LEED Silver Lining for Historic High School Reborn after Hurricane Katrina

LEED Silver Lining for Historic High School Reborn after Hurricane Katrina

LEED Silver Lining for Historic High School Reborn after Hurricane KatrinaFollowing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, beloved alma mater Lawless High School in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans sat uninhabitable and desolate, with buildings moved off their foundations by the floodwaters.  In 2016, the campus reopened as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter High School, a modern, state-of-the-art facility. The project earned Sizeler Thompson Brown Architects an Outstanding Design Award from American School & University Magazine.  Their palette gives a nod to the original school’s colors in poured terrazzo and then the design takes flight with patterns and new colors on the walls.  This blend of honoring history while looking forward through the use of tile color helps to bring the community‘s local educational hub back to life.

RCC Flooring of Metairie, Louisiana performed the tile installation working in conjunction with General Contractor CORE Construction Services, the fifth largest school builder in the U.S.

LEED Silver Lining for Historic High School Reborn after Hurricane KatrinaA premium Emerald System® of Build Green® setting and grouting products from CUSTOM was specified, helping to earn the project a LEED® Silver certification. These environmentally responsible products are lightweight, locally sourced, low VOC and/or contain recycled content, contributing to LEED credits and qualifying for the GreenGuard® GOLD program. RCC Flooring specializes in incorporating green building principles to maximize both economic and environmental performance.

Before setting tile, installers treated many of the substrates with RedGard ® Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane. RedGard is a ready-to-use elastomeric membrane that creates a continuous monolithic barrier with outstanding adhesion to drains in any wet area, such as the school’s kitchen and showers.  Application also protects tile integrity, providing high performance crack isolation to prevent in-plane crack transmission up to 1/8″.  Rated for extra heavy-duty service conditions, RedGard exceeds ANSI A108.10 and A108.12.

LEED Silver Lining for Historic High School Reborn after Hurricane KatrinaKitchen tile assemblies are subject to greasy spills, thermal shock, dropped pans and harsh cleaning regimens. To help prevent damage, the quarry tile in the school kitchen was set with EBM-Lite™ Premium Epoxy Bonding Mortar. This water-cleanable, 100% solids mortar is formulated for installations where exceptional high strength and chemical and impact resistance is required.  EBM-Lite is the first 100% solids epoxy mortar with recycled materials contributing to LEED. Compounding the benefits of the epoxy mortar, the quarry tile in this area was grouted with CEG-Lite™ 100% Solids Commercial Epoxy Grout. CEG-Lite provides chemical and stain resistance and its lightweight aggregate makes it easier to spread and clean than typical epoxy grouts.  Both EBM-Lite and CEG-Lite exceed the ANSI A118.3 standard.

LEED Silver Lining for Historic High School Reborn after Hurricane KatrinaThe majority ceramic tile on walls as well as 24 x 24-inch porcelain tiles were installed using ProLite® Premium Large Format Tile Mortar. ProLite is a perennial contractor favorite, combining outstanding handling characteristics with tremendous versatility for a variety of applications. This thixotropic formula supports the weight of large and heavy tile and stone and will not sag on walls or slump on floors. ProLite weighs 40% less than standard mortars for superior portability on the jobsite and its technical advancements exceed ANSI A118.15HT.  Installers used TCNA- and NTCA-approved setting methods such as directional combing and back troweling to maximize wet mortar transfer for a strong bond.

LEED Silver Lining for Historic High School Reborn after Hurricane KatrinaGrout joints in these tiles received calcium aluminate-based, latex polymer-modified Prism® Ultimate Performance Cement Grout.  Prism offers consistent color with no shading regardless of tile type, temperature or humidity, and it will not effloresce. The rapid setting formula results in high early strength and dense joints with high stain resistance meeting ANSI A118.7.  A unique blend of lightweight recycled glass and fine aggregate sand makes Prism 30% lighter than other grouts and allows for a smooth consistency that is easy to spread and clean.

Movement joints were located according to TCNA EJ171 and filled with Commercial 100% Silicone Sealant. This permanently flexible sealant conforms to ASTM C-920 and allows for planned movement at changes of plane and expansion joints to help protect the tile assemblies.

Including large format porcelain, glazed ceramic and quarry tiles, there are over 30,000 SF of tile on both floors and walls at the new high school.  This lightweight CUSTOM system of products earned a 15-year warranty covering the tile installation materials, cost of replacement tile and labor.  Most important of all, students at Dr. King High School continue to thrive in this beautiful, re-envisioned learning environment.

LEED Silver Lining for Historic High School Reborn after Hurricane Katrina


New Orleans, LA

Year Completed:



Sizeler Thompson Brown Architects, New Orleans, LA


CORE Construction Services, LLC, Metairie, LA

Tile Contractor:

RCC Flooring, LLC, Metairie, LA

CBP Regional Technical Representative:

Scott Nalesnick, Territory Manager