Skyfold Retracting Walls Maximize Flexibility and Space at an Overland Park, Kansas High School

Operable walls are often a key feature in school and classroom design.

By creating the ability to divide spaces quickly and frequently, movable walls turn classrooms into flexible learning environments that can be configured for different educational programming and different student needs.

Client Objectives

Blue Valley Southwest High School is a new-construction, 300,000 square-foot school that serves approximately 1,600 students in grades 9-12. 

As part of the school’s environmentally friendly design, flexible spaces were envisioned because they increase the school’s usable area without increasing the building’s footprint. Operable wall systems supported not only the programmatic goals, but also the design and environmental goals. 

However, during initial planning for the new school, the district explained its frustration with prior operable wall systems, including set-up time, maintenance, and lack of consistent acoustical performance.

Blue Valley Southwest High School exterior.

"The school planned to use the wall multiple times per day, so Skyfold's quick operation was a plus."

HTK Architects

Skyfold Solution

With a goal of improving space options and maximizing ROI, Abbey-Simons worked with the design team from HTK Architects and Perkins+Will as well as general contractor Crossland Construction to reduce con­struction costs, maximize the usable square footage of the building, and lower the maintenance over the life of the partitions.

Two applications were specified: A separation between the main and auxiliary gyms, and four “flex” classrooms adjacent to a student gathering area. The wall in the flex classrooms can be raised to create double-sized learning areas that each accommodate 60 students.

Skyfold operable partition partially retracted in a classroom in Blue Valley Southwest High School.
The Skyfold wall can easily operated by classroom staff.
Skyfold operable wall in a Blue Valley Southwest High School classroom.
Flex classroom Skyfold operable wall retracting.

“Paired horizontal partitions with drop-bottom seals don’t tend to last very long – the seals lose the ability to operate and sometimes get snagged in the carpets,” said HTK’s Project Manager. “For the big wall between the two gyms, opening and closing a manually operated sliding-type wall takes time, strength and skill. The school planned to use the wall multiple times per day, so Skyfold’s quick operation was a plus.”

Skyfold operable wall in the gym behind the basketball nets at Blue Valley Southwest High School.
A fully extended Skyfold operable wall in the gym.
Skyfold operable wall divides the Blue Valley Southwest High School gym.
Before the Skyfold retracts, seals on the bottom and side release.
Skyfold operable wall retracting in the Blue Valley Southwest High School gym.
The Skyfold can be operated easily by staff using a push-button system.
Skyfold operable wall partially retracted in Blue Valley Southwest High School gym.
The Skyfold retracts into a ceiling pocket - no floor tracks or wall jambs.

Beyond complementing the architectural look of this state-of-the-art secondary school, the Skyfold wall systems offered other benefits as well. First, the project team anticipated a 40% savings in structural steel costs for the related wall areas because the Skyfold partitions weigh less than typical operable walls. Add to that further savings in maintenance costs and the increase in usable space because no floor stack is required, and the ROI was clear: the estimated payback for using Skyfold would be three to six years.

Notable Features

Constructed of steel panels separated by an anechoic air chamber, the approximately 12-inch-thick Skyfold® Classic™ offered an STC (Sound Transmission Class) rating of 51, ideal for the noise control needed between the gyms. For the flexible classrooms, Skyfold Eclipse™ also provided good, low-cost sound control.

Opening and closing the Skyfold requires two buttons to be pushed simultaneously, ensuring that both sides of the partition are clear. The bottom of every Skyfold is composed of a rubber seal with sensors that cause the Skyfold to stop immediately when it encounters an obstacle. These safety features are particularly important when dealing with student environments.

While conventional side-retracting walls may be a less expensive option based solely on initial cost, they also require extensive maintenance. Skyfold operable walls have a minimal number of moving parts, resulting in significant maintenance savings over the life of the product.

Easy-to-clean protective vinyl finishes were specified by the architects to match the school’s modern design scheme: white for the gymnasium to seamlessly integrate with the clean, painted walls, and off-white for the flex classrooms to complement the contemporary interiors.

The Skyfold powerlift partitions are completely automated. With the turn of a key and constant pressure on the buttons, teachers can easily deploy or retract the walls in minutes whenever needed without assistance from janitorial or facilities staff.

Skyfold stores in a ceiling pocket – a unique feature that removes the need for floor tracks or wall jambs. This not only adds to the flexibility of the spaces, but it provides additional safety for active students.

Virtually silent when in motion. Skyfold walls move one foot per 10 seconds, allowing fast, easy room changes. Their acoustical seals automatically engage the side walls, floors, and ceiling – ensuring consistent acoustical performance even over time.