to professional, industrial, commercial and retail customers. For more information about Sherwin-Williams Coil Coatings, visit

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