Creating a New Look

Dec. 1, 1998
As one administrator involved in a campus planning and adaptive reuse program put so well, "Education is a business in which 25 percent of your customers

As one administrator involved in a campus planning and adaptive reuse program put so well, "Education is a business in which 25 percent of your customers change every year." From a very practical standpoint, the adaptability to change is one of the factors in remaining competitive.

Normally, college facilities must be re-evaluated or reinvented every five years or so to adapt to changes in programs, shifts in enrollment and advances in information technology. When talking of adaptive reuse, conversation often revolves around the renovation of existing buildings on campus to adapt to these ongoing changes.

However, adaptive reuse sometimes is undertaken on a grander scale, such as when the growth of an institution necessitates an expansion beyond the boundaries of the existing campus. Planning to unite a main campus with its satellites, or the merger of two or more institutions, can create the need to develop a consolidated campus. In such situations, a college or university board of trustees may find itself in the real-estate market-and on the verge of developing a plan for the reuse of a site and buildings originally designed for another type of facilities program.

Mastering a plan Among the key issues that must be considered when embarking on an adaptive reuse project include:

-Site evaluation. The process will begin with an assessment of the site and surrounding area, particularly adjacent properties: the history and present character, zoning and land use, and environmental issues, including soil and water quality. Inventory the site's existing facilities to categorize the age and types of construction, areas in square feet and structural soundness. Characterize their potential for reuse. Understand that it is a given that the electrical and mechanical systems will need to be replaced. Even with a salvageable system, it likely will be out of date and inefficient.

Assess the infrastructure: water supply, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, etc. Almost concurrently, an environmental impact statement will need to be done, which focuses on the impact of development on traffic, air quality and noise, and considers mitigation. Remember that in almost all buildings more than 30 years old, hazardous materials will be found. Keep an open mind going in to make the most of what is there, although some facilities will be found on more thorough analysis to be of no adaptive value.

-Enrollment. Define the current and projected full-time enrollment targets. Is the number of students expected to change greatly, and over what period of time? Consider the distribution of students among undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as shifts in distribution.

-Functional and spatial programs. The functional program begins to identify how the site will work on a macro level: issues such as adjacencies of buildings to open spaces, access, pedestrian circulation and traffic flow. The spatial program begins to look at each facility requirement in more detail-the specific requirements of each of the academic, administrative and support programs, and their effects outside the building, including traffic and services. At this stage, concepts are being developed, total demand loads on infrastructure are being assessed, assumptions are being confirmed, and the character of each requirement is being defined.

-Campus plan. The plan is taken to the illustrative level, which is a look at what exists and what might be: primary points of access; location of main entrance; locations and relationships of academic, administrative, recreational and support facilities; vehicular circulation and parking; pedestrian circulation; and related open space and landscaping. Overlays will illustrate primary distribution of power and water, collection of wastewater, collection of storm water and site grading.

Here, one is beginning to set the criteria for design. The final element of the process is a detailed action plan, with cost estimates for each element, including demolition, sitework, civil work, infrastructure, new construction, renovation of existing construction, building systems and equipment, and the staging of the work.

The result of the exercise is that the institution has developed a consensus on the solution with the highest potential for development. Although it can be a long and sometimes grueling process, often a year or more in the making, the outcome is well worth the investment, allowing the institution to create a solid bridge into the future.

The College of Staten Island is the largest of the urban campuses of the City University of New York (CUNY) and the largest college campus in the metropolitan New York area. Situated on a 204-acre site, the 10,000-student college comprises 1.5 million square feet of academic, administrative and recreational facilities, and parking for 2,500 cars.

Today's campus is on the site of the former Willowbrook State School, which was acquired for the college in 1989. The site contained more than 60 buildings with more than 2 million gross square feet of space. Its acquisition presented the opportunity to plan a consolidated campus by combining adaptive reuse of existing structures and construction of new facilities.

Elements of the plan The results of a site analysis showed this was a campus clearly large enough to accommodate the programmed population of 15,000. The master plan identified four principal groups of existing buildings, of which two five-building quadrangles were especially suited to reuse as academic facilities. Constructed in the early 1940s, these would need to be completely gutted and renovated.

These buildings could be linked with new construction to form two quadrangles. The buildings were brought up to code, including new roofs and windows, mechanical and electrical systems, and access for disabled users.

Altogether, the master plan identified approximately 15 buildings for adaptive reuse as academic and administrative facilities. Among these were two dining halls centrally located within each quadrangle, which were believed appropriate for renovation as the library and student center. A definitive analysis showed that new construction would be more cost effective. These ultimately were demolished (as were other buildings with no potential for reuse) and a new library and student center constructed in their place.

Circulation and access solutions Primary points of vehicular access were identified to the north and east of the campus, and the existing main entrance to the former Willowbrook site was identified as the main entrance to the college. The upgraded main entrance leads to a large lawn anchored by four buildings. The new 110,000-square-foot Performing and Creative Arts Center is the keystone.

The vehicular-pedestrian circulation system established a loop road around the campus with parking to the interior of the loop. The campus is designed with short walking distances to major destinations.

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