Creating sustainable learning spaces of the future in The Netherlands

HOGESCHOOL Rotterdam Business School in the Netherlands is one of the most sustainable buildings of its kind. To create an environmentally responsible space which meets the requirements of the country’s BREEAM certification, the project team installed rubber flooring from nora by Interface.

Rotterdam is one of the Netherlands’ cultural hubs. The region’s focus on architecture and creating modern spaces is reflected in building designs across the city, and was a key inspiration behind the Hogeschool Rotterdam Business School (HRBS), one of the largest universities in the country.

With 30,000 students, HRBS’s purpose is to prepare its students for a career within international economics. The university is committed to doing this in state-of-the art, sustainable environments which offer the most advanced technology.

When it came to designing a new educational hub on the university campus of Kralingse Zoom, the challenge was to physically combine a new building with the existing structure to create one sustainable learning space that met the requirements of the BREEAM-NL Excellent Certificate. Energy efficiency was a key consideration which meant selecting natural, environmentally-friendly materials which have a positive impact on the indoor climate.

For this reason, the team chose to use noraplan unita from nora by Interface to cover the 11,300sq m space.

The flooring is said to combine real granite chips and high-quality rubber floorcovering, creating an understated design. Made from predominantly natural materials, the flooring is said to contain no PVC or phthalates meaning it’s low-emission and low-pollutant, which supports a healthier indoor air quality.

Standing the test of time
The design isn’t only visually appealing to end-users, even more importantly, it’s been created to be extremely durable. noraplan unita is manufactured to withstand heavy traffic from students, and many years of use without losing its shape.

The floor is also designed to withstand blemishes. Whether it’s small marks from shoe scuffs or deep residual impressions from technical equipment, bookshelves or tables – nora rubber flooring is designed to retain its original profile and appearance. This means the flooring in the HRBS, will continue to stand the test of time, long after the installers have left the project.

The flooring was also reportedly quick and easy-to-lay, thanks to joint-free installation. This system means, according to nora, that installers can significantly save time and money with the ‘seam-free fitting’ of nora rubber and reportedly eliminate potential costs associated with extensively grouting a floor after installation.

With no need to wax or grout the flooring, project downtime for the school was minimised, meaning operational spaces were quickly back up-and-running.

The absence of phthalate plasticisers also allows nora rubber to be installed tightly end-to-end and remain dimensionally stable for decades. Additionally, the seamless surface of nora rubber doesn’t have to be coated and re-coated, renewed, or rehabilitated which means maintenance and cleaning teams can keep the school’s costs to a minimum.

René van Gorp, manager of architectural management and maintenance, Rotterdam University said: ‘Since the building has been finished it’s become a part of us and I’m in charge of keeping it in good condition. After three years, it is still an impressive, energy-efficient building, with many great features and we’re proud of its excellent award from BREAAM-NL. In addition, the combination of bright walls, lots of glass and a seamless looking flooring works very well and corresponds to today’s trends. The nora rubber floor is very easy to clean and keeps maintenance costs low. This new HRBS educational building is future-proof and flexible.’

Marien Ippel, account executive at nora systems, commented: ‘Rubber floors are no longer viewed as old-fashioned and are now regarded as a modern and sustainable flooring solution, especially in educational environments. nora flooring has low levels of emissions and is very economical for customers. Their dense, closed surface makes them cost effective, easy to clean and they don’t require a coating.

‘Students and staff at the school are also benefitting from a significantly reduced footfall sound. The excellent acoustic properties of nora floors are a strong benefit, especially in highly frequented areas such as those in universities. The rubber material ensures a permanently elastic surface that absorbs the impact sound and contributes to very good interior acoustics.

‘We’re very proud that the sustainable properties of our floors helped contribute to the university building’s BREEAM-NL Excellent certificate.’