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Early learning center’s red roof adds fun to design’s religious roots

Building a new community from the ground up is a challenging proposition. This is what’s happening in Yulee, Fla., where the master-planned community of Wildlight is quickly expanding. It’s sited on 2,900 acres of former timberland in Florida’s northeast corner, and developers now are in the middle of Phase 1 efforts to construct approximately 1,000 homes on 261 acres. With a family-focused emphasis, education also is part of the plans. Wildlight’s own elementary school opened in 2017, and in late summer 2020, parents of younger children gained a new option when St. Clare Early Learning Center opened its doors.

Built by the local Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine, the school features a stripped-down Gothic form that highlights its ecclesiastical roots. But the bright red standing-seam metal roof that travels down to form the exterior walls of the entry lets one know there’s fun to be had inside. That playfulness is important for a school designed to serve children from just 6 weeks old up to 4 years of age.

Designers with the Jacksonville, Fla., office of Kasper Architects + Associates opted for 24-gauge steel Snap-Clad panels – 8,000 sq. ft., in all – in a Cardinal Red finish from Petersen’s PAC-CLAD line to create the signature roof. Snap-Clad panels pair architectural aesthetics with structural performance. A continuous interlock and concealed fastener-clip system provide improved wind resistance and extraordinary hold-down strength, while also allowing for thermal expansion and contraction – all of these are essential in a location that’s a dozen miles or so from the hurricane-prone Atlantic coast.

Jacksonville-based Register Roofing and Sheet Metal provided installation services for the project, which is only the first building intended for the 27-acre site. In comments at the school’s opening, the diocese’s superintendent of Catholic schools announced future expansion plans including a Catholic church, school and parish hall.