University of San Francisco

Avonite Acrylic wall panels can be installed much faster than tile — and they last longer. 60″ wide sheets allowed for significant savings in labor and scrap.

Making The Grade.

In fall of 2011, first-year students selected to live in the Phelan Residence Hall were welcomed by a long-awaited change. As the oldest operating residence hall on campus since 1955, it is one of the most popular for young student placement, but it was also one of the most unlivable.

The most anticipated part of the renovations were the bathrooms. Many Phelan residents were disturbed by the overall cleanliness. “I didn’t like Phelan because of how dirty and smelly it was. I remember in the shower, I would stay in the middle because I was disgusted by touching the walls. And I would always wear slippers because the floors looked so gross,” said junior Philip Sy.

The massive scope of work on Phelan Hall included gutting the interior structure, building a new entrance, and adding seismic reinforcements to the exterior. All of this had to be completed in just 8 weeks.

This challenge went to the design and construction team of Oculus Architects Inc. and Turner Construction. A fortunately timed presentation from Avonite reps Priscilla Miranda & Lisa Meenan to Oculus highlighted the many advantages of the Avonite wet wall panels. Solid surface walls were already being considered for the new showers. When Steve Connelly of Oculus learned that Avonite Acrylic Solid Surface wall panels came 60″ wide, he began to consider covering all the wet area walls with solid surface. The Avonite wall panels could be installed much faster than tile and last longer. This sounded good but Turner Construction wondered if this had been done before.

Fischer Tile was just finishing a similar installation at the Veterans Administration Medical Complex (VAMC) in Palo Alto, CA. Fischer Tile ordered 60″ wide panels and custom heights of 108″ & 105″. Priscilla introduced Mike Betschart from Turner Construction to John Salmon of Fischer Tile to tour the VAMC install. Turner was impressed with the clean look of the panels and the high quality workmanship. Mike realized this was exactly the solution he was looking for but was concerned about the products being ready in time. The owner and designer wanted a color called Cordoba which is not one of the standard wall panel colors.

When Steve Connelly of Oculus learned that Avonite Acrylic wall panels come 60″ wide, he began to consider covering all the wet area walls with solid surface.

This presented a new twist on the timing challenge. Custom size orders for Avonite generally take six weeks. Not bad for a custom product, but with this project, speed meant everything. With a careful balancing between not yet having a purchase order but realizing the customer need, Avonite proceeded with preparations for production so they would be ready to produce and deliver once the order came through. The anticipated order was delayed by several weeks. Once the order was placed, Fisher Tile received the custom color, custom sized panels in three weeks. Then the real fun began.

“We only had 3½ weeks to install over 30,000 SF of solid surface on all of the wall surfaces”, John Salmon explains. “We ended up hard seaming everything so it really looks nice. My crews were working 7-12’s and even had me out there helping Thursdays-Sundays.”

“With such a tight time frame, this job could of gone south on us with a delayed shipment or anything at all. Special thanks to our Avonite Surfaces Regional Manager Priscilla Miranda and the production crews back at the Avonite Acrylic manufacturing facility. They really pulled through on their end. After completing our second major project using Avonite Acrylic Wall Panels, I told Priscilla that we love working with your 1/4″ wall panels. They have some great traits to them that you probably really wouldn’t understand unless you had to sling as much as we have on the walls. Its workability is fabulous. You have a great product and I look forward to using it on future projects.”