Faster, Smarter, More Able

Like millions of Americans, Judith Thompson is going to college. But at 32, with two small children and a part-time job, she needs a different kind of college-one that enables her to fit an advanced education into an already busy life.

"I planned to finish my degree when Dan's practice was established and our youngest was old enough to spend half a day in daycare," says Thompson. "But there's no way I can go away to college-the way we used to do!"

Older students with jobs, children and ever-evolving career goals and educational requirements are affecting the look and feel of college facilities-and the changes have only begun.

Faster communications, computer-generated opportunities and increasingly complex lifestyles are a reality today. A school library may be functioning more as a "cyber cafe," but schools still need to preserve books. The college campus is more of an idea than a place, but classroom contact remains important.

College education is in greater demand and has a more diverse makeup than ever before. Students of the 21st century will average three different career paths by the time their work lives are complete.

Judy and others like her are continuing to change the way a college campus is viewed. Savvy architects recognize this and are adjusting their planning and designs to accommodate the trends. Firms are partnering with colleges, communities, construction companies and corporations to change the way that they deliver higher-education planning and design services.

Change and complexity A college campus no longer can be defined merely as a collection of buildings within a defined piece of land. This model still exists, but satellite campuses, on-line learning and other educational advances are redefining what constitutes a campus. To some students, the "campus" is their computer at home or wherever a laptop can take them.

Students today aren't as likely to live on or near the physical campus. But campus facilities must serve multiple needs and respond to increased time pressures. Colleges need an up-to-date-and continually updated-master plan to contend with the increased scarcity of land and other resources.

Students are more diverse, too, bringing broader ranges of age, ethnic origin, language and physical ability. Such diversity affects the design and availability of campus facilities. Disabled students, for example, are seeking opportunities in greater numbers. Their ability to navigate a campus or use a building is important, but accommodating technology to support learning tools for the disabled is equally critical to design success.

Flexible facilities Colleges and universities must have flexible facilities and flexible campuses. Schools will renovate static buildings to meet the demands of new technology and flexibility. Planners will design facilities to accommodate coming technologies as well as a variety of user requirements.

Students will demand Internet connections at their exercise stations in the gym and in their dining facilities, as well as in the library. All campus buildings must accommodate the flexible handling of heavy data transmission. The risk of building facilities that are obsolete the day they open is greater than ever before.

College and university facilities must meet multiuse requirements. A recreation center will be more than a place to exercise. Ground-floor retail space could provide many options to students. A food court would meet social and dining needs, and local residents could use the exercise facilities as part of the university's partnership with the surrounding community.

More complicated, more integrated As the campus has been redefined, so have its buildings. Learning may be on-site, off-site or on the Internet. International Data Corp. reports that by 2002, $10 billion will be invested in learning online.

Gone are the days when building planning failed to recognize the facility's long-term effect on the whole campus system. Planning must occur at multiple levels-facility utilization, revenue generation, infrastructure development and transportation management-and must allow for contingencies to respond to potential changes.

Schools must develop facilities in partnership with local residents, so that both the institution and the community at large may benefit. For instance, a school might orient a coffee shop toward the community to foster engagement between students and locals.

Greater sophistication College and university facility projects in the new century will be bigger and more complex and will require careful planning. Construction cannot interfere with ongoing operations, and construction schedules will be tighter than ever. The accelerating pace of change means that when a school identifies a need and prepares a plan, the delivery of the facility must follow as quickly as possible.

To maximize success, a college must have an almost seamless connection with its architectural or planning consultant. A building team in the next century will be led by architects who can assemble and manage teams of development specialists, sociologists, educators, technical and environmental specialists, and constructors. And more often, a higher education architect will be supplying these services directly, rather than through consultants.

Design-build and fast-track delivery of college facilities will become the rule. This will put greater pressure on campus facility architects to protect the interests of the institution with state-of-the art project control systems. Inevitably, architectural services will expand to include program management and design-build team leadership.

Design and materials always will matter, but only in the context of anticipating and meeting students' needs. Colleges and universities that keep pace with the changes in their students' lives will construct facilities that satisfy or exceed their needs. Schools that fail to recognize and respond to demographic, social and economic changes inevitably will decline.

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