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Trends in Higher Education Facilities

Trends in Higher Education Facilities
A Look from Ground Level

Building Design + Construction Online recently reported the following trends in higher education that are shaping the public and private higher education campuses:

  1. The integration of new technologies and how teachers and students are using them.
  2. The pressure to hold down costs
  3. Cross disciplinary collaboration
  4. Project based teaching

We are seeing these trends influence projects currently “on the boards” such as the Price-Gilbert Crosland Tower Renovation for Georgia Institute of Technology, Read Hall Redevelopment for Spelman College and Georgia State University Law & Humanities Building which are impacting civil engineering and landscape design.

Design teams are asked to design flexible buildings that can be used for classrooms now and faculty or staff offices in the future. The impact on the site and civil design is to ensure the supporting infrastructure supports the current and future building needs. Most student collaboration and study space now has food and beverage areas, requiring a different utility infrastructure than previous facilities. It’s important to assess the current and future planned uses and design with maximum flexibility.

The new concept in classroom design features experiential learning where the teacher is the facilitator. The new classrooms require more square footage. Schools are renovating existing classrooms to accommodate the new types of classrooms with supporting technologies. We are also seeing an increased building utilization. By hosting more than one discipline, schools can expand the usage time. The expanded hours require access control to the different areas of the building.

Environmentally sustainable infrastructure that shows a long-term ROI through utility savings are being utilized on more often on college campuses. For the example, the School for Environment & Design at University of Georgia installed water cisterns and solar panels to reduce utility costs. Glenn & Towers Hall renovation installed an underground cistern for non-potable water. We are also seeing the use of rain water harvesting to reduce water consumption and utility bills.

Libraries are becoming multi-media collaborative learning space. Books are being archived and indexed for quick and easy retrieval by robotic arms freeing up the stack space for student collaboration and research space. The Gilbert & Price Crosland Tower at Georgia Institute of Technology renovation will extend the useful life of these buildings and create a state of the art research library. Connected to the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons, the renewed facilities will support today’s academic environment through state of the art technology, collaborative learning spaces, project based instruction and interdisciplinary design studios.

We are also seeing an integration of student recreation with total health and wellness. Read Hall at Spelman College was redeveloped to support the school’s newly adopted total wellness program. The new building now houses the school’s health and wellness programs offering students fitness activities such as swimming, Zumba and yoga and other fitness activities. There are also wellness classrooms and a teaching kitchen.

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